Friday, October 30, 2020

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Adapted Screenplay 2017

The Contenders:

Call Me by Your Name (winner)
The Disaster Artist
Molly’s Game

What’s Missing

Lots to talk about with 2017 in the Best Adapted Screenplay competition. As is often the case with Oscar, we’re going to have to talk about superhero movies for the most part here, since Logan managed the nomination for the genre. This means that Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Wonder Woman were never going to get nominations regardless of how much they deserved it over the actual nominations. Action movies also don’t get a lot of love, which is going to leave out John Wick Chapter 2 and Atomic Blonde. Science fiction has the same issues, which will leave out Blade Runner 2049. All the Money in the World would have been an interesting choice here, and The Death of Stalin is one I like more than several of the actual nominees. The biggest miss for me is You Were Never Really Here.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I’m 100% behind the idea of more positive movies about LGBTQ+ people. I’m fine with a romance every now and then and I’m not someone who needs his romance films to be hetero or even cis-gendered. But seriously, Call Me By Your Name is an ugly film in so many ways. If this was not a gay relationship, and if the Timothee Chalamet chararacter were a young woman instead, many of the people who look at this movie as a pure romance would be creeped out by a guy acting like a predator toward a young woman. This is creepy, not romantic or tragic.

4. If you take the paragraph above and remove the LGBTQ parts and instead talk about non-white characters and actors, I could say very much the same thing. And I understand why so many movies about the Black experience in America end up being about racism and the effects of racism. I hate that that’s the case. Mudbound is likely suffering from the fact that I have a surfeit of depressing and nihilistic movies where terrible things happen to decent people. It’s probably better than fourth place, but right now in my head, I’ve just had enough of seeing shitty things happen to people who don’t deserve it in the real world, so I don’t want it in my movies, either.

3. I was forced to watch The Room a number of years ago and I’ve participated in a script reading of it. I understand exactly why so many people are fascinated by it, and so it wasn’t really a shock that The Disaster Artist was turned into a movie. There’s a lot to like here, but this is also a case of this very much being akin to a BOSUD, a biography of someone undeserving. It’s an intriguing story, but it’s also one that pisses me off. Tommy Wiseau has gotten far more ink than he’s ever deserved.

2. Molly’s Game is one of those movies where just about everyone involved in it is terrible in some respect. There aren’t any real heroes in this movie, just people who are slightly less terrible or guilty of slightly less awful things than the other people. But at the same time, it’s completely worth seeing. There’s a darkness here that is hard to look away from, because it’s very real and very human. I liked a lot of other movies from this year more than this one, but there weren’t many that I found that captured this much of my attention.

My Choice

1. Logan takes this. Oscar was just starting to wake up to the fact that superhero movies aren’t kids’ stuff and can tell real stories in 2017. It’s a little shocking that Logan managed a nomination in one of the categories at the adult table. In a just world, Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart would have both gotten nominations as well, and probably would have won. At the very least, this should have won. Yes, it’s a movie about comic book characters. It’s also smart, and it’s difficult, and it’s uplifting and tragic. It makes these characters—these ridiculous people who wear spandex and have powers akin t magic—so real and so human. It transcends its genre limitations, and it should have been recognized.

Final Analysis


  1. I started looking over the movies I've seen from 2017 and were surprised at how many that I just knew were adapted screenplays turned out to be original. That left me with pretty much the group you mentioned in the open. Of those, I'd only seriously consider Blade Runner 2049, Wonder Woman, and Thor: Raganarok. The one I would likely nominate that didn't get a mention is War for the Planet of the Apes, that's if we're counting that as adapted.

    You and I have commiserated before over our dislike of your #5, so I'll leave it at that. Mudbound would be near the top for me, but I get it, bad things happening to good people. I'd probably swap it with Molly's Game, but I do like your take on it. That would leave The Disaster Artist in 3rd, because I'd also go with Logan, for all the reasons you said. I'd only add that it did two important things. It completely took away those spandex and made it clear that the "magic" they've been blessed with came at a great cost.

    1. Talk to me in a year, and I might well rearrange these movies. Like I said above, Mudbound is almost certainly a better screenplay than I'm giving it credit for being here.

      It's also a damn good point about Logan. That cost is terrible, and the movie is very much about just how awful that price is when it comes due.

  2. I probably would've gone with Logan as well as I also agree with Wendell on the films he mentioned that should've been nominated. Thor: Ragnarok was nuts in a fun way. If you watch the film more carefully, it's a really a deconstructive take on superhero films. There's these moments of serious monologues that happen that is then interrupted by humor like "then you know the prophecy of Ragnarok! In which I.... " "hang on, hang on..." "I hate this prophecy" "So do I but it needs to happen. We need to let Surtur finish his job and... " "BIG MONSTER!!!!!" "Hulk, no!" "HULK!!!!"

    Who does that? That is genius. You Were Never Really Here is the one film of 2017 that I really want to see since it's Lynne Ramsay as I would've also had Sofia Coppola's take on The Beguiled for consideration as well.

    1. Of the other potential choices in the superhero genre, Thor: Ragnarok would probably be the one I'd bring in. The others do have good screenplays in general, but also excel more in other areas. Spider-Man: Homecoming, for instance, deserved some love for Michael Keaton in a supporting role.

    2. Oh hell yeah. I was glad to see Keaton in a meaty role but also play someone who doesn't fit the traditional mold of a villain but someone who does bad things to take care of his family.

    3. Right--Keaton is really, really good. He's had a nice career resurgence, and he's a guy who deserved one.