Oscars 2010: The Race for Best Adapted Screenplay
District 9, by Neill Blomkamp and Teri Tatchell
An Education, by Nick Hornby
In The Loop, by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
Precious: Based On The Novel Push by Sapphire, by Geoffrey Fletcher
Up In The Air, by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner
This is a category the Oscar juries usually use to single out fine adaptations of popular or historical works of fiction, and its worth noting that this year's bunch doesn't include a single classic text.
A big oversight this year has been the exclusion of Where The Wild Things Are, a wonderful film based on a ten-sentence children's novel.
The clear frontrunner in the category is Up In The Air, the Academy likely to pacify Reitman with this award instead of a Picture/Director nod for his fine film, but the spread of nominees is an interesting one.
Let's take a look at the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay. Please click Next for a look at the other winners.
Image: Scenes from District 9, An Education, In The Loop, Precious, and Up In The Air
District 9 by Neill Blomkamp and Teri Tatchell
Neill Blomkamp's directorial debut is fiercely original, and this screenplay only found room in this category because Blomkamp had already explored some themes and characters in the film in his 2005 short film, Alive In Joburg.
The feature film takes characters and moments from the short-film screenplay and expands upon them, while adding increased coherence, resulting in a very solid script.
District 9 has been one of the success stories of last year, made for $30 million and grossing well over $200 million, and it is likely that the Academy might choose to reward it -- but the nomination seems enough.
Image: District 9 trailer
An Education by Nick Hornby
The category's dark horse, this one has all the credentials for Oscar love.
The screenplay is written by Nick Hornby based -- not on Lynn Barber's autobiographical novel An Education -- but on a long essay she had written for the Granta literary magazine. It's British, it's autobiographical, and it's one rather successful novelist adapting an essay by a very highly regarded journalist.
The problem with An Education is that the film itself hasn't gotten excellent notices, unlike leading lady Carey Mulligan and supporting actor Alfred Molina.
The screenplay works in terms of individual scenes but the film doesn't entirely engage, and its unlikely the Oscars would reward this British half-triumph over Reitman's relevant tale.
Image: An Education trailer
In The Loop by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
The single cleverest political satire in ages, Armando Iannucci's In The Loop follows the same frantic-profane rat-a-tat rhythm of his astonishing television show, The Thick Of It.
The film is about a British Minister of state making a faux pas during a BBC radio programme, a goof lapped enthusiastically by a some high-ranking US officials.
It's a marvellously incisive, and bitterly cynical, take on a section of the events surrounding the runup to the 2003 Iraq invasion.
In The Loop is a stellar script, clearly the most deserving among these five nominees. It is the only award nomination for this highly reviewed and increasingly popular film that is still finding an audience, and a win would cement its place among the best satires of all time.
I'll do war whoops and make my own Malcolm Tucker tee shirt if it wins, but chances are sadly slim.
Image: In the Loop trailer
Precious: Based On The Novel Push by Sapphire by Geoffrey S Fletcher
Its title changed to avoid confusion with action film Push, this preposterously titled film makes it very clear indeed what work of fiction it is based on.
Fletcher, a professor of film at Columbia University, did well to adapt Push -- described as "a woman's book" by director Lee Daniels -- and bestow the story with his voice, while keeping the female issues very strongly intact.
Sapphire's is a hard book to adapt because of the use of dialect as well as significant stream of consciousness, and Precious' script is a solid work -- though not as stellar an achievement as the other nominees.
Image: Precious: Based On The Novel Push by Sapphire trailer
Up In The Air by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner
Walter Kim's 2001 novel wasn't worked on by Turner and Reitman in unison, but individually. Turner worked on a script as soon as the novel came out, while Reitman commissioned a script which borrowed from Turner's work.
Reitman claimed never to have read Turner's script but the final Up In The Air script includes significant Turner moments, and while it might not have been worked on together, is a wonderful story extremely relevant to recession-era America.
The favourite in the category. Reitman, all of 32, is a director Hollywood would love to celebrate, and currently a Screenplay Oscar would be a good start for the man behind Thank You For Smoking and Juno.
The only reason this film won't win would be because of the Turner/Reitman feud, something voters who watched the Golden Globes might not want to see replicated on the Oscar stage.
Image: Up In The Air trailer