Oscars 2014 Cheat Sheet: Best Adapted Screenplay

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As is traditional now that the Academy Award nominations have been announced, we’re profiling the nominees in each of the main categories and assessing their strengths and weaknesses going into the competition. First up, Best Adapted Screenplay! Instead of the usual raft of novels-turned-films, this year sees four memoir-adaptations face off against an indie sequel. Who will emerge triumphant?

12 Years A Slave

WHY HE WILL WIN WHY HE WON'T WIN 1. The film is a frontrunner for Best Picture, which never hurt a body's chances, and might well be the frontrunner here. 1. A raft of nominations and a Best Picture favourite status does not necessarily translate into a Screenplay win, which is often the preserve of otherwise-overlooked films. 2. Ridley already had nominations for the BAFTA and the Golden Globe, which are both good signs of the high regard in which the script is held. 2. Ridley got no love from the Writer's Guild, which isn't a positive sign, and he didn't win that Globe (albeit it's a slightly different category, since there's no division between Adapted and Original screenplay there). 3. The film is intensely powerful, building on Ridley's strong script to deliver a story that needs only a few relatively brief moments of physical violence to convey the horror of the institution of slavery. 3. The film deals with a tough-to-watch subject, and the voters tend towards the squeamish. Will they go for a more cuddly story instead?
Captain Phillips

WHY HE WILL WIN WHY HE WON'T WIN 1. It's an absolutely brilliant narrative; the most propulsive and well-paced of the lot, maybe, but still one rooted in fact. 1. If you were putting Captain Phillips in a genre, it would go in action or something action-adjacent – and those don't generally win Oscars (however deserving). 2. Ray took this prize from the Writer's Guild, and he had a nomination from BAFTA, so his star is rising fast after adapting the first Hunger Games last year. 2. Ray had no Golden Globe love, for what that's worth, and has no track record at the Oscars – although that's not as helpful in this category as in Director/Actor, admittedly. 3. The film's also up for Best Picture and Best Editing, which suggests that voters appreciated the story. 3. The film missed out on Best Director and Best Actor, which suggests voters don't love it that much. We can only assume some voters get seasick and therefore found their views coloured by a dislike of the nautical life.

WHY THEY WILL WIN WHY THEY WON'T WIN 1. This is an absolutely terrific adaptation, with Coogan and Pope carefully sidestepping melodrama and injecting just the right level of conflict, tension and comedy. 1. Will voters notice the dramatic quality inherent in the story of a little old lady amid all the fizz-bang of the other contenders? 2. It won the BAFTA and received a Globe nomination, and there would be a lovely underdog triumph if this small British film could sweep the lot. 2. Despite having other Oscar nods for Picture, Actress and Score, this feels somehow like it has a much lower profile than the other nominees. It might get overlooked in the scramble. 3. The voters are in a similar age-range to Philomena, so they probably warmed to her more easily than any of the other youngsters in these other films. Younger voters are probably Partridge fans, too, so this one is covered either way. 3. Having watched the film, voters may conclude that the nominees are so unassuming that they will be fine with not winning once they've had a nice sit-down and a cup of tea, whereas other nominees would be less resilient.
The Wolf Of Wall Street

WHY HE WILL WIN WHY HE WON'T WIN 1. It's a brilliant script, balancing comedy and drama, debauchery and satire. Flourishes like the direct-to-camera narration could give this an edge. 1. A huge number of people seem to have missed the whole point of the film and thought it glorified Belfort; there are numerous reports of Academy voters walking out of screenings. 2. Winter was nominated for the Writers Guild and for the BAFTAs, and may have more heat behind him than the film itself. After all, in the category that often awards indie movies, you can get away with a little more debauchery than you can in Best Picture. 2. If people were shocked by the film, they're probably going to blame the script, so we're not sure it can escape that reputation for debauchery and bad taste. 3. He managed to use the word "fuck", including variations, 506 times! Even with a three-hour run time, that's an achievement. 3. Good authors too who once knew better words now only use four letter words, it seems – and the Academy can't possibly award such profanity. Can it?
Before Midnight

WHY THEY WILL WIN WHY THEY WON'T WIN 1. This is the sort of endeavour that the Academy should reward: a smart, philosophical and very human story told over more than two decades now (this counts as "adapted" as it's based on their previous films). 1. In screenwriting, the Academy gives no points for longevity, and they're not too keen on philosophy either. And hey! There'll probably be another one along in a decade or so. 2. This also had a Writer's Guild nomination, and has an Independent Spirit Award nomination. If you're looking for an indie nominee, look no further. 2. It all seems a bit indie, doesn't it? A bit alternative? Oscar can't reward films where the makers go off to Greece on holiday with old friends and come back with a film. It makes it look far too easy. 3. With no disrespect to the other writers, two out of three of these guys are movie stars, so these are the best-looking nominees. 3. Even Hollywood is not that shallow – is it?