- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 28, 2016

Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer’s “Spotlight,” a procedural on the Boston Globe’s investigation of charges of sex abuse by Catholic priests, won the first major award at Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony, taking best original script.

Immediately thereafter, the companion award for adapted script went to “The Big Short,” a semi-farcical drama about investment bankers on Wall Street.

The other four nominees in the category of original script were Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, and Joel Coen for the Cold War thriller “Bridge of Spies”; Alex Garland for the robot-or-person allegory “Ex Machina,” Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, and Ronnie del Carmen for “Inside Out,” Pixar’s cartoon about how a young girl’s brain and her emotions grow up; and Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge, and Alan Wenkus for “Straight Outta Compton,” a biopic of the three members of pioneering gangster-rap group N.W.A.

The four adapted scripts also nominated were Adam McKay and Charles Randolph for the Wall Street semi-farce “The Big Short,” Nick Hornby for the Irish immigration drama “Brooklyn,” Phyllis Nagy for the 1950s lesbian romance “Carol,” Drew Goddard for the space-rescue film “The Martian” and Emma Donoghue for the one-room kidnapping drama “Room.”

All the adapted scripts took the same title as their source, with the exception of “Carol,” which was based on a Patricia Highsmith novel called “The Price of Salt.” Ms. Donoghue was the only nominated writer who also wrote the source material.

This is traditionally one of the more wide-open categories, as star power matters much less than in the acting or directing categories because most screenwriters are relatively anonymous.

The “Bridge of Spies” nomination is the Coen brothers’ first for a film they did not direct.

Mr. Garland, Mr. McCarthy and Mr. McKay directed the films for which their scripts were nominated, and the latter two men are up for best director.

The Golden Globe for best script — it doesn’t divide between original and adapted work — went to Aaron Sorkin for “Steve Jobs,” which the Academy didn’t nominate at all. Both the British Oscars and the Writer’s Guild of America gave their prizes to “Spotlight” for original script and “The Big Short” for adapted script.

Ironically, three of the five original screenplay nominees are based on real-life events. While films can and often do take liberties with history, the “real life” that a writer is “adapting” sets as many limits as a novel or play— maybe more. The CIA can’t execute Rudolph Abel, Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston isn’t going to prove it’s all trumped-up anti-Catholic lies, and one of the three NWA members is going to die.

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