Oscars 2017: ’Moonlight’ and ‘Loving’ Ineligible for Original Screenplay; What It Means for the Race

     December 14, 2016

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The Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts, and Sciences have strict rules when it comes to the Oscars, and anyone who’s seen the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite will know their decisions aren’t free from controversy. But their latest nit picky move now offers more of a glimpse into how their collective minds work and how it changed the game for this year’s Original Screenplay category.

Deadline reports that Moonlight and Loving, though initially submitted for Best Original Screenplay, are instead eligible for Adapted Screenplay, per the Academy. It seems like a B.S. move to begin with, but there is apparently sufficient enough evidence.

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Image via A24

Moonlight is based on In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, a stage piece written by Tarell Alvin McCraney that was never actually produced. McCraney has a “Story By” credit on Moonlight and subsequently teamed up with writer-director Barry Jenkins to rework the unproduced play into a feature film, with Jenkins going as far as to split the original story into three separate chapters. Despite the fact that this play never actually materialized, the Academy has deemed Moonlight as based on pre-existing material.

Loving is in a similar situation. Jeff Nichols both wrote and directed the film, but Nancy Buirski, who has a producer credit, wrote and directed the HBO documentary on the subject called The Loving Story, for which the film was initially conceived before they opted to develop a narrative route. Based on this line of reasoning, the Academy determined both Loving and Moonlight are sufficiently based on pre-existing material and, therefore, cannot be considered “original” screenplays.

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Image via Focus Features

It seems as silly as Orange Is the New Black campaigning in the comedy category at the Golden Globes. Even the Writers Guild of America campaigned Moonlight and Loving for original screenplays in the WGA Awards. But, now, this means the Original Screenplay Oscars category is a lot more open for films like Manchester by the Sea and La La Land to snag a nomination and a win. It also means films many critics hadn’t initially thought of for an Original Screenplay nomination could have a shot. Maybe Hell or High Water, one of the more well received but largely overshadowed films of the year.

But this also doesn’t mean bad news for Moonlight, as the film is now the heavy favorite to win Best Adapted Screenplay given how thin that category is at the moment.

For more on the Oscar race, click here to catch up on Adam’s Oscar Beat series.

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