OSCAR COUNTDOWN: Adapted Screenplay and Original Screenplay

The WGA doesn’t make this easy for us, but then they usually don’t have to for us to predict the winners anyway. Their original screenplay lineup was absolutely identical to the Academy’s for once, so that clears that up a bit. Oddly enough, though, that’s still a more difficult race to predict than Adapted Screenplay, whose winners seems mutually assured by most. In any case we should hope that these races don’t feel like a formality this year, with one Best Picture frontrunner reasonably absent. They’re both opportunities to recognize incredibly admirable work, even outside the likely winners.

12 Years a SlaveBest Adapted Screenplay

  • John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
  • Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight
  • Billy Ray, Captain Phillips
  • Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, Philomena
  • Terrence Winters, The Wolf of Wall Street

I know we all feel pretty confident about this right now, but just to avoid an uproar like the one that greeted yesterday’s BAFTA awards, how much of a lock is 12 Years a Slave here? John Ridley hasn’t had many opportunities to take the stage for his work, having lost to Her at the Golden Globes, been ineligible with the WGA, and yesterday lost the BAFTA to Brit-favorite Philomena. Usually the winner of this category has more traction to go on by this point in the season, but I still don’t expect that to stop the film from winning. Uninhibited by Brit favoritism to another contender, this choice is both piercingly literate and belonging to the only Best Picture frontrunner of the group. It’s reasonably tied up.

The Wolf of Wall StreetWho could be the spoiler? I wouldn’t be totally surprised by Philomena, something of a smash hit with indie audiences falling quite fondly for it. It’s cute enough work, aided by the sympathetic stroke of its subject, a woman whose son was taken from her at a young age. I’m not totally dismissive of it, nor particularly enthused with it, but I imagine less critical voters may well be. I could also see Captain Phillips possibly being the upset in this race, the WGA awarding it in 12 Years a Slave‘s absence. As was made perfectly clear early on in the season, it’s not quite as literate as its contenders, but it’s less about dialogue flourishes than the subtly plotted human actions between its internationally opposed characters.

And are we totally sure that The Wolf of Wall Street isn’t a danger here? I think in terms of nervy subject matter, it’s one of the more dangerous films nominated this year, and its screenplay reflects that fury. As is noticeable in the film’s longest stretches and deepest breaths, Terence Winters wrote this like a furious mad-man. He’s possibly the main reason this film positively flabbergasted viewers, and that’s including DiCaprio’s rowdy work and Scorsese’s assumed panache. And there’s also that “It’s gotta win something” mentality going around, particularly with its ballsy awards campaign.

Before MidnightI know I’d personally be over-the-moon if the Academy opted for Before Midnight. It’d be quite a swoon-worthy Oscar moment, not unlike the film itself. You could say it’s just the same verbalistic routine the team of Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke did on their last two films together, but they up the ante like you’d expect them to. This is their fiercest film together, and even to those unfamiliar with Jesse and Celine, it’s quite ravaging to watch them tear each other apart. It is, however, a bit of a miracle this is even nominated, so perhaps we should just be pleased with that. On the other hand, when viewed alongside one another, can we be sure that Academy members won’t deem this the best of the group? I’m sorry. I’m inspiring hope. I shouldn’t do that.

Predicted Winner: 12 Years a Slave
Preferred Winner: Before Midnight
Write-In Vote: In the House

HerBest Original Screenplay

  • Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, American Hustle
  • Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine
  • Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, Dallas Buyers Club
  • Spike Jonze, Her
  • Bob Nelson, Nebraska

I know the rush of BAFTA wins for American Hustle reignited the possibility of an Oscar resurgence for some, but I have difficulty totally going with the idea of it winning. That’s not to say it’s not briskly written or boisterously entertaining in its diamond-sharp exchanges. I just think it’s perhaps too brisk for Academy members to rest their full passion on it, even if they have quite a blast with it. I also think it’s perhaps more of a stretch for some to impart importance onto the film. Those who look hard enough will see its coldhearted commentary on romanticized materialism, but some may just see a good time.

American HustleWhich is why I’m fairly confident that Her will win, though I admittedly wouldn’t have made that claim at the start of the season. At first we all thought it was perhaps too smart or too hipsterly to connect with Academy voters, but it turns out they think, feel and cry too. Who’da thunk it? The script’s romantic, sure, but more than that it’s interrogative of that romance, searching to find its validity based on logic, only to find that, as Whit Stillman might’ve put it, there’s no logic to the algebra of love. I think Academy voters will find it both ingenious and emotionally wrecking, which is a winning enough combo that worked especially well for Jonze’s colleague Charlie Kaufman with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I’d say Jonze is in the bank to join his friend.

But here is where I impose doubt for the sake of our remaining contenders, who aren’t necessarily unworthy. I mean, I’d have to stretch really hard to show the level of enthusiasm over Nebraska that my fellow writers at the site have found. I’ve found it pretty dry and obvious, lent more pathos by whatever starkness Alexander Payne can imbue the landscape directorially than by its script. I can still see why the Academy’s been more taken with it than the critics at Cannes. Its stab at Americana seems more mean-spirited to people overseas than it does to people actually living here.

Blue JasmineDallas Buyers Club is perhaps the least obvious nominee here, not displaying an obvious verbal wit or elegant structure, but I can see its justification in how it weaves its characters together. I still think this would be the candidate most people would blame for locking Inside Llewyn Davis out of the field. I can’t see it winning. I can barely see how it was nominated, but it’s solid, if not remarkable work.

Now a month back I may have marked Blue Jasmine as a potential upset, but I fear Woody Allen’s smartest work in years has been overshadowed by a controversy that, however based in disconcerting truth, has no bearing on its presence here. His dialogue is saltier than it’s been in years, but his characters are also flavorful enough to deliver it without coming off as hollow caricatures, a complaint I may lodge at Nebraska. The film’s chances may be unfortunately shot here, but the work will still almost certainly get its due in the Best Actress category. That much seems assured.

Predicted & Preferred Winner: Her
Write-In Vote: Frances Ha


Other Oscar Predictions:
Best Animated Feature
Best Documentary Feature
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Original Score
Best Original Song
Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Mixing
Best Visual Effects

What do you think will win? Besides that, what should win?

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