Best Adapted Screenplay
12 Years a Slave by John Ridley
Even though I want The Wolf of Wall Street to win, the fact that a lot of the film is ad-libbed will hurt it. Furthermore, Wolf seems like too much of a polarizing movie to get the votes needed to beat out 12 Years a Slave; and The Wolf of Wall Street is the only nomination that has any chance to beat that ‘juggernaut.’
With that said, 12 Years a Slave is a beautifully adapted story of Solomon Northup. John Ridley’s adaption removes the blinders and helps Americans talk about a topic that has been repressed. But the script does this in a way where it is not preachy; the story is not saying ‘feel sorry for Solomon.’ Yes, the audience feels empathy for the protagonist, but this is more about Solomon’s will power than his torment. However, the story shows the torment of slaves, but it does so with fully realized characters. If the main character or the slave owners were one-dimensional creations, then this film would not have worked; as anyone could see, the success of this film is on the writer, as much as, the director.
Best Original Screenplay
Her by Spike Jonze
Now, I have a ‘bone to pick’ with this category. The Academy has been nearly perfect at inadequately expressing guidelines for each category. For instance, I always thought that if a screenplay were based on an actual event then it would be in the Adapted Screenplay category. What I later learned is that it has to be based on a specific article or document; both American Hustle and Dallas Buyers Club are based on real events but take liberties with the stories. However, if the idea is not original then should it be considered an original screenplay?
With that said, this is a closer category than Best Adapted Screenplay, however, I believe that the Oscar will go to Her. Yes, arguments could be made for Nebraska and Dallas Buyers Club but I see the Academy awarding the unique universe created by Spike Jonze. Everything about the writing in that film is perfect; whether it is the dialogue between Samantha and Theodore or the unique way the movie looks at relationships, this film displays the realest romance ever put on screen. It just happens to be between a man and a self-aware operating system (think a more intelligent Siri); which makes it the most original story in the Best Original Screenplay category. Again, this is close and even a ‘dark horse’ like Blue Jasmine could win; however, I think the Academy will attempt to make up for Her’s lack of nominations with a win in this category.