Oscar History

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USC Scripter Prize

As discussed on the podcast this past Monday, we like it when guilds and specialty groups have slightly different rules of eligibility than the Oscars. This prevents everyone from choosing the same five everything and draws attention to other noteworthy accomplishments. For example, The Spectacular Now and What Maisie Knew, two good films that haven't been mentioned at all for months, won nominations at the USC Scripters.

The Scripter Prize is basically a version of Adapted Screenplay but the nominees are determined by a small panel each year (Leonard Maltin was on it this year) and the award goes to both the screenwriter and the original author. Naturally the original authors don't always show; we won't be hearing an acceptance speech from Henry James should What Maisie Knew surprise. The Scripters require that you're actually be based on previously published material, not just "previously established characters" which is the sequel-friendly insanity that started just in the past ten years or so and by which the Before Sunset and Before Midnight films won well deserved Oscar nominations albeit in the wrong categories. The only thing those films are "based on" is the imagination of Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke.

This year in addition to Spectacular and Maisie they selected three Oscar nominees 12 Years a Slave, Philomena, and Captain Phillips. Have you read any of these books and which would you vote for? The winner will be announced tomorrow. Their winner matches Oscar's just under 50% of the time... though like all awards bodies they seem to be moving closer to correlation of late. 

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Reader Comments (6)

The only one of the books I've read is Martin Sixsmith's "The Lost Child of Philomena Lee," and it's VERY different from the movie. In short, the book is a biography of the little boy, and Phiilomena's search for him makes up only a tiny bit of the book (something like 18 pages) at the end.

February 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBill_the_Bear

Nat, I usually agree with you when it comes to your issues about Oscar eligibility, but I can see the Academy's point with the whole "sequels are adapted thing" and am even inclined to take their side. Best Adapted Screenplay is technically "Screenplay Based On Material Previously Produced Or Published". The 'Before' movies are clearly based on material previously produced. The sequels as they are wouldn't exist without the movies that came before them. When those writers sit down in front of a blank screen, they have characters and motivations and situations already set up for them to base their new story on.

Now, I know that could easily be said about "original" screenplays that are based on true events and characters ('Milk' being the best example), and that is true, but a line has to be drawn somewhere, and since 'Milk' wasn't based on anything previously produced or published then I guess those instances have to be let slide.

February 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Jack

The Jack -- i dunno. it's kind of hard to watch Milk and not think of every moment from "The Life and Times of Harvey Milk" which won the documentary Oscar.

February 7, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I agree, but 'The Life And Times Of Harvey Milk' wasn't credited. I'm kind of just playing devil's advocate for the Academy here, but there's so many different arguments you can make for different films and instances that I accept that at some point they have to just put their foot down and make some rules.

But it does make you wonder how they can be so strict about those rules, but not about 'Gangs Of New York' or 'The Butler' or 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' pretending they're not adapted.

February 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Jack

I have read What Maisie Knew and it is great. It is one of Henry James's best novels: dense, well crafted, well written.

The film is algo good.

February 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarcelo - Brazil

I think this is one of the cooler prizes around because they honor source material. They tend to pick a diverse, respected selection committee, too.

I have also read What Maisie Knew and like the novel and the film. I'm also glad to see The Spectacular Now get some attention.

February 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

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