By Peter Knegt | Indiewire February 18, 2010 at 3:39AM
With just over three weeks left until the 82nd Annual Academy Awards, indieWIRE is running weekly batches of predictions for the winners. Last week, we took on the acting winners, which generally seemed like some very predictable races (save maybe best actress, where Sandra Bullock is a front-runner, but not a lock). This week, our look at the screenwriting and directing categories offers more of the same predictability in best director and best adapted screenplay, but also offers one of the most interestingly uncertain out there: best original screenplay.
First off, though, the foreseen. In the best director race, "The Hurt Locker"'s Kathryn Bigelow is coming off a seemingly unbeatable list of precursor wins, from the DGA (only six times since the DGA Award’s inception has the DGA Award winner not won the Academy Award), to pretty much every critics award available.
The only major race Bigelow didn't win was at the Golden Globes, where her ex-husband James Cameron prevailed for his work on "Avatar." Cameron, as well as "Inglourious Basterds" director Quentin Tarantino (whose film is making a last minute play at best picture) are Bigelow's only real competition, but it would be tough to come up with enough evidence that either can really beat her. As we all know, Bigelow would become the first female best director winner ever, and that sentiment mixed with the fact that it's widely believed she overwhelmingly deserves it seems like an invincible combination.
Best adapted screenplay seems even more locked in Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner's script for "Up In The Air." All three of best picture's biggest threats - "Avatar," "The Hurt Locker" and "Basterds" - are original screenplays (though Cameron's script for "Avatar" didn't manage a nod), leaving adapted screenplay a perfect scenario for director nominee Reitman's consolation prize. "Air" is very unlikely winning in any other category, but the Academy likes to reward heavily nominated films somewhere, and there's no reason why they wouldn't do that here with Reitman and Turner. More over, "Air" has won the overwhelming majority of screenwriting honors this year, from the USC Scripter to the Golden Globes to the LA Film Critics to the Critics Choice.
But as noted, things are not so easy to call in the other screenplay category. Offering us some much needed drama, the category has Mark Boal's work on "The Hurt Locker" and Quentin Tarantino's script for "Inglourious Basterds" running neck and neck. On Boal's side is the likelihood (but not certainty) of "Locker"'s best picture win (best picture winners also take a screenplay win in the vast majority of examples), and the compelling story behind his script: he worked as a journalist in Iraq, and based the film's very you-are-there script off his experiences. Tarantino, on the other hand, is a very public figure. And that's a quality that has helped a lot of recent winners in this category, from Diablo Cody to Dustin Lance Black. He's also very well respected and occasionally downright loved by Academy members, and his script for "Basterds" has been heavily praised by critics. Like Reitman, this could be his consolation prize if "Basterds" ends up losing in the big two categories. At this point, I'd give Tarantino a very, very slight edge but have little-to-no confidence in that proclamation just yet.
There's also Bob Peterson and Pete Docter's "Up" screenplay, which is the definite spoiler if "Locker" and "Basterds" cancel each other out. Pixar has been nominated in this category time and time again (this its third consecutive nomination and sixth overall), and with "Up"'s best picture nomination, voters might feel inclined to give the film its due here. That said, they also have the opportunity to do so in the animated feature category...
For what is worth, I've broken down all three categories into probability percentages, including the Boal vs. Tarantino battle. Check back next week for the next batch of predictions, which should offer a bit more heat than these:
1. Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker 62%
2. James Cameron, Avatar 20%
3. Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds 15%
4. Lee Daniels, Precious 2%
5. Jason Reitman, Up In The Air 1%
Best Original Screenplay
1. Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds 36%
2. Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker 35.5%
3. Bob Peterson, Pete Docter & Tom McCarthy, Up 24%
4. Joel & Ethan Coen, A Serious Man 2.5%
5. Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, The Messenger 2%
Best Adapted Screenplay
1. Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up In The Air 70%
2. Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious 9%
3. Nick Hornby, An Education 7.5%
4. Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, District 9 7%
5. Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche, In The Loop 6.5%
"For Your Consideration" is a weekly column written by indieWIRE Associate Editor Peter Knegt. Check out the previous editions of the column:
For Your Consideration: Predicting The Acting Winners
For Your Consideration: Sundance and Next Year's Oscars
For Your Consideration: The 10 Biggest Surprises of the Oscar Nominations
For Your Consideration: Final Oscar Predictions
For Your Consideration: Guessing The Golden Globes
For Your Consideration: Is Kathryn Bigelow a Female Director?
For Your Consideration: Re-Assessing The Major Categories
For Your Consideration: How Much Does Oscar Love a Musical?
For Your Consideration: 10 Surprises From The Spirit Award Nominations
For Your Consideration: A Guide To The Oscar Precursors
For Your Consideration: 25 Things The Academy Got Right In The 2000s
For Your Consideration: The 50 Most Despicable Oscar Snubs of the 2000s
For Your Consideration: Assessing The Major Oscar Categories
For Your Consideration: Oscar's Gay Tendencies
For Your Consideration: 11 Underdog Performances
For Your Consideration: History Repeats as Major Foreign Films Left Off Academy List
For Your Consideration: 10 Things The Fall Fests Told Us About Awards Season