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Oscar Banter: Adapted Screenplay

by on February 23, 2013

By Taylor Gaines and Steven Halsey

This is the second installment of our Oscar debates in the week-long lead-up to the big show. Steven and I recently discussed the award for Best Original Screenplay and now we will debate who had the best adapted story in Hollywood the past year. These are the nominees for Best Writing for a Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, better known as Best Adapted Screenplay.

THE NOMINEES:

 Chris TerrioArgo (2012)

Tony KushnerLincoln (2012)

David O. RussellSilver Linings Playbook (2012)

TAYLOR GAINES:

I’m thinking Tony Kushner and his work on “Lincoln” is the winner for me here. Before I explain why, let me quickly discuss why the others fall short for me.

First of all, “Argo” was a great film but I get the feeling that it was a little easier for Mr. Terrio to work with a script that was basically handed to him by the Central Intelligence Agency. He took a great story and did an adequate job turning it into a great film.

David O. Russell did a similar thing with “Silver Linings”, taking a story by Matthew Quick about a bipolar man who lost his wife and almost literally translating it to the big screen.

Alibar and Zeitlin’s film was much more about the visual effects and direction than the screenwriting, as was Magee’s “Life of Pie”.

The unique spin and direction of the story line of Kushner’s  “Lincoln” gave me a look at the story I had not experienced before. It did not just take a great story and plug it into its movie formula. It created tension and suspense in ways few movies today will even attempt. If you told asked me to go see a movie about passing a bill in Congress, I don’t think I’d be too interested.

This is the difficult thing about this category for me, though.  Each nomination is for a screenplay based on someone else’s work. I prefer to look at who took something that was not particularly made for Hollywood and did the best job with that. I believe Kushner worked hardest in this category and he has my vote.

So, there you have it. Two Civil War winners for me. Where do you fall in the adapted screenplay debate, Steven? And who’s your winner?

STEVEN HALSEY:

Anyone can re-make original movie scripts. That’s why to me the Best Adapted Screenplays are above all the most unique ones. In this case, “Lincoln” might have been a little too fundamental. Conversely, Mr. Terrio took a lot of risks with “Argo,” perhaps too many. “Life of Pi” was intricate, but sometimes quite mundane. The most unique film, by far, was “Silver Linings Playbook” (Don’t even ask me about “Beasts of the Southern Wild”).

I literally had no idea what was coming next at any point during “Silver Linings Playbook.” This suspense isn’t always a good thing, as often times directors end up with a tacky plot. David O. Russell, however, manages to include thorough drama, obnoxious violence and sensational creativity without the audience frowning in disbelief or looking at their watches.

If there’s anything I love about movies, it’s a smooth transition between drama and comedy in the same scene. The scene where Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) schools Pat’s (Bradley Cooper) family on why her presence in Pat’s life has not ruined the Philadelphia Eagles or Pat Sr.’s (Robert De Niro) “juju” executed this perfectly. Russell showed his boldness by spending extra time with quirky characters and their not-so-charming dilemmas.

An angry Cooper jogging with a trash bag on his chest did something for me. The quaint townhouses of Philly did too. But I don’t think it would have been so without Russell’s screenplay tactics. Same goes for an emotionally confused Lawrence and a patient De Niro.

So there you have it. “Silver Linings Playbook” is the most unique film of the year. David O. Russell deserves the Oscar.

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