Scripter Win Solidifies Oscar-Frontrunner Status for 'Big Short' Screenplay (Analysis)

The last five winners of this award, which celebrates adapted screenplays and the written works that inspired them, went on to win the best adapted screenplay Oscar.
'The Big Short'  Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

The Big Short's win at Saturday night's 28th USC Scripter Awards — an event, hosted by the USC Libraries, that honors the screenwriters of the year's "most accomplished cinematic adaptations" as well as the authors of the "written work upon which the screenplay is based" — is a big deal.

Why is an award show hosted in a library — granted, not just any library, but USC's majestic Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library — relevant to the Oscar race? Because the selection committee that determines its nominees and winner — now winners, since they also present an award for TV — includes many of the same people and sorts of people who vote for the Oscars, the 88th edition of which will take place on Feb. 28.

This year's committee was packed with Academy members: among them its chair, WGA president Howard Rodman, as well as Oscar-winning screenwriters Callie Khouri, Graham Moore, John Ridley and Eric Roth; Oscar-nominated screenwriters Naomi Foner, David Hare, Hawk Ostby and Robin Swicord; Oscar-nominated producers Albert Berger, Mike Medavoy and Ron Yerxa; and other notables including writers Scott Neustadter, Wesley Strick, Michael H. Weber and Erin Cressida Wilson and producers Gale Anne Hurd, Gail Mutrux, Michelle Satter and Paula Wagner. That's quite a sample group.

The committee also includes numerous others, such as authors Michael Chabon, Michael Ondaatje and Mona Simpson; film critics Leonard Maltin, Peter Rainer and Kenneth Turan; Black List founder Franklin Leonard; and USC deans Elizabeth Daley and Catherine Quinlan and professor Leo Braudy.

Four of the five Scripter nominees are also Oscar nominees this year: The Big Short, Brooklyn, The Martian and Room. The fifth Scripter nominee, The End of the Tour, was bumped by Carol.

Each of the last five winners of the best adapted screenplay Oscar first won the USC Scripter — The Social Network (2010), The Descendants (2011), Argo (2012), 12 Years a Slave (2013) and The Imitation Game (2014); and before them six others — Schindler's List (1993), Sense and Sensibility (1995), L.A. Confidential (1997), A Beautiful Mind (2001), No Country for Old Men (2007) and Slumdog Millionaire (2008).

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