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2023 Oscars: Best Adapted Screenplay Predictions

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While “Women Talking” shines, there are a few feel-good scripts that could take the “CODA” route to a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.

We will update these predictions throughout awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2023 Oscar picks. Nominations voting is from January 12 to January 17, 2023, with official Oscar nominations announced on January 24, 2023. The final voting is March 2 through 7, 2023.  And finally, the 95th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 12 and air live on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT.

See IndieWire’s preliminary Oscars Predictions for this category and more here.

The State of the Race

When it comes to the Best Adapted Screenplay race, the players remain the same, but their odds of winning the Oscar have changed.

In the aftermath of Telluride, Venice, and TIFF, the clear frontrunner is Sarah Polley’s script for “Women Talking,” which adapts Miriam Toews’ 2018 novel about several Mennonite women who meet to discuss their experiences with *** assault and *** in their community. Polley has been nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay before, for her feature debut “Away From Her,” and is currently giving compelling interviews about her writing process for “Women Talking,” sharing how she would draft different versions of the script, each from a different character’s point of view, in order to better develop the overall story. The careful process has worked out in her favor, with Polley not only receiving a career tribute at Telluride, but the film being awarded first runner-up for the TIFF 2022 People’s Choice Award.

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Early reactions to Florian Zeller’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning “The Father,” aptly titled “The Son,” have been mixed: While Zeller and Christopher Hampton’s previous screenplay was commended for its depiction of Alzheimer’s disease and its impact on a family, “The Son” has been dinged for working too hard to get an emotional reaction out of viewers. As it starts screening to a wider audience, Oscar voters may find it to be more effective due in part to Hugh Jackman’s performance, but it will still face an uphill battle being judged against the success of “The Father.”

“The Whale” is said to be similarly dark, with a handful of critics taking issue with how it depicts an eating disorder, but that kind of provocation is to be expected from a Darren Aronofsky film. Though none of the director’s previous movies have received an Oscar nomination for their screenplays, this one of playwright Samuel D. Hunter adapting his own play for the screen is considered to be a more solid contender this time around, in part because it was inspired by Hunter’s own experiences with obesity.

Like last year’s Adapted Screenplay winner “CODA,” there are plenty of feel-good contenders that are catching the eyes of voters. TIFF crowds awarded Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” follow-up “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” the second runner-up spot for the TIFF 2022 People’s Choice Award. The audience at Telluride gave “Living,” novelist-screenwriter Kazuo Ishiguro’s sensitive adaptation of Kurosawa’s “Ikiru,” another boost. And even the cannibal road trip film “Bones and All” is being commended for David Kajganich’s poetic writing and maintaining the young love aspect of Camille DeAngelis’ novel it adapts.

Meanwhile, “Top Gun: Maverick” is still in play, with the script by Ehren Kruger, Christopher McQuarrie, and Eric Warren Singer in the conversation thanks to the movie’s commercial success. There is also a healthy fanbase for Dean Fleischer-Camp, Elisabeth Holm, and Nick Paley’s “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On,” another box office hit this summer produced on a much smaller scale.

Noah Baumbach’s Don DeLillo adaptation “White Noise” is one project that could benefit from a reassessment. Though it received a tepid response at Venice, its North American premiere opening the New York Film Festival will be its chance to reestablish itself as an Oscar contender (Baumbach received an Original Screenplay nomination for his last movie, “Marriage Story”). New York will also be the proving ground for “She Said,” which adapts the 2017 New York Times investigation of now-disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Plus, the end of the year brings two huge sequels—“Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”—that could completely change the conversation around several categories, including this one.

Oscar contenders are listed in alphabetical order. Only films I have seen will be deemed frontrunners (TIFF contenders like “Glass Onion” were unavailable to screen for those of us unable to attend the festival at the tailend of Emmys season).

Frontrunners:
Alice Birch and Sebastián Lelio (“The Wonder”)
Dean Fleischer-Camp, Elisabeth Holm, and Nick Paley (“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On”)
Ehren Kruger, Christopher McQuarrie, and Eric Warren Singer (“Top Gun: Maverick”)
Ron Nyswaner (“My Policeman”)
Sarah Polley (“Women Talking”)

Contenders:
Noah Baumbach (“White Noise”)
Joe Robert Cole and Ryan Coogler (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”)
Guillermo del Toro, Gris Grimly, Patrick Hale, and Matthew Robbins (“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”)
Lena Dunham (“Catherine, Called Birdy”)
Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller (“The Son”)
Samuel D. Hunter (“The Whale”)
Kazuo Ishiguro (“Living”)
Rian Johnson (“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”)
David Kajganich (“Bones & All”)
Rebecca Lenkiewicz (“She Said”)

Longshots:
Christine Angot and Claire Denis (“Both Sides of the Blade”)
James Cameron and Josh Friedman (“Avatar: The Way of Water”)
Scott Cooper (“The Pale Blue Eye”)
Peter Craig and Matt Reeves (“The Batman”)
Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly, and Pete Jones (“The Greatest Beer Run Ever”)
Andrew Dominik (“Blonde”)
August Gore and George Miller (“Three Thousand Years of Longing”)
Kogonada (“After Yang”)
David Magee (“A Man Called Otto”)
David Magee (“Lady Chatterley’s Lover”)
Lesley Paterson and Ian Stokell (“All Quiet on the Western Front”)

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