Hollywood is rarely in search of the new, so each year brings a longer list of adapted screenplays and a shorter list of originals.
Critics Choice nominees Luke Davies (“Lion”), Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi (“Hidden Figures”), August Wilson (“Fences”) and eventual winner Eric Heisserer (“Arrival”) all landed Oscar nominations for Adapted Screenplay.
The Academy moved two scripts, “Moonlight” and “Loving,” from Original to Adapted. Technically, the play Barry Jenkins adapted with playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” was never produced. But the Academy, unlike the Writers Guild of America, decided that Jenkins did adapt the moving Miami-set coming-of-age triptych from another source. So that puts “Moonlight” at the top of the race for Adapted Screenplay.
“Moonlight” is competing against WGA nominee “Arrival,” Denis Villeneuve’s brainy sci-fi encounter between an empathetic linguist (Amy Adams) and alien visitors whose intentions are unclear. Adapted by Eric Heisserer (“The Thing”) from Ted Chiang’s short story “Story of Your Life,” the movie is accessible, smart, suspenseful and moving, that rare mix of brain-twister and intimate drama.
Also grabbing WGA nominations was playwright August Wilson’s Pittsburgh drama “Fences,” a holiday hit from Denzel Washington, and “Hidden Figures,” Ted Melfi and Allison Schroeder’s true story about African-American women mathematicians at NASA, which is also kicking it at the box office.
Also in the hunt is another heart-felt true story, Garth Davis’s WGA-ineligible “Lion,” adapted by Luke Davies from the book by Saroo Brierley (Dev Patel), who lost his family when he was five and found them 25 years later via Google Earth, which won the Adapted Screenplay BAFTA.
Contenders (in order of likelihood to win):
1. “Moonlight” (Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney)
2. “Arrival” (Eric Heisserer)
3. “Fences” (August Wilson)
4. “Hidden Figures” (Theodore Melfi, Allison Schroeder)
5. “Lion” (Luke Davies)