2020 Oscar Category Breakdown: Best Adapted Screenplay

Today is Best Adapted Screenplay. A category that, in the 90s, used to dominate the writing categories. Most Best Picture nominees came from this category. But in recent years, that tide has turned. And it feels like now most Picture nominees come from Original, while there’s always those other few who end up here. And because it’s not as overly stacked as it used to be, most years there’s been that overwhelming #1 that you’re almost certain is gonna win.

This year is no different, and we pretty much know where this one’s gonna go and we really don’t need to waste too much time talking about it.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

The Father


One Night in Miami

The White Tiger

All of these scripts made the precursors in some form. It was pretty much these five plus News of the World and Ma Rainey that had the major precursor nominations and felt like the only choices that could make this list. And as we know, News of the World came in totally soft and felt like it was probably gonna be left off. But Ma Rainey seemed like a sure thing and ended up being left off in favor of two WGA nominees, Borat and The White Tiger. So in the end we got an interesting category in terms of script diversity (Borat, The Father and The White Tiger couldn’t be more different films) but not so interesting a category in terms of picking it. Since it’s basically a 50/50 scenario and whichever wins it won’t really be that big a surprise.

5. The White Tiger — It’s the one almost no one’s seen. They like Ramin Bahrani, but no one will have seen the movie. Which is the kiss of death for something in this category. First off — do you know what the last non-Best Picture nominee to win this category was? Gods and Monsters in 1998. You know the one before that? Sling Blade, 1996. Before that? The Bad and the Beautiful in 1952. You know what’s before that? Nothing. So only three times ever did a non-Best Picture nominee win this category and in all cases, the film had at least one acting nomination alongside it (Gods and Monsters had two, as did Bad and the Beautiful). Nothing has ever won this category as its sole nomination. So yeah, this is the fifth choice.

4. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm — This has an acting nomination. So theoretically this could be the fourth film ever to win this category and not have a Best Picture nomination, but I’m not sure anyone thinks that’s gonna happen, especially since it’s widely known how improvisational the film is. So this is more of a ‘congrats on getting here’ nomination that no one expects to come through. And yes, I know it won the WGA, but to me that doesn’t mean anything since the assumed winners here weren’t eligible there. So they got to do whatever the hell they wanted knowing it wouldn’t matter.

3. One Night in Miami — At best this is a third choice. I was gonna tell you why you shouldn’t have this second, but at this point the argument’s become why this isn’t fourth. Because Borat beat it at WGA, which tells you there’s no real heat for this whatsoever. But I still think the class factor makes this a better third choice than Borat. Even though — not nominated for Best Picture, and only three times ever has that happened. So 3/4 doesn’t matter. It’s all about these top two choices.

2. The Father — It won BAFTA and Anthony Hopkins won BAFTA. Which I can’t tell is a sign of real support for the film or them going, “Okay, sure, Chadwick’s dead, but this is our chance to support a veteran who’s still alive and is a Brit.” I’m leaning more toward that possibility, but the point still stands that, of the two precursors, this won the more important of the two (since both were WGA-ineligible). You could make the case for this as first choice, but I’m leaving it second for now on a technicality.

1. Nomadland — This has BFCA and is the presumptive winner of Best Picture. Which is the only reason I’m considering this the favorite to win over The Father. Otherwise it would be a legitimate dead heat and The Father would even be slightly ahead for me. I think this is a 51/49 situation, though and you can easily make the case for both choices. But the fact remains that 60 out of 92 Best Picture winners also won for Best Screenplay, which is why I’ll give this the slight edge for now. This is a category you’re gonna have to think long and hard about over the next two weeks, but fortunately for you it’s a one or the other situation and you might just have to pick which you’re more comfortable with and hope you get lucky. Still, you know where you stand here, which is better than nothing.

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