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Oscar Buzz: Who’s Looking Good In The Original & Adapted Screenplay Races?

Oscar Buzz: Who's Looking Good In The Original & Adapted Screenplay Races?

Happy New Year! And what better way to start the arrival of 2015 than with the resumption of our awards-season coverage. We’ve had a bit of a break over the past month or so to make way for the Best of 2014 features, but that’s all done now, Oscar voting is underway, the Golden Globes are just ten days away, and the season’s entering its end-game.

One of the most notable of the guild nominees to be announced soon are the Writers Guild of America Awards, coming next Wednesday, January 7th. So, with that in mind, we wanted to continue our category-by-category coverage with a look at the original and adapted screenplay races. Take a look below, and let us know your own predictions in the comments.

Adapted Screenplay

Given the trend towards adaptations and sequels in Hollywood, it’s oddly gratifying to see that for the second year in a row, the Adapted Screenplay field is somewhat weaker than the original one. Hurrah for original screenplays! As it stands, there are three movies all but certain to be nominated: the Brit biopic of duo of “The Theory Of Everything” and “The Imitation Game,” plus Gillian Flynn‘s adaptation of her own novel “Gone Girl.” ‘Everything’ was a real passion project for McCarten, who personally pursued the rights to Jane Hawking‘s book for years, and writers are likely to admire the dedication and self-starting factor there, while “The Imitation Game,” as a Black List-winner that had to go outside the studio system to get made, could be the front-runner to win here. As for “Gone Girl,” it remains to be seen whether writers respond to an author working from their own source material: the last time someone won in that area was John Irving for ‘The Cider House Rules” in 1999. For the record, “The Theory Of Everything” isn’t WGA eligible, so don’t take its omission there next week as a sign of much.

Looking Strong
The lukewarm critical reception to “Unbroken” has hampered its awards chances, but the massive box-office opening for the movie has helped, so the film’s all-star cast of writers — Richard LaGravenese, William Nicholson and the Coens, all previous nomineees — are still very much in the running here. It’s not quite a lock, perhaps because of the too-many-cooks feel (it’s the least Coen-ish screenplay to have their names on it), but it’s likely to be among the final five. There’s some stiff competition, though: “American Sniper” has been gathering some buzz, and Nick Hornby‘s “Wild” does an excellent job of structuring some potentially sprawling material. There’s other potentials too: William Monahan has earned acclaim for his sparky work in “The Gambler,” though there’s little sign of awards bodies responding to the movie so far, while Paul Thomas Anderson took on the seemingly unfilmable with “Inherent Vice,” though it’s a movie that, if any branch responds to it, it’ll be the actors. However, either could end up surprising.

Deserve Consideration
Of those that could theoretically end up nominated, the script for “The Homesman,” by Tommy Lee Jones, Kieran Fitzgerald and Wesley Oliver, is certainly worth voters thinking about, as is Andrew Bovell‘s screenplay for “A Most Wanted Man” (the latter being another one not eligible for the WGA). As far as stuff that won’t be realistically in the hunt, we were very fond of Scott Frank‘s screenplay for “A Walk Among The Tombstones,” even if the finished film didn’t quite live up to it, while few movies were as packed with ideas and gags as Phil Lord and Chris Miller‘s “The Lego Movie.” “Obvious Child,” by Gillian Robespierre, Karen Maine and Elisabeth Holm is also very deserving (for the record, it’s based on a short). Finally, though we’re loathe to give superhero movies spotlights in the awards race for the most part, both “Guardians Of The Galaxy” and “X-Men: Days Of Future Past” work as well as they do in large part because of the writers: Nicole Perlman and James Gunn for the former, and Simon Kinberg for the latter.

Also In Contention: We could theoretically see James Lapine‘s adaptation of his own “Into The Woods” pop up, along with Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland‘s work on “Still Alice,” and Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber‘s strong adaptation of “The Fault In Our Stars,” but all are very long shots.

Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson – “Unbroken”
Gillian Flynn – “Gone Girl”
Nick Hornby – “Wild”
Anthony McCarten – “The Theory Of Everything”
Graham Moore – “The Imitation Game”

Original Screenplay

The Front-Runners
As we said, there’s a wealth of possibilities in the Original Screenplay field, much more so than in adapted, so there’ll be blood on the ground by the time this particular race is done. Nevertheless, there are three very solid bets for nominations, the first being Richard Linklater‘s “Boyhood” (the filmmaker would be earning his third nomination here). Wes Anderson should follow up his nod from “Moonrise Kingdom” two years ago with another for “Grand Budapest Hotel,” shared with Hugo Guinness. The third is “Birdman,” and though we personally found the script to be the film’s biggest problem, and it might be seen principally as a directorial showcase (see: “Gravity” missing out last year), we think there’s enough to see Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo all nominated for their work here.

Looking Strong:
The biggest question mark here is “Selma” — the film has some of the best reviews in years, and continues to gather awards steam, but there’s growing controversy around the screenplay: British writer Paul Webb has the credit, but as with “12 Years A Slave” and “Belle” before it, the director (in this case Ava DuVernay) reportedly did extensive, near-page-one rewrites that aren’t credited (the script isn’t WGA eligible, which is one of the reasons for the problem). Last year, Fox successfully kept the ‘Slave’ issues out of the conversation, but Paramount haven’t been so good at keeping it out of the limelight, and the nod could be impacted as a result. That said, many voters will likely remain unaware of the issues, so our guess is it will make the cut: if it doesn’t, it may cause issues in the Best Picture race, as the last film to be nominated without a screenplay nod was “Titanic.” Still, it’s up against some tough competition.

Whiplash” could well be headed for a “Beasts Of The Southern Wild“-type nod (there was a short that pre-existed the film, but it was a scene from Damien Chazelle‘s already-completed screenplay, so it still qualifies as an Original Screenplay), while Mike Leigh‘s something of a favorite in the category, and is certainly firmly in contention, though my guess is that might be the one that falls away for “Selma.” Then again, there’s others on their heels too, with “Foxcatcher” and “Nightcrawler” both gaining steam — the latter in particular could end up with a surprise WGA nod, which would help. And though awards prospects for “A Most Violent Year” seem mostly limited, it could get a consolation nod here too, as “Margin Call” did.

Deserve Consideration:
Aside from some of the deserving ones above, there’s plenty of other original screenplays that voters should be thinking of away from the usual suspects. Roadside Attractions are, laudably, pushing “Dear White People,” though it’s unlikely to have much effect. Also from 2104’s Sundance class, Peter Straughan and Jon Ronson‘s work on “Frank,” Justin Lader‘s on “The One I Love,” and Jonathan Asser‘s on “Starred Up” were all terrific, while we’d have Alex Ross Perry‘s “Listen Up Phillip” near the top of our list. Finally, we’d also give a shout out to Tayla Lavie‘s “Zero Motivation,” and the airtight mainstream comedy of “Neighbors,” though neither will be on Academy radars.

Also In Contention: Films like “Big Eyes,” “Interstellar” and “Fury” once seemed like they’d be frontrunners here, but it seems unlikely that they’ll progress further bar a real surprise. There are also campaigns for “The Judge,” “St. Vincent,” “Top Five,” “Chef,” “Love Is Strange” and “Magic In The Moonlight,” but they likely won’t amount to much.

Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness – “The Grand Budapest Hotel
Damien Chazelle – “Whiplash”
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo – “Birdman”
Richard Linklater – “Boyhood”
Paul Webb – “Selma”

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