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Hollywood Contenders: Looking at potential Best Adapted Screenplay contenders

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As you fine folks all must know by now and be sick of hearing from me, it’s one thing entirely to read early Academy Award predictions in order to see what pundits like myself think will happen this winter, but it’s a whole separate thing to actually know something about who and what will be in contention. To help out in that specific regard, I’m continuing to run down some of the major contenders in each Oscar category in order to prep you all for the season to come. Basically, the format will have me saying a few words about what or who I feel are the top tier contenders right now in said categories, along with a longer list afterwards of many of the other hopefuls that the Academy might potentially take a shine to. Consider this a sort of before the awards season cheat sheet to have in your back pocket.

Today I’m continuing on from the acting categories and hitting the writing ones…starting with Best Adapted Screenplay.

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Here are the ten particular films/scripts that I have in play for Best Adapted Screenplay, with the top five cracking the unofficial lineup at this point:

1. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk – One of the de facto clear early frontrunners is here is this script from Jean-Christophe Castelli. Ang Lee’s film is a definite Best Picture possibility, so Best Adapted Screenplay has to be heavily in the conversation as well. If you had to place a bet on an adaptation to take it right now, this is certainly an option you couldn’t be argued with for making.

2. Silence – By and large, I suspect most predictions at this point have the winner being Jay Cocks’ screenplay for this long brewing Martin Scorsese passion project. I have it as the main runner up right now, but if you were to claim it as the pole position script, I wouldn’t argue. It’s a 1/1A type situation, and part of the main heavy hitters in the category. Clearly, you shouldn’t bet against it right now.

3. Nocturnal Animals – I’m not the only one bullish on the potential of this screenplay from Tom Ford, who also directs. Ford is more thought of as a director than a writer, but this could change that. If it’s as strong a work as we all are hoping it is, it’ll be a contender to be reckoned with. Stay tuned to see if it winds up with even more upward mobility in Adapted Screenplay…

4. Live by Night – Here’s my first real curveball. Ben Affleck directs and also wrote the adaptation of this novel, so perhaps he’s in line for another nomination? The category feels open enough that it certainly won’t be too hard for Affleck to break through. Winning might be a tougher sell, but a nod? That’s something I think is a definite possibility here.

5. The Light Between Oceans – I see this one in about a week, so I’ll know then what to make of it, but for now, it seems like a contender. Derek Cianfrance is a filmmaker with a ton of talent and a distinct lack of awards attention from the Academy. They’ll get to him eventually, so perhaps now is the time. Cianfrance should be in play, it’s just to what degree that’s still to be determined!

6. Arrival – Depending on how the initial genre trappings are handled, we could have a big time science fiction Oscar hopeful here. Scribe Eric Heisserer is normally known for less classy fare, but this may very well be his breakthrough. He wouldn’t be the first writer to move up in weight class with the right project, and working with Denis Villeneuve won’t hurt either. Anything is possible at the moment, right?

7. Fences – Posthumous nominations aren’t given out all that often, but that could happen this year for the late August Wilson. Denzel Washington has utilized his words instead of the script that apparently Tony Kushner contributed, so that’s a sign of faith in Wilson. Some are higher on this one than I am, but I could definitely see it making a huge dent in the season. Sit tight and we’ll find out together…

8. The Lost City of Z – One of these days, James Gray is going to get his due from the Academy. Maybe it will be for this script? His direction tends to be his calling card, but he might have just enough fans who are also voters that they get him in for his screenwriting. Time will tell, but if his debut at the New York Film Festival goes well, he could be in line for a nom!

9. Miss Sloane – Here’s an under the radar title to keep an eye on. Writer Jonathan Perera has a very timely work here for John Madden to put forward. If the politics of it all doesn’t trip things up, we might even have a bit of a sleeping giant. It’s a late entry into the race, but it’s one that I think we might eventually have to really reckon with in Adapted Screenplay.

10. The Circle – Instead of picking one of the more logical other contenders, like Lion or Sully, I’m being bold and putting this adaptation here instead. Filmmaker James Ponsoldt has been steadily building his resume, so it would be a nice welcome to the club, as it were, if he got in for his writing this time around. If nothing else, it’ll be fun to see what happens, right?

Next in line I’d have these ten contenders (just sans my commentary here) for Best Adapted Screenplay:

11. Lion
12. American Pastoral
13. Sully
14. Moonlight
15. HHhH
16. Snowden
17. Hidden Figures
18. Love and Friendship
19. How to Talk to Girls at Parties
20. Hello My Name is Doris

Finally, here are ten more possibilities to give us a top 30 to cull from, just sans commentary as well:

21. The Girl on the Train
22. The Secret Scripture
23. Certain Women
24. Finding Dory
25. Queen of Katwe
26. Elle
27. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
28. Kubo and the Two Strings
29. The Magnificent Seven
30. Deadpool

That’s what the Best Adapted Screenplay race could very well be made up of ladies and gents. Stay tuned next week for my look at the Best Original Screenplay race!

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.

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