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Earlier this week, I singled out Peter Straughan and the late Bridget O'Connor's artful adapted screenplay for "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" as one of the 10 on-the-bubble contenders we'd most like to see show up in the Oscar race. The week before, I sang the praises of Moira Buffini's subtly innovative adaptation of "Jane Eyre" in my screenplay-themed First-Half FYC column.
So you can imagine that I'm pretty chuffed to see both these outstanding efforts show up in the list of nominees for the USC Scripter Award, a prize for literary adaptations that honors both the screenwriter and the author of the source material.
The Scripter's literary focus means it can't be compared directly to the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, which obviously considers adaptations from other media, but there's often a significant overlap between their nominees.
So this is a helpful nudge for both these under-rewarded contenders -- as well as Christopher Hampton's largely sidelined "A Dangerous Method" screenplay, eligible by virtue of the fact that it's based both on Hampton's own play "The Talking Cure" and John Kerr's book on the same subject, "A Most Dangerous Method."
Those three dark horses join two surefire Oscar nominees on the USC Scripter list: Alexander Payne, Jim Rash and Nat Faxon for "The Descendants," as well as Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin for "Moneyball." It's Sorkin's second consecutive nomination here: he won last year's Scripter en route to his eventual Oscar.
This refreshing slate of nominees is all the more noteworthy considering the major possibilities that were left out, in particular three WGA-nominated adaptations of hit novels: John Logan for "Hugo," Tate Taylor for "The Help" and Zaillian for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Less surprisingly, "War Horse" and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" both miss yet another precursor opportunity here. (Other options the USC committee passed on: "Drive," "We Need to Talk About Kevin," "My Week With Marilyn," "The Adventures of Tintin" and the "Harry Potter" finale.)
Nice to see them not following the crowd here, and prioritizing the adroitness of the actual screenplay ahead of the overall pull of the film. Good work all round.
To recap, the nominees are:
"A Dangerous Method" (screenplay by Christopher Hampton, based on his play "The Talking Cure" and the book "A Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud and Sabina Spielrein" by John Kerr)
"The Descendants" (screenplay by Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings)
"Jane Eyre" (screenplay by Moira Buffini, based on the novel by Charlotte Brontë)
"Moneyball" (screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian, based on the book "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis)
"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (screenplay by Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan, based on the novel by John le Carré)
Remember to keep track of the ups and downs of the 2011-2012 film awards season via The Circuit.
For more views on movies, awards season and other pursuits, follow @GuyLodge on Twitter.