Monday, January 6, 2014

OSCARS 86 PREDICTIONS - The Screenplays

It's that time again, and what an exciting year this should turn out to be for The Oscars.  Exciting and frustrating, because 2013 was the arguably the best year for films since 2007, which means so many great films and performances will be overlooked.  Small films and some very big films are in the running for a big night on March 2.  Let's kick things off with a look at the possible nominees for adapted and original screenplay...

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY - I see two sure things in Best Adapted Screenplay, for films that could not be more different.  John Ridley's screenplay for 12 Years a Slave, based on the novel by Solomon Northup, is one of many locks for Steve McQueen's masterpiece.  The heart-wrenching narrative thrives on the power of words just as much as it does on the power of its performances and visual poetry.  On the other end of the spectrum, Terrence Winter's screenplay for the debauchery-fueled insanity that is The Wolf of Wall Street should get a nod due to its fevered energy and absolutely unhinged narrative structure.  While these two films are sure to get slots, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, and Richard Linklater's script for Before Midnight will surely be recognized.  In an odd twist, the fact that these characters were already created makes this an Adapted nominee rather than an Original.

Billy Ray's taut thriller screenplay for Captain Phillips should get notice here as well, leaving a handful of films battling for the final slots.  In a tight race, I expect Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope's Philomena screenplay to edge out Tracy Letts' adaptation of her novel, August: Osage County.  This cold really go either way, but the sweet soul of Philomena will carry it over the top.  This leaves screenplays for The Spectacular Now and Blue is the Warmest Color out of the race; these films were simply too small.

12 Years a Slave - John Ridley
The Wolf of Wall St. - Terrence Winter
Before Midnight - Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater
Captain Phillips - Billy Ray
Philomena - Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY - In a much more crowded race, there are almost too many sure bets to decipher.  Bob Nelson's screenplay for Alexander Payne's heartfelt dramedy Nebraska will pull in a few nominations, and this will be one for sure.  Spike Jonze should be recognized for her, and Awards favorite David O. Russell, working with Eric Singer, should be recognized for their American Hustle script.  Although I feel there are many more deserving.  A few months ago Joel and Ethan Coen would have been shoe-ins for their Inside Llewyn Davis screenplay, though it doesn't seem as sure a bet these days.  Still, I think they find a slot.  Woody Allen could get the nod, once again, for Blue Jasmine, though this also feels like a film that has lost steam. 

There are any number of worthy nominees left on the board, from Craig Borten and Melissa Walack's work on Dallas Buyers Club, to Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron's Gravity script (though that was the weakest aspect if you ask me), but the nominee I am pulling for is Ryan Coogler, whose pitch perfect work on Fruitvale Station deserves to be recognized.  I don't expect many other places for such a great film to get noticed, and this is where small indie hits typically get their due.

Nebraska - Bob Nelson
her - Spike Jonze
American Hustle - David O. Russell, Eric Singer
Inside Llewyn Davis - Joel and Ethan Coen
Fruitvale Station - Ryan Coogler