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Can 'Up in the Air' turn USC Scripter into a win at Oscars?

February 7, 2010 |  8:29 am

Up in the Air poster "Up in the Air" won the USC Scripter Award on Saturday, competing against three of its competitors at the Oscars -- "District 9," "An Education" and "Precious" -- as well as "Crazy Heart." The fifth Oscar nominee is the adapted script for "In the Loop."

As this award, now in its 22nd year, precludes stage-to-screen adaptations and foreign-language films, it is not surprising that the winner of the Scripter has gone on to take the Oscar just six times. But two of those instances came recently:  last year, with "Slumdog Millionaire," and the year before, with "No Country for Old Men." The other repeat winners were "A Beautiful Mind" (2001), "L.A. Confidential" (1997), "Sense and Sensibility" (1995) and "Schindler's List" (1993).

Historically, the WGA Awards lineup has been a far better harbinger of both the Oscar nominees and the eventual winner, with the WGA champ taking the Oscar six times in the last decade, including each of the last five years.  This year, however, several of the leading adapted-screenplay contenders were ruled ineligible by the WGA, including the Oscar-nominated "District 9," "An Education" and "In the Loop."

The Scripter, administered by USC, honors "the written word, creative collaboration and the profound results of transforming one artistic medium into another." The award is shared by the original author and adapter -- in the case of "Up in the Air," Walter Kim, who wrote the source material (the novel of the same name) as well as Sheldon Turner and Jason Reitman, who handled the adaptation.

The nominating committee considered 68 films to determine the final five nominees. It is chaired by Oscar-nominated writer Naomi Foner ("Running on Empty") and included three-time Oscar-nominated scribe Lawrence Kasdan ("The Big Chill," "The Accidental Tourist" and "Grand Canyon") and Tony Award-winning playwright Tony Kushner ("Angels in America").

Compare the nominees of both awards over the last five years (with "X" denoting the winner):

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"Iron Man"
"The Reader"
"Revolutionary Road"
X  — "Slumdog Millionaire"

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Reader"
X  — "Slumdog Millionaire"

"Into the Wild"
X — "No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

"Away From Her"
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
X — "No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

X — "Children of Men"
"The Devil Wears Prada"
"The Illusionist"
"The Last King of Scotland"
"Notes on a Scandal"

"Children of Men"
X — "The Departed"
"Little Children"
"Notes on a Scandal"

"Brokeback Mountain"
X — "Capote"
"The Constant Gardener"
"A History of Violence"

X — "Brokeback Mountain"
"The Constant Gardener"
"A History of Violence"

"The Bourne Supremacy"
"The Door in the Floor"
"Friday Night Lights"
X — "Million Dollar Baby"

"Before Sunset"
"Finding Neverland"
"Million Dollar Baby"
"The Motorcycle Diaries"
X — "Sideways"

Photo: "Up in the Air" poster. Credit: Paramount

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