Best Adapted Screenplay, 1999

John Irving
The Cider House Rules


Hollywood often attempts to up the glamour quotient in the writing categories by voting for celebrities, either of the performing (Damon/Affleck, Emma Thompson) or literary (Tom Stoppard) variety. Beloved novelist Irving certainly fits the latter category, and the industry respects him for whittling down his own lengthy tome without getting in the way of the artists filming his work. Finally, Screenplay Oscars often get meted out as consolation to would-be runners-up in the Best Picture category.

Irving may split the also-ran vote with Frank Darabont's Green Mile adaptation and the Roth-Mann Insider collaboration; the latter nominee may benefit in particular if Cider House and Green Mile seem too soft or apolitical by comparison.
Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor

Box-office underperformer from the spring that survived onto several critics' top 10 lists and even swiped the Writers Guild Award away from Irving, Minghella, and Roth & Mann. Payne in particular, after this film and Citizen Ruth, is earning a reputation as a spot-on satirist. Film will benefit from any vote-splitting among Best Picture nominees.
Both the Writers Guild Award and the nomination in this category reflect high enthusiasm among writers, voters in other blocs are hardly rushing to watch a film labeled "an MTV Production." No Screenplay Oscar has gone to a film with a single nomination since Designing Woman in 1957, and that film won over a far weaker field than Election contends with here.
Frank Darabont
The Green Mile

After seeing both of his first features, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, be nominated for Best Picture without corresponding Director nods, Darabont stands in some need of consolation. Voters with a soft spot for the movie have their best shot to honor it here. Screenplay piles on provocative issues including racism, religion, and the death penalty.
The film's detractors question whether the film actually treats or merely raises those provocative issues, and even the film's supporters murmur about its overlength and leanings toward mawkishness. Source material not as distinguished as Irving's novel nor as socially relevant as the articles which yielded The Insider.
Eric Roth and Michael Mann
The Insider

No nominee in the field takes on such grand-scale issues or works up more moral fervor about them, which has long been a strong asset in earning recognition from Screenplay voters. The Insider risks losing out to American Beauty in all of their major match-ups, so this category offers a convenient place to ensure it doesn't go home empty-handed.
The Cider House Rules and The Green Mile will siphon off votes in the race to honor a Best Picture runner-up, and neither of those films have to worry about charges of mucking around with history.
Anthony Minghella
The Talented Mr. Ripley

Gave up the easier job of transferring Patricia Highsmith's novel directly to the screen and instead revamped the material to his own purposes, inventing new characters out of whole cloth and drastically changing the ending. Lost earlier Screenplay bid to Billy Bob Thornton's Sling Blade script, so some may feel he's owed.
Well, he revamped the material to his own purposes, inventing new characters out of whole cloth and drastically changing the ending—not everyone appreciates such burgeoning creativity. Enthusiasm for the film is clearly a thing of the past, and even then it never reached the high level that Paramount and Miramax had hoped for.

WHO WILL WIN: Almost certainly one of the three Best Picture dark horses will take home this Oscar, and since The Cider House Rules currently packs the most buzz in the major categories, that support should trickle down to this race as well. Still, never count out the forces of moral righteousness, which make The Insider a potent competitor.

WHO SHOULD WIN: I might have been a hard-line Election supporter if the domestic dramas of Matthew Broderick had packed the same punch as the actual election storyline. As things stand, Ripley strikes me as the most daring and risky as well as the most gratifying of these nominees. Hey, does anyone notice I'm the biggest fan of the two nominees that almost can't win? Story of my life.

...AND WHO OUGHTA BEEN INVITED: It wasn't a great year for Adapted Screenplays, quite honestly, and even the two adaptation pictures I liked the most—Eyes Wide Shut and Bringing Out the Dead—were triumphs of directing, cinematography, and art direction more than of screenwriting.

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