At the First Annual Golden Stakes the adapted screenplay category was clearly stronger than the original category, but every year since then it’s been either the original category that was clearly better or it was maybe more of an even split. This year the adapted category has finally come back to its dominant role, at least when it comes to shoe-in nominations.
- Bernie: Richard Linklater and Skip Hollandsworth screenplay for Bernie (based on Hollandsworth’s own Texas Monthly article) feel like a rather modest accomplishment, but reveals a lot of interesting material beneath the surface. The film’s structure (which is a hybrid of drama and mockumentary) allows you to perceive this true story from multiple perspectives and paints an intriguing portrait of the town in which it’s set. That pays off late in the film when it becomes a quirky look what “justice” really means in such a town.
- Cloud Atlas: When I heard that there was an adaptation of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas in the works I thought the people behind it were nuts. Mitchell’s novel seems to have almost been written in an attempt to defy Hollywood and any adaptation would face major challenges. Well, I guess I was wrong because the three filmmakers behind this adaptation have managed to overcome most of the obstacles a lot better than I would have thought. Not every choice they make is perfect, but I’m more than willing to honor the film based on the degree of difficulty.
- Life of Pi: Speaking of adaptations seemingly unfilmable novels, David Magee’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s popular novel The Life of Pi also had an uphill battle. Magee does a great job of balancing the story’s fantastical and realistic elements and also of keeping the story active even though there’s only one (human) character on screen for much of the film’s screen time. There are some story elements like the frame story that you could quibble with, but I think way they serve the film’s excellent ending makes up for it.
- Lincoln: Lincoln’s status as an adapted screenplay is a little questionable (I’m willing to bet that Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Lincoln biography wasn’t the predominant source used to write it), but I’m not going to fight the classification. There’s a whole lot of complex history that Tony Kushner needed to fit into a relatively short run time while keeping everything moving really quickly. Kushner has clearly put a lot of work into this project and it shows on the screen.
- The Silver Linings Playbook: I can’t say that I’d ever heard of Matthew Quick’s novel The Silver Linings Playbook before David O. Russell turned it into a film, but I can tell just by watching the movie that Russell did a lot of work to make the story his own. There are some bits here that could be said to be taken from the “romantic comedy” formula, but Russell’s screenplay works around these tropes so well that you just don’t care. It does a great job of creating characters you care about and giving them great dialogue.