The last minute screenplay controversy for “Whiplash”

Miles Teller Whiplash 600x363
At literally the 11th hour, something particularly noteworthy has happened to Damien Chazelle’s script for Whiplash. The screenplay, which was just nominated by the Writers Guild of America and is being campaigned by Sony Pictures Classics as an Original has been ruled as an Adapted work by the Academy. As such, voters who are currently filling out their ballots won’t find Chazelle and Whiplash anywhere in Best Original Screenplay, but will have to search for the contender on the Best Adapted Screenplay list. For many, this is seen as potentially devastating to Chazelle’s chances at a nomination. Some actually feel the opposite, that now he’ll be in a weaker category and perhaps has a shot at a win now. Myself? I think the truth is somewhere in between.

First of all, there’s a whole long rant I could go on about how these rules should be more consistent and it shouldn’t be at the last minute that changes like this are discovered, but that’s another issue. This is what it is and I’m going to seek to try and figure out what the impact of it will be on the race. Ballots are due next week, so it’s just a matter of days until the nominations are in. It’s crunch time, to say the least.

On the one hand, Chazelle might wind up snubbed now because of a ruling that prevents some voters from choosing his work when they otherwise would have. What I mean by that is, on the paper ballots, it’s possible that someone might not realize this ruling and vote for Whiplash in Original regardless. That creates an unintentional vote split, as AMPAS members using electronic voting will see Chazelle under the Adapted list after not finding him or Whiplash as an Original option. I think most people doing the E-voting will find Whiplash if they intended to vote for it, but those with traditional ballots might not be aware they need to be picking him in Adapted. That could cause enough misses to keep it out of the lineup entirely. That doesn’t even take into account those who would have it as one of their five best original works but not as one of their five best adapted ones, a further blow to Chazelle.

On the other hand though, Adapted is a much more wide open category. Original already had the script competing with Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Interstellar, Nightcrawler, and Selma just to get in. Now, it probably would have, but it wasn’t a lock. Over in Adapted, the only locks are Gone Girl, The Imitation Game, and The Theory of Everything. That means there’s two slots still wide open. The pair of spots will be up for grabs, with Whiplash only having to sneak against the likes of American Sniper, Inherent Vice, Into the Woods, Unbroken, and Wild. If for example American Sniper and Wild are the current finalists along with those top three, Whiplash and Chazelle stand a solid chance at dethroning one if voters realize what they have to now do, as compared to if the work had to hold off the likes of Foxcatcher, Interstellar, Nightcrawler, and Selma.

As such, we have the fascinating case of Whiplash now being less likely for a nomination but perhaps more likely for a win if it can survive this change and score a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination. At worst, it’d be the number three contender behind Gone Girl and The Imitation Game, with room to go upwards. It’s the only one of that group assured of an Oscar win (J.K. Simmons in Best Supporting Actor), so if it’s also in the Best Picture lineup, a surprise win would not at all be out of the question.

We’ll have to see what ultimately happens last week, but it’s just one more bit of uncertainty to add on to the pile with the Academy Awards this year. I’ll be watching closely to find out what happens, as I know you all will as well, but it’s going to go right down to the wire, that much is certain. Provided that Chazelle isn’t snubbed, this might even make for a more interesting lineup overall, so there’s a silver lining potentially as well…

Stay tuned to see if Whiplash winds up scoring a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

Follow us

Breaking Hollywood News   


Comments are closed.