Best Adapted Screenplay, 2004
(Click on the linked film titles for reviews of the corresponding films.)

Richard Linklater,
Julie Delpy,
Ethan Hawke,
and Kim Krazin

Before Sunset


A charming script dexterously contrived by the participants in the earlier film...

...which, I rush to add, is not the same as "adapting" anything. Small box office + category fraud = no dice.
David Magee
Finding Neverland

It's hard for me to understand why Finding Neverland has any fans, but insofar as it apparently does, people seem to be grooving on the whole notion of peeking behind the curtain at the man who invented Peter Pan, and on all of the rosy paeans to the power of imagination that flowed out of Magee's pen.
Still, even Neverland's fans seem divided between folks who think it's a middling script magically directed, a solid script sentimentally directed and dully played, or a badly written, middlingly directed affair that is saved by its tony cast. This lack of consensus means that Neverland won't get enough of a boost to triumph in any major category. (Huzzah!)
Paul Haggis
Million Dollar Baby

Frontrunners in the major categories tend to do well here, and Million Dollar Baby is perfectly positioned for a mini-sweep. Since the film is missing from most of the technical rosters, Screenplay is a logical place to begin the momentum, and for everyone pulled in by the anachronistic, old-fashioned Warner Bros. narration, Haggis will look like a major reason for the film's success.
Still, Eastwood's direction and the performances of the cast have won most of the credit for making M$B as memorable as it is, and this is the best chance for Hollywood to anoint Sideways for something and soothe their consciences re: the Giammati snub. A win for Haggis is too possible to be an "upset," really, but it's still gonna take some doing.
José Rivera
The Motorcycle Diaries

An engaging script deftly devised from the memoirs of a leftie-liberal hero...
...which, I rush to add, isn't nearly enough cachet to trounce the wiry sentiment of Baby or the literate good humor of Sideways. Isn't this whole shindig a little upper-bourgeois for Ché, anyway?
Alexander Payne
and Jim Taylor


A front-runner since it opened, Sideways has ceded a lot of ground in the Best Picture race and some of the acting competitions, but the writing category is still its major bastion. Payne and Taylor all but swept the critics' awards, and as with Almost Famous, Lost in Translation, and The Cider House Rules, this film looks like exactly the kind of project that deserves a Writing trophy to apologize for its also-ran status elsewhere. The SAG Ensemble prize is proof of actors' enthusiasm. Still, like its title character, Million Dollar Baby has come on awfully strong lately, and the Screenplay races have recently encompassed more upsets than you'd think (The Return of the King over Mystic River, The Pianist over Adaptation and The Hours, Sling Blade over The English Patient).

WHO WILL WIN: Sideways won't win by the landslide initially predicted, but it should still wind up with at least this one chance at the podium.

WHO SHOULD WIN: I'm about evenly torn between the piquant, sweet-sad romances of Before Sunset and Sideways. Payne and Taylor have more characters and perhaps more layers to balance, but the Sunset team's ability to deepen and extend a nine-year-old duet into a separately satisfying experience is a minor miracle, whatever its slips into preciousness.

...AND WHO OUGHTA BEEN INVITED: I'm always impressed by screenwriters who fashion something satisfyingly cinematic out of a novel as elliptical as Ian McEwan's Enduring Love, so Joe Penhall would have been tops on my list. I also respected the hell out of Patrick Marber sticking to his theatrical guns in adapting his own play, Closer; he must have known people would call it too artificial, and that they would miss the point that the artifices are the point, but he still did what was right by his own material. Bully for him.

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