And the nominees are...
Neil Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell for District 9
The writing here has real flashes of brilliance that (mostly) serve to overshadow some structural issues with the film as a whole. I'm forgiving because the piece is so (again, mostly) inspired.
Lynn Barber and Nick Hornby for An Education
Yes, I described this film as wispy as all get out. And I stand by that. But within the wisps, there is true character development, great one-liners and a well-observed world, albeit one that we have seen before. And great acting (like Mulligan) is often begat form great writing.
Geoffrey Fletcher for Precious
"My favorite color is fluorescent beige..." Not in the novel. Sapphire didn't write that. That's pure, vintage Fletcher. And this highlights why I'm citing him here. The material practically begs to be relentless and awful, but Fletcher never forgets to find the real humor and the human connection. Great work.
Joe Penhall for The Road
Sparse, economic, often haunting. I am not judging Penhall's script against its staggering, elegaic source material. Make no mistake: The Road is an unfilmable novel. But he captures much of what makes the novel great--the aching sense of love and devotion between The Man and The Child, the desolation twinged with glimmers of hope in just the right places.
David Eggers and Spike Jonze for Where the Wild Things Are
This adaptation of Maurice Sendak's novel breaks several rigid conventions of screenwriting that are often red flags. The late-breaking inciting incident, the compounded third act, to name a few. And yet, it does what an adaptation of this work should do--it captures the wonder and the beauty and never loses the lens of the child.
Finalists/Semi-Finalist: Oddly enough...none. This was not really a bell-weather year for adaptations. I enjoyed parts of Up in the Air, but I cannot in good conscience cite it here (although I guess I just did). More in a later post on exactly why a second viewing of Up in the Air moved my reaction from tepid enjoyment, to distant coldness with traces of anger and annoyance here and there. I have a bone to pick with Jason Reitman.