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Oscars 2022: Best Original Screenplay Predictions

Auteurs often have the creative advantage when it comes to nabbing Academy credit for their vision.

(L to R) Caitriona Balfe as "Ma", Jamie Dornan as "Pa", Judi Dench as "Granny", Jude Hill as "Buddy", and Lewis McAskie as "Will" in director Kenneth Branagh's BELFAST, a Focus Features release. Credit : Rob Youngson / Focus Features

“Belfast”

Rob Youngson / Focus Features

Academy voters give creators extra points for controlling their visions; that gives auteurs the advantage in the race for Best Original Screenplay.

Getting a boost during 2021 is any film that debuted to real, live audiences at a film festival like Cannes. That’s where three-time screenplay nominee Wes Anderson (“The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Grand Budapest Hotel”) debuted his omnibus valentine to The New Yorker, “The French Dispatch” (Searchlight), which also played the fall circuit, and writer-director Julia Ducourneau took home the Palme d’Or for French Oscar submission “Titane” (Neon), a genre and gender-bending family drama, which also won Toronto’s Midnight Madness award.

Writers branch voters often look overseas for their contenders. Two-time Oscar-winner Asghar Farhadi introduced his Iranian family drama “A Hero” (Amazon) at Cannes, while Oscar-winner Pedro Almodóvar (“Talk to Her”) wowed the fall festival circuit with “Parallel Mothers” (Sony Pictures Classics), starring frequent muse and Oscar-winner Penelope Cruz (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) as a woman whose infant is switched at birth with a younger mother (Milena Smit), whom she befriends.

Also breaking out at fall festivals was “King Richard,” written by Zach Baylin, the true story of Compton native Richard Williams (Will Smith), who groomed his daughters Venus and Serena (Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton) to become superstars.

During the pandemic Kenneth Branagh wrote and filmed a personal story, “Belfast” (Focus Features) which scored the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival, often a harbinger of a Best Picture contender. Set in 1969, the film stars Jude Hill as Branagh’s nine-year-old self and Jamie Dornan and Caitriona Balfe as his parents. “Belfast” could finally win Branagh the Oscar. He’s overdue after five nominations — for directing and acting in “Henry V,”  acting in “My Week with Marilyn,” adapting “Hamlet,” and directing the short “Swan Song.”

Oscar-nominated Steven Knight (“Dirty Pretty Things”) collaborated with director Pablo Larrain on the festival success “Spencer” (Neon), a surrealistic peek behind the royal scenes at Christmas, starring Kristen Stewart as the distressed Princess Diana.

Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”) follows up his Oscar-nominated “The Trial of the Chicago 7” with “Being the Ricardos” (December 10, Amazon), which follows the husband-and-wife “I Love Lucy” team of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz (Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem) during a hectic week in Hollywood.

Kristen Stewart, "Spencer"

Kristen Stewart, “Spencer”

Neon

Contenders are listed in alphabetical order. No film will be deemed a frontrunner unless I have seen it.

Frontrunners
Pedro Almodovar (“Parallel Mothers”)
Paul Thomas Anderson (“Licorice Pizza”)
Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”)
Asghar Farhadi (“A Hero”)
Adam McKay and David Sirota (“Don’t Look Up”)

Contenders
Wes Anderson (“The French Dispatch”)
Zach Baylin (“King Richard”)
Steven Knight (“Spencer”)
Aaron Sorkin (“Being the Ricardos”)

Long Shots
Julia Ducournau “Titane”
Fran Kranz (“Mass”)
Mike Mills (“C’mon C’mon”)
Paul Schrader (“The Card Counter”)
Paolo Sorrentino (“The Hand of God”)

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