The LAMB Devours the Oscar 2020 – Best Adapted Screenplay

by Rob · January 31, 2020 · LAMB Devours the Oscars, Periodic Features · 2 Comments

Every day until the Oscars ceremony we’ll be highlighting a different category or movie here on the LAMB! Here’s a link to all the posts written so far:

Today, Howard Casner of Rantings and Ravings is here to look at the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Thanks Howard!

Best Adapted Screenplay

The adapted screenplay category for the Academy is, like many other categories, extremely strong this year. Usually, the Oscar nominations are the best of middlebrow entertainment with a touch of edginess thrown in. But not this year. This is the first year in I can’t remember how long that the best films of the year are also the ones nominated by the Academy. One might have to go back to 1973 when The Godfather, Cabaret, The Emigrants, Sounder and Deliverance made the cut, and if not then, perhaps back to 1939, the year of Gone With the Wind.

But on to the adapted screenplay nominations In alphabetical order:

The Irishman, directed by Martin Scorcese and written by Steve Zaillian, adapted from the book by Charles Brandt, is about the lives of two gangsters, especially with their involvement in the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. Zaillian has a long history in Hollywood starting with The Falcon and the Snowman in 1985 and is credited for such films as Schindler’s List and the HBO Series The Night Of. Brandt is a noted author of true crime books. I am not a big fan of the movie. For me it was about two incredibly dull men, so boring I couldn’t get interested in them and kept wondering what Scorcese saw in them such that he wanted to tell their story. Whenever the film focuses on the supporting characters (Jimmy Hoffa, Bill Bufalino and Tony Pro), it soars. But otherwise, though I was never bored, I was never excited. It ties for the weakest nomination with The Two Popes.

In The Producers, the title characters option the play “Springtime for Hitler: a gay romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgarden”. This year, following in the footsteps of that film as well as such movies as To Be or Not To Be and The Great Dictator, we have Jojo Rabbit, a dark comedy about a German boy in the final year of World War II who doesn’t fit in with everyone else and has an imaginary Adolf Hitler as his best friend. It was adapted by director Taika Waititi (who also plays Adolf) from the book Caging Skies, an international bestseller by Christine Leunens. Wonderful and hysterical, it is probably too edgy and controversial to win in the category, but too good not to be nominated.

Joker is based on characters created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson and adapted by the director Todd Phillips and Scott Silver. It chronicles the rise of the future nemesis of Batman. This is quite a departure for both writers. Phillips is best known for The Hangover movies and Starsky and Hutch, and Scott Silver, who began his screenplay career with the gay oriented Johns, is best known for The Fighter, The Finest Hour and The Mod Squad. I’m not sure anything in their background prepared the audience for the audacity and bitter grittiness of Joker, a comic book movie that rises above comic book movies. A strong and daring piece of filmmaking.

Little Women, adapted by the director Greta Gerwig from the beloved novel of the same name by Louisa May Alcott (though I found it torture to read), is the odds on screenplay to win here. There are a few reasons for this. It certainly helps that it is one of the best screenplays of the year, a dynamic revisionist look, in many ways, of the original story and the best of the major four adaptations of the book. But the screenplay categories are often where the Academy awards films that they love and admire and want it to win something in the major categories, but it’s unlikely to have a strong chance anywhere else (the only other category it is expected to win is costume design). And, finally, the controversy over the number of females nominated this year might also give it an edge.

Finally, we have The Two Popes, adapted by Anthony McCarten from his play, The Pope. This is a satisfying drama that follows in the footsteps of other prestige pictures by McCarten such as Bohemian Rhapsody, Darkest Hour and The Theory of Everything, true stories or stories based on historical events and real people. It’s basically a character study of an imagined meeting of Pope Benedict, who wants to resign as Pope, and Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (the future Pope Francis) who Pope Benedict wants to succeed him. Often fun and insightful with strong performances by Jonthan Price (Bergoglio) and Anthony Hopkins (Pope Benedict), it also is a bit slow at times, especially when the movie dramatizes events in Bergoglio’s life. 

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