The analysis

And the winners were… Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor for ‘Sideways’
In retrospect, the “Sideways” Oscar comes off as something of a consolation prize. Although the film was the choice of many crix orgs, it failed to light fires within the Academy membership, and this Oscar turned out to be the only win for the much-lauded comedy. If the Acad voters are in a consolation mood, “The Constant Gardener” or “A History of Violence” might benefit.

Oscar gets the quirky out of his system with the original screenplay award, but tends to be a little less adventurous with the one for adaptation.

It’s not always the screenplay that’s being honored but rather the original material, whether it’s “The Lord of the Rings” or “The Cider House Rules” or “Sense and Sensibility” or “Howards End.”

Despite this, Oscar has moved away from loading its nominee slate with adaptations of novels. Last year, there was only one, “Sideways.” This year again, there’s a sole entry: Jeffrey Caine’s adaptation of John le Carre’s novel “The Constant Gardener.”

The fact that “Sideways” nabbed the adaptation Oscar in 2005 is good news for Caine; otherwise, the contest might be decided on which writers did the most adapting or who was the most faithful to the original source. If the latter sentiment rules, Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry win for “Brokeback Mountain,” taken from Annie Proulx’s short story.

On the other side of the ledger, the vote is split: Dan Futterman radically limited his focus to the “Inside Cold Blood” chapters from Gerald Clarke’s mammoth tome “Capote.” According to Josh Olson, he pretty much blew out the story of John Wagner & Vince Locke’s graphic novel “A History of Violence,” essentially creating his screenplay from the ground up. And as George Jonas tells it, the politics of “Munich” are not the politics of his book “Vengeance.”

So it’s McMurtry and Ossana against the rest. The odds also favor the “Brokeback” team in another respect: McMurtry is the real vet of the group, and Oscar may want to award him as much for his previous screenplays, like the Oscar-nommed “Last Picture Show,” as for his novels that became modern movie classics in other writers’ hands, like “Hud” and “Terms of Endearment.”

Brokeback Mountain
Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry

Oscar pedigree: “The Last Picture Show” nom (1971) for McMurtry
Current kudos: Golden Globe (win), Online Crix (win), BAFTA (nom), Broadcast Crix (nom), Satellite (nom), USC Scripter (nom), WGA (nom)
Why it’ll win: McMurtry is the vet who has been nommed only once before, for “The Last Picture Show” in 1971. Other novels of his were the source material for such classics as “Hud” and “Terms of Endearment.”
Why it won’t: The screenplay is ultra-faithful to Annie Proulx’s short story, and Oscar decides to honor more freewheeling adaptations.

Capote
Dan Futterman

Oscar pedigree: none
Current kudos: Boston Crix (win), L.A. Crix (win), USC Scripter (win), BAFTA (nom), Broadcast Crix (nom), Independent Spirit (nom), Online Crix (nom), Satellite (nom), WGA (nom)
Why it’ll win: Here’s another category where actors-turned-creatived are oft-honored. Also, Futterman’s script takes a seemingly undramatic topic — the relationship of a reporter and his subject — and makes it work onscreen. Several orgs have honored it. Why it won’t: It’s Futterman’s first script and star-wise he’s not Emma Thompson or Billy Bob Thornton or even Matt & Ben.

The Constant Gardener
Jeffrey Caine

Oscar pedigree: none
Current kudos: BAFTA (nom), British Independent (nom), Online Crix (nom), USC Scripter (nom), WGA (nom)
Why it’ll win: Novel adaptations generally dominate this category. It has the cache of John le Carre, and the older Academy voters will respond to its message of pharmaceutical misdeeds.
Why it won’t: Higher-profile projects and names dominate this category.

A History of Violence
Josh Olson

Oscar pedigree: none
Current kudos: BAFTA (nom), Online Crix (nom), USC Scripter (nom), WGA (nom)
Why it’ll win: The critically praised film was overlooked by the Academy in the big categories, and voters may want to make amends with an award here.
Why it won’t: Voters are unlikely to honor a first-time nominee whose previously credited screenplay was the insect epic “Infested.”

Munich
Tony Kushner and Eric Roth

Oscar pedigree: “Forrest Gump” win (1994) and “The Insider” nom (1999) for Roth
Current kudos: Golden Globe (nom), Online Crix (nom)
Why it’ll win: The script plays out across a much broader canvas than the other films. Also, Kushner’s illustrious legit pedigree dazzles the West Coast.
Why it won’t: Voters either don’t like its politics or find the movie overly didactic.

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