Quentin Tarantino has the upper hand in the Best Original Screenplay race. The groundswell started with the upbeat reception for Tarantino’s ninth feature opus “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” at Cannes, a Charles Manson-inflected 1969 Los Angeles fable starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. The auteur hit yet another original creation out of the park, with both strong reviews and global box office ($329.4 million).
This earned Tarantino his sixth Oscar nomination and could yield the Globe and Critics Choice screenplay-winner his third Original Screenplay win (after “Pulp Fiction” and “Django Unchained”).
The writers branch often rewards international auteurs like Bong Joon Ho, who scored his first Oscar nominations for the Cannes Palme d’Or-winner “Parasite” (Neon), a brilliantly comedic look at a lower-depths family of con artists who one by one infiltrate a rich family’s stunning hillside modern home. Inevitably, all hell breaks loose. The timely movie not only marks the first Korean film to be nominated for the Oscar, but also scored five other key nominations for Director, Picture, Original Screenplay, Production Design and Editing.
New York auteur Noah Baumbach, who nabbed an Oscar nomination for writing “The Squid and the Whale,” is back with another semi-autobiographical film that broke out at the fall festivals, “Marriage Story.” His most accessible movie to date stars frequent collaborator Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as a stage director and an actress undergoing a fractious breakup. The show business movie is funny and moving, a winning combination.
Writer-director Rian Johnson loves playing with genres, from noir “Brick” to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” and this time upended the Agatha Christie whodunit with finesse with sprawling ensemble comedy “Knives Out.” Writers appreciate the homage.
World War I movie “1917,” co-written by director Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, was inspired by stories that Mendes heard from his grandfather that never left his mind. The ticking time line follows two young British soldiers (George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) across enemy lines to deliver an urgent message that could save a battalion of 1600 men from an imminent ambush.
As ever, contenders are listed in alphabetical order; no film will be deemed a frontrunner until I have seen it.
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”