Two of the most substantial awards of Oscar night are the prizes for Best Adapted and Best Original Screenplay. They are usually announced at a point during the ceremony when a potential winner is emerging and they can signify whether the Best Picture prize is leaning one way or another. Rarely does a film take home the Best Picture award without one of the screenplay prizes and since 2000 that has only happened to three films – Million Dollar Baby, Chicago, and Gladiator. Unfortunately the winner of Best Picture on Oscar night this year will not likely be determined by the screenplay categories as the two frontrunners – The Social Network and The King’s Speech – are nominated in separate categories. However, if a surprise occurs here it could indicate that a spoiler is in the works.
If you base your predictions on the indications of the precursor awards than the Adapted Screenplay category may be the one place where a spoiler seems least likely to succeed. Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue-heavy script for The Social Network has won just about every award it was eligible for and proven to be a favorite with critics and Academy members alike. He recently took home the USC Scripter Award for Best Screenplay of 2010 (1) and the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay (2). He’s also won just about every critics award under the sun and continues to charm in the multitude of interviews he has been involved with over the past several months. His film may not be getting the respect it deserves, but Sorkin will definitely not go home empty-handed.
Michael Arndt is currently 2 for 2 for Oscar nominations in his brief writing career and he will be hoping to go 2 for 2 for wins as well. His film Little Miss Sunshine took home the Best Original Screenplay Oscar in 2006 and his second effort Toy Story 3 is nominated this year. It would take a major surge for Pixar’s film in order to earn him an Oscar over the seemingly indestructible Sorkin, but it could happen. The more likely spoiler, however, is the team of Joel and Ethan Coen who receive their 5th screenplay nomination in fewer than two decades. There are still many in the industry who unabashedly tout their adoration of the Coen Brothers’ Western remake and an underground surge just might cause them to topple the Facebook film.
All of this is pure speculation, however, as the Award is no doubt safely Sorkin’s.
Predicted to Win: Aaron Sorkin – The Social Network
Potential Spoiler: Ethan, Joel Coen – True Grit
Deserves to Win: Aaron Sorkin – The Social Network
Should Have Been Nominated: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
The Best Original Screenplay category is not nearly as cut and dry as Adapted. Two films have picked up the majority of prizes throughout the precursor season – The King’s Speech (Critics Choice Award), Inception (Chicago Film Critics, WGA) – with a few more of the critics prizes going to Christopher Nolan. However, at this point the Best Picture prize seems all but wrapped up by The King’s Speech. If the trend is to continue with the Best Picture frontrunner also taking home a Best Screenplay prize, then it would be reasonable to assume that The King’s Speech may very well be the frontrunner here.
The major precursor awards make it quite difficult to determine where the momentum for this award is headed. Many precursor organizations to not differentiate between Original and Adapted Screenplay and when they combine the two it has almost unanimously been Aaron Sorkin’s script for The Social Network that has won it all. Only twice in the last decade has the winner of the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay not gone on to win the Oscar, but this year there is some haziness as The King’s Speech was deemed ineligible by the WGA to even be nominated, allowing Inception to take home the prize (2). The Academy’s apparent bias against Christopher Nolan makes him seem like an unlikely choice to win and the charming David Seidler, who has been making the rounds in interviews, seems like a much stronger choice for the Academy.
There is another spoiler in the wings that has been mostly quiet during this precursor season. Mike Leigh is a writer/director who definitely has his fans and in the past he has found himself sneaking into the Director or Screenplay category even when his film goes without a nomination. His latest film Another Year only earned one Oscar nomination this year, so many Academy members in the Mike Leigh camp may recognize this as their only chance to reward the film. Leigh also stands to get a potential boost from the BAFTA Awards, which are set to be announced this coming Sunday.
The Original Screenplay award seems pretty wrapped up at this point, but never count out the dark horses.
Predicted to Win: David Seidler – The King’s Speech
Potential Spoiler: Mike Leigh – Another Year
Deserves to Win: Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blomberg – The Kids Are All Right
Should Have Been Nominated: Noah Baumbach – Greenberg