I was watching the Academy Awards last night (I know, something you would never expect a cultural pariah to do) and was fairly unmoved by the pageantry (because cultural pariahs don't watch movies and are therefore ambivalent about awards shows). Despite my lack of knowledge of films that came out in 2010, however, my jaw just about hit the floor when the nominees for "Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)" were announced:
- 127 Hours: screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy, based on Aron Rolston's autobiography, Between a Rock and a Hard Place.
- The Social Network: screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, based on Ben Mezrick's nonfiction book, The Accidental Billionaires.
- Toy Story 3: screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich, based on the first two movies.
- True Grit: written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, based on Charles Portis' novel of the same name.
- Winter's Bone: adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini, based on Daniel Woodrell's novel of the same name.
I'll assume you either already know or don't care about who won and skip straight to the part that just about sent me through the roof: of these five nominations, one of these things is not like the others. (Need a hint? Since when is a movie that is "based on the first two movies" in a series an adaptation?)
Apparently since always. According to the ever-reliable and sometimes-true Wikipedia, "All sequels are automatically considered adaptations by this standard (since the sequel must be based on the original story)."
Really? Deciding to hit a cash cow up again by adding another movie to a successful franchise is an "adaptation"? Really? So Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was an "adaptation" in the same way that Gone with the Wind was, just because a writer chose to recycle characters and setting from a previous movie rather than coming up with a completely original idea?
Not around here, it isn't. In Not-So-Gentle Reader Land, an adaptation is only the adaptation of a written piece of work--whether that is a short story (e.g. Brokeback Mountain), a poem (Beowulf), a novel (Fried Green Tomatoes), or a play (Angels in America). It is never the adaptation of earlier films, or we might need to add Star Wars: The Phantom Menace or Fievel Goes West to the list and I wouldn't be able to live with myself.