Friday, January 28, 2011

Cake Man's 2011 Oscar Predictions (for Writing) and the Distinction Between Original and Adapted Screenplays

As you know, the nominees for the 2011 Academy Awards were released earlier this week. In case you missed it, you can view the full roster of Oscar contenders here

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

  • “127 Hours” Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
  • “The Social Network” Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
  • “Toy Story 3” Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
  • “True Grit” Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
  • “Winter's Bone” Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Writing (Original Screenplay)

  • “Another Year” Written by Mike Leigh
  • “The Fighter” Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson;
    Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
  • “Inception” Written by Christopher Nolan
  • “The Kids Are All Right” Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
  • “The King's Speech” Screenplay by David Seidler 
First off, a quick clarification. What designates something as adapted, versus original? In many cases, the source material is obvious - a book, comic book, newspaper article, TV show, or play. It can also be based on another film; technically, all sequels fall into this category, since the characters are from existent material (this is why Toy Story 3 is an adapted script). Interesting, or at least to me, is the fact that both The Fighter and The King's Speech, both based on documented material, are considered original works. This is because the fundamental distinction between adapted and original screenplays is whether there is previously published source material. In both cases, while the events might have been documents, there must have been no direct source from which the information is taken (i.e. the writers conducted research, but did not have to acquire rights to any one article in particular), and therefore created original scripts.

So, definitions out of the way, who do I think will win? Adapted is no question. I will be utterly floored if The Social Network's Aaron Sorkin doesn't walk home with the statuette. It is undeniably great screenwriting, and few of the other contenders even stack up against it. Maybe Winter's Bone, but I don't think it will come anywhere near close enough. And the Academy loves the Coens, but I'm still a bit surprised True Grit is gaining so much traction. Maybe in a weaker year it would have more of a chance, but I just don't get the hype. I give our buddy Zombie one free punch if I'm wrong.

As for Original Screenplay, the race is a bit closer. Kids Are All Right could take it (I don't expect it to take much else, outside of maybe acting). Same with King's Speech. In fact, King's Speech will probably take this one. I want to say Inception, because Nolan was snubbed for directing and I don't think the film will take the big award. Ultimately, as much as I want this to be inception, I will not be shocked if the award goes to David Seidler for King's Speech. I've not read either of the scripts, and I'll keep my fingers crossed for Nolan, but I have a feeling Seidler will nab it. Prove me wrong, Academy!

Finally, just for kicks, my thoughts on the top 10 picks.

Best Picture

  • “Black Swan” Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
  • “The Fighter” David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
  • “Inception” Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
  • “The Kids Are All Right” Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
  • “The King's Speech” Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
  • “127 Hours” Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
  • “The Social Network” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ce├ín Chaffin, Producers
  • “Toy Story 3” Darla K. Anderson, Producer
  • “True Grit” Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
  • “Winter's Bone" Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers
The Academy seems to like topical films a lot, and nothing on that list is more current to me than The Social Network. It's about the biggest (or one of the leading) cultural phenomenons of today. Facebook is everywhere, and nearly everyone (except Onyx) is on it. People my age are getting hired solely to work on Facebook presence. Certain companies and corporations have even abandoned traditional websites altogether for Facebook pages. So, Social Network has current relevance going for it. In my opinion, it is also an incredibly well-made film, thoroughly engaging despite the fact that 75% of it is people sitting around various tables talking. 

For those two reasons, I'm giving the 2011 Oscar to The Social Network. 

Who do you think will win?