Best Adapted Screenplay, 2001
(Click on the linked film titles for reviews of the corresponding films.)

Akiva Goldsman
A Beautiful Mind


Winning the Golden Globe and the Writers Guild Award augments the already-strong momentum of being the Best Picture front-runner and the year's highest grosser for an adult-skewing drama. Goldsman has paid his dues with all those Grisham and Batman scripts; it's nice to see him make good, and all of his (many) acceptance speeches have been unerringly gracious.

He'd better be gracious: these charges of factual inaccuracy will hurt him as much as anyone, and may even hurt him most. Those pre-Oscar prizes were largely determined before the discrepancy outcry reached its highest furor. As Billy Bob Thornton proved to Anthony Minghella in 1996, even the biggest "front-runners" in the Screenplay races are capable of eleventh-hour collapse.
Daniel Clowes & Terry Zwigoff
Ghost World

Based on a comic book and full of geeky, maladjusted characters, Ghost World is, by a country mile, the weirdest entry in the race. A good thing, yes?
Based on a comic book and full of geeky, maladjusted characters, Ghost World is, by a country mile, the weirdest entry in the race. A risky proposition, yes? Yes.
Rob Festinger & Todd Field
In the Bedroom

In terms of its tone, its frank emphasis on character psychology and behavioral motivation, and its prominent billing of André Dubus (who wrote the original short story, titled "Killings"), In the Bedroom is the image of what's called a "writerly" movie.
Jury's still out on whether this movie would have flown without the cast that Field assembled for his and Festinger's script. Some people think the script still doesn't fly—particularly when it comes to that third-act detour—and the lack of a director nod means the film's support is almost exclusively actor-driven.
Frances Walsh, Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Do you want to try adapting hundreds and hundreds of pages of fantasy material—pages which, moreover, an Internet full of zealous devotées have all but memorized, including the bits written in Elvish? Jackson, his wife Walsh, and their collaborator Boyens have managed to streamline a sprawling narrative so that mass audiences can understand it, and they still managed to satisfy the fans. No one remembers the last time that combo was pulled off.
Like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon last year, Lord has curred much wider favor for its directing, technical, and acting achievements—probably in that order—than it has for its screenplay. Many of the movie's most gripping passages (the sprint through the Mines of Moria, the battles with the Uruk-hai) are almost dialogue-free, and Oscar voters hold steadfastly to the belief that great screenplays live and die by their dialogue.
Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman & Roger S.H. Schulman

Shrek has been the year's biggest crowd-pleaser. Harry Potter made more money, but there's no question Shrek is more beloved, and the Academy is full of famous parents who want to reward witty, unpatronizing family fare that grown-ups can sit through all twenty times their kids want to see it. Plus, Hollywood has always been more entranced by the anti-Eisner resonance of the film than America at large was.
The Best Animated Feature category is a perfect place to reward Shrek without sacrificing one of the prestige categories to its ogrish charms. Plus, there's the Too Many Cooks prejudice: screenplays cobbled together from more than two or three creative directions tend to strike Oscar as a committee effort, not an Award-worthy endeavor.

WHO WILL WIN: Goldsman's Beautiful Mind script would be a lot more imperiled by the firm-historicist objections if there were a clear runner-up ready to usurp his place. As it is, In the Bedroom may be too literate and Shrek and Rings too populist to collect a consensus vote in Goldsman's stead.

WHO SHOULD WIN: To say that The Fellowship of the Ring boasts astonishing art direction, smart editing, and any number of fantastic "cinematic" vestitures should not take away from the economy and proficiency of its screenplay. If the script hadn't worked, the film wouldn't have worked, or the fans at least would have been estranged. The movie's massive commercial success is not itself the proof of the screenplay's merits, but nor is The Fellowship of the Ring one of those runaway hits that reaps in cash despite its script. I hope Hollywood is taking notes.

...AND WHO OUGHTA BEEN INVITED: Frankly, this year didn't exactly offer a banquet of deserving contenders. Probably my favorite adaptation that isn't on this list is the updating and retooling of Elisabeth Sanxay Holding's novel that David Siegel and Scott McGehee administered for The Deep End. Still, even in that solid effort, a viewer gets the feeling that Tilda Swinton is selling that script, rather than the other way around.

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