Ok, so I have been REALLY slack the last few days about finishing out my first round predictions in the top eight categories. These totals are a little behind, and do not reflect the reviews coming out of the Venice and Telluride film festivals. Let's say that The Descendants and The Artist should probably be considered to have received a surge of buzz since I drafted these charts and leave it at that. Oh, and Shame. We'll get to all of that, though, in October.
The screenplay nominations in both categories are usually filled by Best Picture nominees and near miss Best Picture nominees. In a field with ten slots for Best Picture, eight or nine of them would have corresponding screenplay nods. Last year, Black Swan was the surprise omission. The year before, it was far less surprising to see both Avatar and The Blind Side left out. "Unobtanium" indeed, Cameron should have just called it "Fossilfuelitate" and been done with it.
The writer's branch occasionally throws a curve ball nomination to a film kept out of Best Picture's nearer orbits by its genre. Highly acclaimed comedies (Bridesmaids?), horror films, sci-fi flicks, and animated features all have a better shot at screenplay than they do at best picture. The most recent surprise of this sort was dark comedy In The Loop at the 82nd Oscars.
On a final note, no matter how original of a story it tells, any film that utilizes characters already established in a previous film or other media (i.e. sequels), is automatically considered an Adapted Screenplay candidate.
Anyway, let's start with the Originals:
1. Midnight In Paris - Woody Allen (59) (2 wins out of 14 nominations in writing categories)
Best Picture prospects look better all the time and this would be this year's most likely spoiler in any event. Then again...I don't have a then again, it might not WIN, but...
2. J. Edgar - Dustin Lance Black (57) (1 win out of 1 nomination)
True life story of a controversial figure that seems right in Black's wheelhouse. Then again...might the generation gap between he and Eastwood make for an incongruous pairing?
3. The Tree of Life - Terrence Malick (42) (0 wins out of 1 nomination in writing categories)
Aging, iconic writer/director. Then again...allegations have been made that the film doesn't utilize the script well.
4. Young Adult - Diablo Cody (40) (1 win out of 1 nomination)
First project to reunite Cody with Juno collaborator Reitman. Then again...high expectations are easy to fall short of.
5. Like Crazy - Drake Doremus & Ben York Jones (31) (both never nominated)
Highly acclaimed on the festival circuit, this film could easily slip in here even if nowhere else. Then again...relatively unknown writing/directing team may hurt its chances.
6. The Artist - Michael Hazanavicius (30) (never nominated)
If this film performs as well in the Best Picture race as many are expecting, look for it here as well. Then again...will the lack of dialogue hurt its chances with a branch so reliant on spoken words?
7. Contagion - Scott Z. Burns (26) (never nominated)
If this film really transcends mere disaster flick status, it MUST start with the script. Then again...that's a big if.
8. The Iron Lady - Abi Morgan (21) (never nominated)
Abi Morgan does have two horses in the race this year. Fans of Shame who think it is too dark to stand a chance could easily throw her support here. Or...it could split the vote among her supporters.
9. Martha, Marcy, Mae, Marlene - Sean Durkin (19) (never nominated)
The film (including the storyline) earned high praise at Sundance. Then again...it could be a little edgy for the more conservative members of AMPAS.
10. Super 8 - J.J. Abrams (15)
The film was an early year favorite for wide recognition. Then again...buzz has faded considerably due to lackluster critical response.
Also with ten or more points: Beginners - Mike Mills, Bridesmaids - Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumolo, Rampart - James Elroy & Oren Moverman, Shame - Abi Morgen & Steve McQueen, Take Shelter - Jeff Nichols, Take This Waltz - Sarah Polley
Midnight in Paris is a lock. J. Edgar will be as well if it doesn't flop. The rest of the top five seem iffier at this point. Expect The Artist to uproot something shortly. If Martha, etc. or Take Shelter end up garnering serious attention in other races, nominations here seem like serious possibilities.
And now...the adaptations:
1. The Ides of March - George Clooney & Grant Heslov (50) (0 for 1 and 0 for 2)
Has two big pluses: Buzz and Clooney. Then again...of all Clooney's hats, this one is the least celebrated.
2..War Horse - Lee Hall & Richard Curtis (46) (both with 0 wins out of 1 nomination)
Perhaps the baitiest film of the season. Then again...will the script stand up to the film's visual majesty?
3. The Descendants - Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, & Jim Rash (44) (1 for 2, never, and never)
Payne is at least as respected for writing as he is for directing. Then again...even here the film competes with that other Clooney picture.
4. A Dangerous Method - Christopher Hampton (36) (1 win out of 2 nominations)
The two time nominee for Dangerous Liasons and Atonement is certainly no stranger to either the Kodak or the Academy. Then again...has he already had his due?
5. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Eric Roth (31) (1 win out of 4 nominations)
Oscar certainly likes to keep inviting him back. Then again...Can he capture the essence of the twenty-first century as effectively as he did the twentieth?
6. Moneyball - Aaron Sorkin & Steven Zaillian (29) (1 for 1 and 1 for 3 respectively)
Has not one, but two former winners collaborating. Then again...Sorkin JUST won and Zaillian is competing against his own work in Dragon Tattoo.
7. We Bought a Zoo - Aline Brosh McKenna & Cameron Crowe (25) (never & 1 for 2)
The Academy loves a comeback, this could be Crowe's. Or...it could be Elizabethtown.
8. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Steve Zaillian (24) (1 win out of 3 nominations)
Strong source material and direction coupled with an accomplished writer. Then again...has to stand up to both the source material and the original film adaptation.
9. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Peter Straughan & Bridget O'Conner (19) (both never nominated)
Early promotionals look great and buzz is slowly building. Then again...will the film be more flash than substance?
10. The Help - Tate Taylor (18) (never nominated)
Hugely popular film both with critics and the public. Then again...its popularity is not due primarily to the script.
Also with ten or more points: Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close & John Bannville), Carnage (Roman Polanski), Hugo (John Logan), My Week With Marilyn, We Need To Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsey & Rory Kinnear)
I don't know what to predict here. Largely sight unseen, this list looks pretty good. I do think Tinker is just waiting for something else to fall off, though. Albert and Kevin seem like potential spoilers.
Watching hungrily for flies in the ointment,