Monday, July 22, 2019

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Adapted Screenplay 2001

The Contenders:

A Beautiful Mind (winner)
Ghost World
In the Bedroom
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

What’s Missing

This is another case where I don’t have a massive problem with the actual nominations here, but there’s some clear room for improvement, or at least change. I need to bring up both Ali and The Son’s Room right away. Both would be worth thinking about, but it’s unclear as to whether they belong in this category or Original Screenplay. I’m not entirely sold on A.I. Artificial Intelligence, but I think the story is the best part of the movie. I liked Bridget Jones’s Diary a lot more than I thought I would have, and for that reason, I think it’s worth a mention. Scotland, PA flew under the radar of almost everyone, but it’s a wonderful reimagining of MacBeth. I also want to mention The Mummy Returns because it’s a dandy sequel and a hell of a lot of fun.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I have a genuine problem with A Beautiful Mind, and that problem is inherent to the screenplay. The first time the movie is watched, it’s interesting. The second time, a lot of the foreshadowing becomes clear and obvious. And then there’s nothing really more to recommend the film at all. After a second viewing, there’s nothing here new to find in the story. That’s a problem with a lot of movies that depend on a twist, although there are a few that can overcome it. A Beautiful Mind can’t overcome that.

4. I won’t be shy about the fact that I think Shrek is a clever film with a number of good jokes and a very fun and inventive story. That all of this carried over into the actual movie is a good thing and is one of things that makes it as good a film as it is. Clever isn’t enough, though, and Shrek, while clever, is really sold on the strength of the vocal performances. I rather enjoy it when Oscar nominates animated films outside of their category, so I don’t really dislike this nomination. I just don’t like it as much as I do most of the others.

3. In the Bedroom is a movie that I had no real expectation for and left being a true believer. In its own way it suffers from the same problem as Shrek, because, while the story is compelling, it’s the performances that really sell everything here. All of the performances, top to bottom, are as good as you’re going to find. I like this movie a great deal. It’s poignant and difficult and sad. And while the story is well-written, it’s not that difficult of a story in the sense that it’s a very good version of one you’ve seen before.

2. I dearly love when comic book movies get nominated, and I love it even more when a big chunk of the world is unaware that the movie in question came from a comic book. With Ghost World, we get a film that is comfortable being difficult and giving us characters who are hard to like and yet impossible to dismiss. I love where this story goes and I also love that the film has the patience to get there. Had there not been an absolutely monster of a clear winner for this year, I would have no problem handing it to Ghost World.

My Choice

1. With an undertaking as huge as adapting all three books of Tolkien’s trilogy, things had to be as close to perfect as possible with The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. If the adaptation wasn’t great—not merely good—the entire project is put in jeopardy. Knowing what to cut (Tom Bombadil) and what to keep, knowing just how much to ramp up the danger and the battles, and how to streamline the story is critical, and it’s about as good as you’re going to get. I don’t know how this gets adapted better, and for that reason, it’s my winner.

Final Analysis


  1. Honestly, I would've given it to Ghost World in terms of its originality, character study, exploration of female friendship, growing up, and troubled adults.

    How the fuck that a piece of shit and boring film like A Beautiful Mind won Best Adapted Screenplay is beyond me considering that it's written by a no-talent hack whose famous work is...

    "I want a car! Chicks dig the car!" "This is why Superman works alone!" Because of that piece of shit, he almost killed Batman. I know people want to blame Joel Schumacher and he does deserve some of the blame and has at least taken responsibility for what he did. Yet, I feel that some of it should go to Akiva Goldsman who can't write for shit and for anyone that survived the horror that is Winter's Tale would know.

    Shrek and Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring are deserving of the nod while I still haven't seen In the Bedroom. I'm glad someone else here has some love for The Son's Room.

    1. For whatever reason, A Beautiful Mind became the flavor of the month at the right time. I don't really hate it as a movie, but I also don't love it and never have a desire to watch it again. There's nothing there after a second viewing, and honestly, not that much in a second viewing.

      I also don't hate the idea of Ghost World winning. At the very least, my objection wouldn't be the size it is now.

  2. One year I've actually seen all the nominees, and I agree with you. Ghost World is great and doesn't go quite where you expect. Nice to see the Oscars nominating a cult film.
    But really, The Lord of the Rings has become even more impressive over time, and the writing as you say is a huge part of its success. As you say, had that been bad, nothing else would have worked.

    1. That's pretty much where I am. It's such a huge undertaking that having it work at all is pretty amazing. That it works this well is a true achievement.

  3. I'm pretty torn on this one. Ultimately, I agree LotR should win for the reasons you give, but I don't think it's a slam dunk. Honestly, I'm a huge fan of Shrek and wouldn't be mad if that were the winner. I still need to see Ghost World and In the Bedroom.

    1. It's a good list, really. In an open field, I'd be pretty tempted to nominate the top three or four here, with only The King's Speech likely being left out of the mix.

  4. Obviously I'm going to agree with you big time. LOTR is one of the major film achievements of my lifetime and the script is a HUGE part of that. And as far as I'm concerned it's the best of the trilogy.

    1. I put Fellowship in a very close second behind Return of the King, and that's a very close second.

      Turning that book into a successful screenplay is a hell of an accomplishment.