Oscars Shake-Up Moves ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Loving’ Into Adapted Screenplay Category
In these weeks before the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences convenes to slaughter their sacrificial calf and read the blood spatter patterns to determine this year’s nominees, there’s been quite a bit of category rejiggering. Everyone wants some gold, and because some races are more easily won, crafty studios have been determining the most advantageous way to shape their For Your Consideration campaigns. Viola Davis, for instance, probably could have competed in the Best Actress category for her titanic performance as the long-suffering wife in Denzel Washington’s adaptation of Fences. But with the 2016 Best Actress scramble already approaching a de facto showdown between La La Land‘s Emma Stone and Jackie‘s Natalie Portman, Davis smartly ended up in consideration for Best Supporting Actress.
Today brings another minor shake-up that could still significantly alter the Oscar playing field, Deadline reports. In its infinite and highly arbitrary wisdom, the Academy ruled yesterday that Moonlight and Loving would both be considered adapted screenplays for the purposes of nomination voting, in direct defiance of the Writers’ Guild of America’s ruling on the two films as original works. There’s fair reasoning behind both decisions: Moonlight was based on the stage play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, though it was never produced and director Barry Jenkins made dramatic changes to Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play. Loving began as a 2011 HBO documentary called The Loving Story. Both cases create a sort of grey area between adapted and not, and could fairly go either way, making the Academy’s insistence on diverging from the WGA’s ruling even more baffling.
The implications of this are twofold. For one, the Adapted Screenplay category just got a little more crowded, with a final showdown between Moonlight and Kenneth Lonergan’s heart-rending Manchester by the Sea script seemingly in the cards. What’s more, the Original Screenplay category just opened up wide for some new contenders. This odd decision could be a windfall for Hell or High Water, 20th Century Women, or even an undeniably clever oddball such as Yorgos Lanthimos’ sadistic, hilarious The Lobster. Any decision that shakes up the Oscar race and makes it a little less predictable is more than welcome — bring on the gerrymandering!