February 25, 2023

2023 Academy Awards Nomination Breakdown: Best Adapted Screenplay

The Academy Awards are airing live on March 12, and for the first time, I have set out to break down every nominee in every category in order to assess, as accurately as I can, who and what has the best chance of winning. Today I will be discussing the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay!

All Quiet on the Western Front

Lighter on the dialogue than most of these other nominees, the screenplay for All Quiet on the Western Front (co-written by director Edward Berger, writer Ian Stokell and professional athlete Lesley Paterson, and adapted from the 1929 novel by Erich Maria Remarque) is violent, upsetting, and never pulls its punches in the brutal depiction of war at its worst. The characters are flawed, but personable, and we care about them despite their allegiances to the “wrong side” of the First World War — after all, it wasn’t the fault of the soldiers, but the people in command, some of whom are spotlighted in the occasional cutaway, which transforms the film into a political drama for incremental periods of twenty-odd minutes.

Glass Onion

With Glass Onion, Rian Johnson has once again proven he is a master of the whodunnit and knows how to cast an incredibly engaging murder mystery. I’m curious to know whether he writes for particular actors, because not only is everyone perfectly suited to their roles, but the dialogue sounds absolutely spot-on coming out of everybody’s mouth. Johnson’s whip-smart quips and zany twists are becoming the new norm of modern detective stories, and Glass Onion is an excellent addition to neo-mystery canon. This is its only nomination, but that is expected — unlike its predecessor, it’s only eligible for “Best Adapted Screenplay” because it’s technically ‘based’ on pre-existing characters, as are apparently the eligibility rules for sequels in this category.


My thoughts on remaking Kurosawa’s Ikiru aside, there are three things I loved about the film: the cinematography, Bill Nighy’s performance, and the dialogue. The way the story is structured leaves a lot to be desired, but Kazuo Ishiguro’s screenplay is very well-written and condenses Kurosawa’s two-and-a-half-hour drama into a comparatively brief 102 minutes.

Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick is as original as sequels come, so I personally don’t think it needs to be in this category, but then again, I wasn’t as in love with Maverick as most people were. The script never popped out to me as anything special — in fact, much of it felt like pulpy feel-good summer blockbuster to me, without much depth beyond the “legacy sequel” of it all.

Women Talking

Sarah Polley has had quite a career — from a child star to a documentarian, and now a heavily-lauded dramatic filmmaker, her place in film history is pretty secure at this point. Women Talking is a remarkable tale that is mostly dialogue-driven, which is where Polley and her screenwriting talents come in to truly shine. This is Polley’s second nomination, after 2006’s Away From Her, which she wrote and directed as well.

What Will Win: Women Talking

What Should Win: Glass Onion
My Unrealistic Dream Nominations: Bullet Train, Three Thousand Years of Longing


  1. It is not only the dialogues, but also the suggestive way in which the violent background of the protagonists is captured on the big screen. We never see the violence the women have experienced. We only see brief glimpses of the aftermath. Instead, we see a community of women come together as they must decide, in a very short time, what their collective response will be. These contrivances and writing nuances are what make Sarah Polley's screenplay a worthy contender for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. Although the film was whitewashed at the British Academy's BAFTA awards, it has a presence at the SAG-AFTRAs where it scored a surprise and deserving Best Ensemble mention, plus, as of today, it looks like the safest bet to achieve recognition at the WGA and USC Scripter awards, which only solidifies its chances in the category, to which is also added the appellation that Polley is the only female director among the ten Best Picture finalists. All in all, the film deserved more love from the different branches of the Academy (I'm thinking, for example, actress in a supporting role (Jessie Buckley or Claire Foy) cinematography and costume design).

    In Glass Onion, Johnson proves once again how good he is at writing for the big screen. With a subversive script that subverts the expectations placed on certain characters, the Silver Spring, Maryland native constructs a screenplay that exudes tons of celebrity references and inapprehensible jokes, ranging from the obvious chauvinism and narcissism of the character played by Edward Norton, to jokes that come from Benoit's (Daniel Craig) disinterest in trivial things. The script's darkest gag is a mixture of the two's character portrayal, and it arises when Benoit and Miles have an encounter at the top of Glass Onion, Miles' evil lair, and it's so subtle that it's easy to overlook. Herein lies the brilliance of Johnson's writing.

    All Quiet emanates as a dangerous contender, after achieving 7 BAFTA awards including Best Adapted Screenplay. We'll have to wait and see how this passion translates among the British AMPAS community.

    In my view, the best scripts were left out of the race, but that's asking too much of the Academy's voting body, which always goes for the titles, directors and/or screenwriters they think will have the biggest impact on the season - I'm thinking, for example, of The Wonder, White Noise and Bones and All.

  2. why don't you ever respond to my comments Rowan