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USC Scripters Awards Go to '12 Years a Slave,' 'Philomena,' 'Captain Phillips' and Some Offbeat Surprises

Photo of John Anderson By John Anderson | Thompson on Hollywood January 9, 2014 at 1:14PM

Sssssshhhhhhhhh!!… the librarians are deliberating… and the winner will be the recipient of the 26th annual Scripters Award, bestowed by the USC Libraries, a group that seems to have its own Dewey Decimal System of prognostication. At a time of year when every half-baked assemblage of film nerds is declared to have its own crystal ball of Oscar glory, the Libraries has a fairly envious track record (especially if Oscars are your business): They’ve picked five of the last six Best Adapted Screenplay winners and when they’ve been of the Aacdemy track, frankly, some of their picks have been better.
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John Ridley
John Ridley

Sssssshhhhhhhhh!!… the librarians are deliberating… and the winner will be the recipient of the 26th annual Scripters Award, bestowed by the USC Libraries, a group that seems to have its own Dewey Decimal System of prognostication. (Actually, USC collects a varied group of critics, academics and screenwriters to vote on the best adapted screenplays every year.) At a time of year when every half-baked assemblage of film nerds is declared to have its own crystal ball of Oscar glory, the Libraries has a fairly envious track record (especially if Oscars are your business): They’ve picked five of the last six Best Adapted Screenplay winners and when they’ve been off the Academy track, frankly, some of their picks have been better.

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in 'Philomena'
Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in 'Philomena'

It’s heartening to see not just the screenwriting but the SOURCES getting recognition. This year, the Scripter nominees – one of whom has been dead for 150 years -- are as follows. (The honor is intended for “the screenwriter or screenwriters of the year’s most accomplished cinematic adaptation as well as the author or authors of the written work upon which the screenplay is based”):

Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty, authors of “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea,” and screenwriter Billy Ray, for “Captain Phillips.”

For “Philomena,” author Martin Sixsmith, who wrote the book “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee,” and screenwriters Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope.

Novelist Tim Tharp and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber for “The Spectacular Now.”

Solomon Northup, author of his memoir “Twelve Years a Slave,” and screenwriter John Ridley for “12 Years a Slave.”

Screenwriters Carroll Cartwright and Nancy Doyne for “What Maisie Knew,” adapted from the novel by Henry James.

“They don't necessarily consider themselves as a bellweather for the Oscars,” a spokeswoman said, adding that the selection committee is comprised of authors, screenwriters, producers, critics and academics “so it's bound to have slightly different choices than some of the other awards - see this year's nomination of ‘What Maisie Knew.’

“But they have been accurate in choosing a winner who has gone on to win an Oscar five out of the last six years, so I don't think their acumen for honoring future winners can be discounted.”

This article is related to: Awards, Awards Season Roundup, Awards, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.