2010 Best Adapted Screenplay Nominees

Adapted would seem like an easier task than forming an original screenplay, but that isn’t really true all of the time.  Sometimes a writer will be forced to adapt something that is categorically not easy to film, and he or she must find ways to make it filmable without destroying what made it work originally, and that can be a tricky balance.  It is worth questioning just how “adapted” some of these are (was The Social Network really based on a book, or on original research), but I’ll play along.

  • 127 Hours: Based on Aron Ralston’s non-fiction account “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” the 127 Hours screenplay has the challenge of describing a movie with only one major character and relatively little dialogue.  The movie that is created out of this script is consistently engaging and thematically cogent.  Boyle and Beaufoy find a number of creative solutions to the film’s limitations, and the result is a really intense experience with a great catharsis.
  • The Ghost Writer: I feel like The Ghost Writer would be only moderately interesting as a book, but when adapted into a film screenplay by Roman Polanski, it becomes something altogether different.  That the story seems to have remarkable parallels with Polanski’s real life legal ordeal is only the beginning, this also fits in perfectly with Polanski’s favorite theme: justified paranoia.
  • Shutter Island: How do I nominate a movie that had an ending which was… problematic.  Well, I’ll start by pointing out that the adapted screenplay roster this year was surprisingly shallow.  However, I still think there’s a lot to like about this script.  For one thing, I like it’s re-contextualization of film noir, I also think it has some pretty good dialogue and I like the way it divvies out flashbacks and the way that it sets up a very ambivalent sense of reality.
  • The Social Network: Aaron Sorkin is one of the few people who has become sort of famous almost exclusively for writing film and televisions screenplays.  This is for good reason because his rapid dialogue is always really fun to watch, and it’s in overdrive here.  As I pointed out in the best line category, almost everything anyone says in this movie is interesting and quotable.
  • True Grit:  Adapting Charles Portis’ novel for the second time, the Coens managed to stay true to his literary western tone while also making something that is unmistakably Coen in nature.  At its heart are weighty themes of revenge, but the movie is also a very fun ride that’s highly accessible to the masses.  It’s also loaded with witty, Coen-esque dialogue that is fun, but also feels appropriate to the period.

The Golden Stake goes to…