ERIC: Euro, I’m so happy to be discussing the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay with you. Personally, I feel like it’s one of our weakest years in this category. Before we get into each nominee and the race, do you have any candidates you personally loved that didn’t make the slate?
EUROCHEESE: It is strange how all the top contenders, and frankly most of the great films of the year, were original storylines. Even Glass Onion, sneaks into this category thanks to its lead detective but it’s really an Original Screenplay…
Though the category seems weak, it came from a fairly weak field! This would have been a nice place to reward The Woman King, though we were expecting it to show elsewhere, and I liked BAFTA’s nomination for The Quiet Girl. My FYC would have been Fire Island, but Hulu opted not to submit to the Oscars (since they were divvying up their films between Oscars & Emmys). Instead, I’ll go the Animated route and say both Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio and Marcel the Shell With Shoes On would have been nice to see in this category.
Were there any misses that left you disappointed?
ERIC: Shockingly, no! I didn’t think The Woman King was Oscar-worthy. Your suggestion of The Quiet Girl is a very good one…I don’t think it was on the radar for most voters. I could get into Marcel the Shell taking over Top Gun: Maverick’s slot here for sure! I guess the only one I thought would cross the line was the script for She Said, which was brisk and efficient and engrossing, but it’s just one of those movies that’s solid but totally forgettable.
Shall we tackle the five nominees? Would you like to speak briefly to each of them before we get into who will win?
EUROCHEESE: I have the same issue with both All Quiet on the Western Front and Living – I’ve seen better versions of these stories. The films have the advantage, though, of many of their fans not seeing their highly regarded predecessors. Glass Onion was a blast and I love seeing it here, but was the script itself better than Knives Out? I’d say no, at least when it comes to the construction of the mystery itself. Speaking of fun popcorn, Top Gun: Maverick was an exciting ride but no one walked out of that movie saying, “Wow, what a script!” It’s overflow love for a popular movie, which I understand. If we’re going for popcorn, though, I’d vote Rian Johnson.
Sarah Polley, on the other hand, took material that could have been one note, characters that could have resorted to cheap cliches and a setup that doesn’t scream for the big screen, and elevated every aspect of it. All of her characters have clear voices that I found believable, and the urgency and honest feel of their conversation turns a movie with women talking in a barn into a thriller. It’s smart, moving, and even surprisingly funny in moments. And it doesn’t waste its time. This is one of my favorite films of the year, and if I could hand the movie an Oscar in any category, it would be here.
What’s your take on these five?
ERIC: I think you’ve summed up our consensus on this category! There’s not a lot of there there. I thought Glass Onion was a better script than Knives Out in terms of having far more legit jokes in it, and a more interesting structure with the big turn for Janelle Monae, but it’s still just a fun Hollywood movie that’s lucky to have scored the nod. I’ll give credit to Top Gun: Maverick’s script for delivering on a modern update of the original, but that dialogue: high holy hell! I get that it’s somewhat(?) self-aware in its action-movie lingo, but even semi-tongue-in-cheak leaden dialogue is still leaden dialogue. Agreed that of the two popcorns, the Glass Onion script is better.
Sarah Polley’s script for Women Talking is quite extraordinary. The thing to me that makes it really special is that she’s locked into this completely original, absolutely elevated language that feels observed and owned. These women can’t read… their entire lives their only exposure to any written word is the Bible. And Polley takes not only biblical language, but the way biblical issues are discussed, with its conditional if/then pondering, and places it squarely in the dialogue with these women. So many lines are structured in conditional langauge like “if we accept these men as attackers, then…” which is part of how they process their situation. The women are therefore allowed to be intelligent and deep thinkers, always living in the theoretical, the humane, the philosophical. It allows Polley to proffer a lot of ideas. The movie has a density that can be overwhelming, but that density comes organically from the language, which comes organically from the characters. It’s a level of skill and brilliance that no other script in this category can touch.
I’m a bigger fan of the script of both All Quiet and of Living than you are, but only All Quiet is a possible threat to Women Talking for the award. What do you think of the race itself? Who is the likely victor and the likely spoiler?
EUROCHEESE: I don’t see a scenario where Glass Onion takes it, especially since the film found no support elsewhere. Top Gun Maverick would only happen if voters are desperate to reward it somewhere, and this would be a strange place for the win. Living’s best argument is that it’s written by a Nobel laureate, but I doubt enough voters know that to make it a contender.
The two most likely winners are definitely All Quiet and Women Talking. The latter has been struggling all awards season and felt like it snagged the last Best Picture slot by the skin of its teeth. All Quiet, on the other hand, landed a slew of nominations and is clearly popular with European voters. It serves as a statement film, hits the bread-and-butter war genre for voters and male Academy members in particular (which is most of them) and they will be more inclined to vote for it. I really want Polley to take this, but when I find myself looking for excuses to make it happen, I know I’m pushing a favorite instead of reading tea leaves.