Best Original Screenplay
Great character study from one of our greatest scribes. It still makes me vomit that A.O. Scott compared Mike Leigh to Clint Eastwood.
Dustin Lance Black - Milk
After impressive television work on Big Love and Six Feet Under, Black puts forth one of this year's best original screenplays. Great standout biopic.
Jenny Lumet - Rachel Getting Married
Like Sofia Coppola, Lumet proves that Hollywood royalty comes more talented in the form of women. This screenplay is delightfully intricate and specific. Nothing is random. Nothing is without purpose.
Charlie Kaufman - Synecdoche, New York
Proves, once again, that he is one of the singular voices in American screenwriting today with another wildly original tragicomedy.
Andrew Stanton - WALL-E
For his understated minimalism and daring to think outside the very tightly coiled Disney box. The payoff was considerable, wouldn't you agree?
Runners-Up: Robert D. Siegel - The Wrestler (I really wanted to include him, but this was a hallmark year for original screenplays), Woody Allen - Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Claude Chabrol - A Girl Cut in Two, Kelly Reichardt - Wendy and Lucy, Thomas McCarthy - The Visitor
Best Adapted Screenplay
Christopher and Jonathan Nolan - The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight is not without its problems on second viewing (pacing, editing, etc). But the screenplay here is a vast improvement on the hints of greatness in Batman Begins.
John Patrick Shanley - Doubt
Tightly and cleverly adapted from his own play. The direction may be shaky at times, but Shanley's writing is mostly tight and serviceable. He's the real star during the final Hoffman/Streep showdown.
John Ajvide Lindqvist - Let the Right One In
Turns this tale of vampires not into a horror film, but a sad melancholy story of despair and alienation. He gets that vampires would more than likely be incredibly sad creatures.
David Hare - The Reader
Adapted with skill and finesse from Bernhard Schlink's novel of the same name. Tight, economic, yet completely non-reliant on cheap, easy sentiment or emotion. Hare and Daldry, a force to be reckoned with.
Simon Beaufoy - Slumdog Millionaire
Almost didn't make this list. If only for the last line of the movie, spelled across the screen "It was written." But this is a very tight screenplay the serves the narrative well. (Does it seem like I've been hard on Slumdog?)
Runner Up: Only one. Justin Haythe - Revolutionary Road. I want to clarify that the further away I get from Benjamin Button, the more I dislike it. Every aspect. And that starts with Eric Roth's screenplay, so he is nowhere near this list.