Best Adapted Screenplay

The Wolf of Wall Street

This year, nearly every single writer nominated in this category will be attending the Academy Awards for the very first time.  In fact, the only writers in this year’s group that have ever been nominated before are Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke, collectively nominated this year for Before Midnight.  Another noteworthy fact about this year’s group: four of the five scripts were adapted from real-life events.  Even though this category is filled with mostly newcomers to the Oscars, each writer has experienced a distinguished career.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Adapted Screenplay:

WINNER: Terence Winter (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Giorgio Armani and Paramount Pictures Present The US Premiere of "THE WOLF OF WALL STREET"Terence Winter adapted this screenplay from Jordan Belfort’s memoir of the same name.  Even though this is only Winter’s third feature-film screenplay, he is a well-established name in the entertainment business—he was a writer and executive producer for HBO’s The Sopranos and is a writer, executive producer, and creator of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.  Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street is similar to his very own Oscar-nominated film Goodfellas, and a lot of this has to do with Terence Winter’s mind-blowing script.  In fact, Winter, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, admitted that his inspiration for this script was Goodfellas.  Compared to Goodfellas, this script is filled with even more drugs, sex, crime, and F-bombs, and the film works so well because of Winter’s outrageous screenplay.  Terence Winter has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

2. John Ridley (12 Years A Slave)Ridley 12 Years

John Ridley adapted this screenplay from Solomon Northup’s 1853 memoir of the same name.  12 Years A Slave is clearly one of the most amazing films from 2013, and Ridley’s treatment of this classic story is truly inspiring.  The story spans a twelve-year period, but Ridley makes sure to highlight some of the most striking events from this time, including a combination of heart-warming moments and moments that make your heart break for Solomon Northup.  This script, coupled with some amazing acting, gives the story of Northup a deserved sense of justice.  John Ridley has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

3. Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope (Philomena)Coogan and Pope

Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope adapted this screenplay from journalist Martin Sixsmith’s 2009 book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, telling the true story of a woman searching for fifty years to find her son.  Jeff Pope, an award-winning writer and producer, and Steve Coogan, an award-winning writer, actor, impressionist, and producer, are both well known in their field in the United Kingdom, and it is refreshing to see their success receiving American praise, as well.  The story is inspirational, and the script has already won the BAFTA for this very same category.  Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope have never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

4. Billy Ray (Captain Phillips)

Billy Ray Captain PhillipsBilly Ray adapted this screenplay from the 2010 book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Captain Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty.  The film tells the real-life story of the 2009 hijacking of Captain Phillips’s Maersk Alabama container ship by Somali pirates.  The film is incredibly tense, and the screenplay makes the most of such a terrifying storyline.  Some of the dialogue between Phillips (Tom Hanks) and the Somali actors is entrenched in my memory, and the film benefits significantly from Ray’s Oscar-nominated script.  Billy Ray has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

5. Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight)

Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard LinklaterBefore Midnight is the third film in a trilogy of films, beginning with Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004), and Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke adapted it from the previous works in the trilogy.  I have never seen either of the first two films, but the movie is set up in a way that you do not necessarily have to have any prior knowledge of the series; however, I do admit, I now want to see the other two to better understand the impact of the story.  I found the film entertaining, and it is mostly due to the chemistry between Delpy and Hawke as actors and the chemistry between both of them and Linklater as collaborative writers.  Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke, were previously nominated for previously nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Before Sunset (2004).

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Top 15 Films of the Year, No. 12 – Philomena

Philomena - BP

Philomena is a film directed by Stephen Frears, with a screenplay written by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope.  This film tells the true story of Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), an Irish woman who had her son taken from her while she was a teenager working at a Catholic convent.  For fifty years, Philomena kept this part of her life a secret, but after her daughter happens upon Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), a recently fired journalist formerly with the BBC, he agrees to write a human-interest story about Lee’s desperate attempt to locate the whereabouts of her long lost son.  During the course of their search, Philomena and Martin endure moments of heartbreak and exhilaration, and in the process, they learn from each other about the true meaning of life.

Philomena is a wonderfully inspiring film, and it succeeds on more than one plane.  For starters, it is directed by Stephen Frears, a popular British filmmaker with an established repertoire of films, including High Fidelity (2000) and one of my personal favorites, The Queen (2006).  The movie looks similar to a lot of well-produced British films in terms of overt elegance and stylistic subtlety, and Philomena benefits from Frears’s graceful treatment.  Also, the screenplay, adapted by Coogan and Pope from Sixsmith’s book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, is witty, sad, exuberant, and tear-jerking in ALL of the right places, and this story is given justice on the screen because of its terrific script.

Philomena 2Notwithstanding the well-crafted filmmaking and scriptwriting, the film features two gifted acting performances: a stellar display by Dame Judi Dench and a striking performance by Steve Coogan.  Judi Dench has one of cinema’s most distinguished filmographies, and in Philomena, she gives another award-worthy performance in the titular role.  The story is about a woman that is tormented for fifty years about where her son might be, and Dench elucidates the character in an unbelievably powerful way.  She allows the viewers to see and feel each of her emotions, and this connection makes your heart break for Philomena in more ways than you could ever think possible.  Also, Coogan’s role as Sixsmith is not to be overlooked one bit.  I have only come across Coogan in the past in comedic roles, but in this film, his dramatic acting helps make the movie a success.  It probably helps that Coogan co-wrote the film, but his careful construction of the character’s on-screen mannerisms is certainly superb.

Philomena 1I greatly enjoyed this film, and as an independent production from England, it has not received its deserved attention; however, I was undoubtedly pleased with the number of Academy Award-nominations it received.  It is most definitely a hidden gem, but it is one that affected me emotionally while watching it in the theater.  Philomena is one of the most moving films I have seen in quite some time, and if you have not seen it yet, it will definitely be worth every minute of your time.   Philomena is rated R for some language.

Philomena trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rG3QP8foCvg

Academy Award nominations for Philomena:

Best Picture (Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan, and Tracey Seaward, Producers)

Best Actress (Judi Dench)

Best Original Score (Alexandre Desplat)

Best Adapted Screenplay (Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope)

Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of the Year:

13. Fruitvale Station

14. The Place Beyond the Pines

15. Dallas Buyers Club