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Oscars 2018 Category Breakdown: Best Adapted Screenplay

So what we do here each year as a warm up for the Oscars is, I break down each of the 24 categories. The idea is to both familiarize everyone with the category and its history. I look at what the major trends are throughout the past bunch of years, how the precursors tend to go, whether they matter or not, that sort of stuff. I look at how the category came to be this year, and just anything else that seems totally pertinent about it. Then I rank each of the nominees and tell you what their likelihood (at this particular moment in time) of winning is.

This is all prelude to my giant Oscar ballot that I’m gonna give you. But I figure, if you have these as the warmup, it’s not as intimidating. You’ll have seen a lot of the pertinent trends here and we’ll all be able to reference these as a sort of cheat sheet. Plus it shows you where my head is at for how I think each of the categories are gonna go, and you can see me working my way up to all the bad decisions I usually make while guessing. Pretty much, with this, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how the category is gonna turn out.

Today is Best Adapted Screenplay. One of the races that should leave me happy no matter which way it goes.

Year Best Adapted Screenplay Winners Other Nominees
1927-1928 Seventh Heaven Glorious Betsy

The Jazz Singer

1928-1929 The Patriot The Cop

In Old Arizona

The Last of Mrs. Cheyney

The Leatherneck

Our Dancing Daughters

Sal of Singapore

Skyscraper

The Valiant

A Woman of Affairs

Wonder of Women

1929-1930 The Big House All Quiet on the Western Front

Disraeli

The Divorcee

Street of Chance

1930-1931 Cimarron The Criminal Code

Holiday

Little Caesar

Skippy

1931-1932 Bad Girl Arrowsmith

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

1932-1933 Little Women Lady for a Day

State Fair

1934 It Happened One Night The Thin Man

Viva Villa!

1935 The Informer The Lives of a Bengal Lancer

Mutiny on the Bounty

Captain Blood

1936 The Story of Louis Pasteur After the Thin Man

Dodsworth

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

My Man Godfrey

1937 The Life of Emile Zola The Awful Truth

Captains Courageous

Stage Door

A Star is Born

1938 Pygmalion Boys Town

The Citadel

Four Daughters

You Can’t Take It With You

1939 Gone With the Wind Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Ninothcka

Wuthering Heights

1940 The Philadelphia Story The Grapes of Wrath

Kitty Foyle

The Long Voyage Home

Rebecca

1941 Here Comes Mr. Jordan Hold Back the Dawn

How Green Was My Valley

The Little Foxes

The Maltese Falcon

1942 Mrs. Miniver 49th Parallel

The Pride of the Yankees

Random Harvest

The Talk of the Town

1943 Casablanca Holy Matriomy

The More the Merrier

The Song of Bernadette

Watch on the Rhine

1944 Going My Way Double Indemnity

Gaslight

Laura

Meet Me in St. Louis

1945 The Lost Weekend Mildred Pierce

Pride of the Marines

The Story of G.I. Joe

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

1946 The Best Years of Our Lives Anna and the King of Siam

Brief Encounter

The Killers

Rome, Open City

1947 Miracle on 34th Street Boomerang

Crossfire

Gentleman’s Agreement

Great Expectations

1948 The Treasure of the Siera Madre A Foreign Affair

Johnny Belinda

The Search

The Snake Pit

1949 A Letter to Three Wives All the King’s Men

Bicycle Thieves

Champion

The Fallen Idol

1950 All About Eve The Asphalt Jungle

Born Yesterday

Broken Arrow

Father of the Bride

1951 A Place in the Sun The African Queen

Detective Story

La Ronde

A Streetcar Named Desire

1952 The Bad and the Beautiful 5 Fingers

High Noon

The Man in the White Suit

The Quiet Man

1953 From Here to Eternity The Cruel Sea

Lili

Roman Holiday

Shane

1954 The Country Girl The Caine Mutiny

Rear Window

Sabrina

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

1955 Marty Bad Day at Black Rock

Blackboard Jungle

East of Eden

Love Me or Leave Me

1956 Around the World in 80 Days Baby Doll

Friendly Persuasion

Giant

Lust for Life

1957 The Bridge on the River Kwai Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

Peyton Place

Sayonara

12 Angry Men

1958 Gigi Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The Horse’s Mouth

I Want to Live!

Separate Tables

1959 Room at the Top Anatomy of a Murder

Ben-Hur

The Nun’s Story

Some Like It Hot

1960 Elmer Gantry Inherit the Wind

Sons and Lovers

The Sundowners

Tunes of Glory

1961 Judgment at Nuremberg Breakfast at Tiffany’s

The Guns of Navarone

The Hustler

West Side Story

1962 To Kill a Mockingbird David and Lisa

Lawrence of Arabia

Lolita

The Miracle Worker

1963 Tom Jones Captain Newman, M.D.

Hud

Lilies of the Field

Sundays and Cybele

1964 Becket Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Mary Poppins

My Fair Lady

Zorba the Greek

1965 Doctor Zhivago Cat Ballou

The Collector

Ship of Fools

A Thousand Clowns

1966 A Man for All Seasons Alfie

The Professionals

The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

1967 In the Heat of the Night Cool Hand Luke

The Graduate

In Cold Blood

Ulysses

1968 The Lion in Winter The Odd Couple

Oliver!

Rachel, Rachel

Rosemary’s Baby

1969 Midnight Cowboy Anne of the Thousand Days

Goodbye, Columbus

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

Z

1970 MASH Airport

I Never Sang for My Father

Lovers and Other Strangers

Women in Love

1971 The French Connection A Clockwork Orange

The Conformist

The Garden of the Finzi Continis

The Last Picture Show

1972 The Godfather Cabaret

The Emigrants

Pete ‘n’ Tillie

Sounder

1973 The Exorcist The Last Detail

The Paper Chase

Paper Moon

Serpico

1974 The Godfather Part II The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

Lenny

Murder on the Orient Express

Young Frankenstein

1975 One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest Barry Lyndon

The Man Who Would Be King

Profumo di donna

The Sunshine Boys

1976 All the President’s Men Bound for Glory

Fellini’s Casanova

The Seven Per-Cent Solution

Voyage of the Damned

1977 Julia Equus

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

Oh, God!

That Obscure Object of Desire

1978 Midnight Express Bloodbrothers

California Suite

Heaven Can Wait

Same Time, Next Year

1979 Kramer vs. Kramer Apocalypse Now

La Cage aux Folles

A Little Romance

Norma Rae

1980 Ordinary People Breaker Morant

Coal Miner’s Daughter

The Elephant Man

The Stunt Man

1981 On Golden Pond The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Pennies from Heaven

Prince of the City

Ragtime

1982 Missing Das Boot

Sophie’s Choice

The Verdict

Victor/Victoria

1983 Terms of Endearment Betrayal

The Dresser

Educating Rita

Reuben, Reuben

1984 Amadeus Greystroke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes

The Killing Fields

A Passage to India

A Soldier’s Story

1985 Out of Africa The Color Purple

Kiss of the Spider Woman

Prizzi’s Honor

The Trip to Bountiful

1986 A Room with a View Children of a Lesser God

The Color of Money

Crimes of the Heart

Stand by Me

1987 The Last Emperor The Dead

Fatal Attraction

Full Metal Jacket

My Life as a Dog

1988 Dangerous Liaisons The Accidental Tourist

Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey

Little Dorrit

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

1989 Driving Miss Daisy Born on the Fourth of July

Enemies, a Love Story

Field of Dreams

My Left Foot

1990 Dances with Wolves Awakenings

Goodfellas

The Grifters

Reversal of Fortune

1991 The Silence of the Lambs Europa Europa

Fried Green Tomatoes

JFK

The Prince of Tides

1992 Howards End Enchanted April

The Player

A River Runs Through It

Scent of a Woman

1993 Schindler’s List The Age of Innocence

In the Name of the Father

The Remains of the Day

Shadowlands

1994 Forrest Gump The Madness of King George

Nobody’s Fool

Quiz Show

The Shawshank Redemption

1995 Sense and Sensibility Apollo 13

Babe

Leaving Las Vegas

Il Postino

1996 Sling Blade The Crucible

The English Patient

Hamlet

Traisnpotting

1997 L.A. Confidential Donnie Brasco

The Sweet Hereafter

Wag the Dog

The Wings of the Dove

1998 Gods and Monsters Out of Sight

Primary Colors

A Simple Plan

The Thin Red Line

1999 The Cider House Rules Election

The Green Mile

The Insider

The Talented Mr. Ripley

2000 Traffic Chocolat

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

O Brother Where Art Thou?

Wonder Boys

2001 A Beautiful Mind Ghost World

In the Bedroom

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Shrek

2002 The Pianist About a Boy

Adaptation.

Chicago

The Hours

2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King American Splendor

City of God

Mystic River

Seabiscuit

2004 Sideways Before Sunset

Finding Neverland

Million Dollar Baby

The Motorcycle Diaries

2005 Brokeback Mountain Capote

The Constant Gardener

A History of Violence

Munich

2006 The Departed Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Children of Men

Little Children

Notes on a Scandal

2007 No Country for Old Men Atonement

Away from Her

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

There Will Be Blood

2008 Slumdog Millionaire The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Doubt

Frost/Nixon

The Reader

2009 Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire District 9

An Education

In the Loop

Up in the Air

2010 The Social Network 127 Hours

Toy Story 3

True Grit

Winter’s Bone

2011 The Descendants The Ides of March

Hugo

Moneyball

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

2012 Argo Beasts of the Southern Wild

Life of Pi

Lincoln

Silver Linings Playbook

2013 12 Years a Slave Before Midnight

Captain Phillips

Philomena

The Wolf of Wall Street

2014 The Imitation Game American Sniper

Inherent Vice

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

2015 The Big Short Brooklyn

Carol

The Martian

Room

2016 Moonlight Arrival

Fences

Hidden Figures

Lion

2017 Call Me By Your Name The Disaster Artist

Logan

Molly’s Game

Mudbound

We did Original yesterday, so let’s just assume everything I said about that was also true and skip all the statistics.

WGA is the precursor for this one too, with BAFTA and BFCA supporting that. Nothing ineligible for them with Adapted, so we’re on an even playing field.

Here’s WGA vs. the Oscars:

  • 2017: Call Me By Your Name wins WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2016: Moonlight wins WGA Original and the Oscar.
  • 2015: The Big Short wins WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2014: The Imitation Game wins WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2013: 12 Years a Slave isn’t eligible for WGA and wins the Oscar. Captain Phillips wins WGA Adapted.
  • 2012: Argo wins both WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2011: The Descendants wins both WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2010: The Social Network wins both WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2009: Up in the Air wins WGA Adapted. Precious wins the Oscar.
  • 2008: Slumdog Millionaire wins both WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2007: No Country for Old Men wins both WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2006: The Departed wins both WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2005: Brokeback Mountain wins both WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2004: Sideways wins both WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2003: American Splendor wins WGA Adapted. Return of the King wins the Oscar.
  • 2002: The Pianist is not eligible for the WGA and wins the Oscar. The Hours wins WGA Adapted.
  • 2001: A Beautiful Mind wins both WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2000: Traffic wins both WGA Adapted and the Oscar.

They’re really good. Only twice since 2000 when the Oscar winner was eligible did it lose at WGA, and one of them was a year with a clean sweep. Up in the Air in 2009 is the only straight up miss, and that was one of the more surprising results of the past decade. So generally you wanna listen to the WGA.

BAFTA, meanwhile, in the only four times the WGA missed: They also had Up in the Air, they did have Return of the King, they did not have The Pianist and they did have Traffic. So 2/4. One of them was a muddied waters situation and the other was a uniform miss across the board.

And BFCA… they’re not helpful for the first three years, and in the Up in the Air year, they had that.

So really, what WGA says is probably gonna win. If not, probably you can look at the other guilds to find it.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

BlacKkKlansman

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

If Beale Street Could Talk

A Star Is Born

This category went almost exactly as expected. BlacKkKlansman, Star Is Born, Can You Ever Forgive Me and Beale Street were stone cold locks all the way through. Most of us assumed Black Panther for that fifth spot, since it hit all the important precursors. But no. They left it off and put the Coen brothers on instead. Now, Buster Scruggs wasn’t really on my radar… oh, wait, it was… I just assumed it was Original for some reason. Guess I wasn’t paying attention there. So yeah, not really something I expected, but it’s the Coens, so they’re always contenders. This is their seventh Screenplay nomination.

This one seems fairly cut and dry, since you don’t expect three of them to be seriously considered for the win. So it’s really one versus the other, and then the precursors gave us this:

  • WGA: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
  • BAFTA: BlacKkKlansman
  • BFCA: If Beale Street Could Talk

So yeah. Enough to parse this one fairly simply.

Rankings:

5. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs — They were the surprise nominee, got no precursors, and don’t really have much support elsewhere for the film. Easy fifth choice. Anything more needing to be said on that one?

4. A Star Is Born — Theoretically I could say this was third. But it lost all three precursors to the other three nominees. So it has to go fourth. I can’t see where the Screenplay votes are coming from for this. I mean, sure, with no set favorite, we could see a four way funneling of votes, so technically this has a shot. But right now, I can’t see it as anything other than fourth.

3. If Beale Street Could Talk — I originally had this as my #1, but it only has a BFCA win. And less overall support than… well, it’s tied with Can You Ever Forgive Me?, so there’s that. I don’t know. I still think this can win. Maybe that’s a pipe dream, but I think it’s definitely in that conversation. I thought that conversation was a tossup, but now it’s more a three-horse race. And they all have a precursor. I’m gonna think on this and figure out where my head’s at. But at this point, all three of these are basically co-number ones. I still can’t call this more of a favorite over the other two based on what we have on paper at the moment, though.

2. Can You Ever Forgive Me? — This just won the WGA on Sunday, in a minor surprise. It beat every other nominee but Buster Scruggs there. So that makes me have to give it respect here, even if I’m not sure this can win the Oscar. But I don’t see why I think that. Since 2000 only three times did something win the WGA and lose the Oscar, and twice it was to something that wasn’t eligible at the WGA. And the third time, Return of the King swept. So theoretically this should be my #1 in the category on that alone. But I still feel like it’s not the most likely winner, and I don’t know why. I guess I have five days to figure it out. Still, that WGA win was huge for this.

1. BlacKkKlansman — I’m giving it the edge not because of BAFTA, but because it’s Spike. They might finally look to get him his Oscar. I don’t know how it’s gonna shake out, but I’ll call this the favorite at the moment. Plus it has the most nominations of the three main contenders. So there’s that too. I think it’s one of the top three that wins, but right now I can’t really tell you what order I think that likelihood of happening is. Though the cool thing about this is that however it goes, either Spike Lee, Barry Jenkins or Nicole Holofcener will win the Oscar. Which is pretty cool.

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