This category is usually populated almost entirely by Best Picture contenders, and I'm sure that this year will be no exception. As always, previous rankings appear in parenthesis. Buzz surrounds...
3. Beasts of the Southern Wild
4.(4) Anna Karenina
5.(6) Life of Pi
6.(2) Les Miserables
7.(7) The Silver Linings Playbook
8.(5) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
10.(8) On The Road
Leaving the Rankings: The Great Gatsby, Gangster Squad
Although I'm seeing a script more like...
1. The Silver Linings Playbook - David O Russell is already respected by the Academy (even though he has no previous nominations in the writing categories), and the positive buzz out of Toronto has been deafening. Oh...and the Weinsteins are distributing with no other strong horse in this race.
2. Beasts of the Southern Wild - Behn Zeitlen and Lucy Alibar have not one previous Academy Award nomination between them, but they do have one of the critical hits of the year, one that already scored multiple wins at both Sundance and Cannes. Oh, and it's this wonderfully creative little allegory, too.
3. Argo - Also seems very close to a lock at this point, even if writer Chris Terrio is another Oscar virgin. Buzz is huge, and reviews coming out of Toronto are almost unanimously positive.
4. Life of Pi - David Magee does have 1 previous nomination from the AMPAS under his belt (for Finding Neverland), and the novel was widely considered impossible to adapt to film. If he pulls it off impressively, I say he's in.
5. Promised Land - It's making a late entry into the awards season for some good reason, I assure you. Matt Damon and John Krasinski wrote the screenplay and starred in the film. That often tickles Oscar's fancy, as it did the year that Damon won for Good Will Hunting. It would also be fun to see Ben and Matt up against each other's films in multiple categories. A little like Brad and George last year, but less focused on one category.
6. Cloud Atlas - I'm still holding on to hope here. I know the festival response has been mixed, but I still think this might be more of a contender than anyone expected. The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer all collaborated on the script. None of them have ever been nominated.
7. The Sessions - This film has had buzz in several categories ever since Sundance, and Ben Levin's script is supposed to be quite good, so who knows?
8. Les Miserables - William Nicholson has two previous nominations, and I'm still expecting the film to be big, but musicals do tend to lose out sometimes in screenplay.
9. Anna Karenina - Oscar winner and two time nominee Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love, Brazil) handles the screenplay duties, but early response has been so mixed that I'm not feeling as confident as I once was.
10. Lincoln - I know, it's almost ridiculously cynical the way I'm treating this film. One time nominee Tony Kushner (Munich) wrote this one, and it might well be fantastic, but I'm remaining officially skeptical...for now.
It's a little bit weird this year that all the big name writers and here rather than in Adapted, but that's certainly the way it seems at the moment. The buzz bestows...
1.(2) The Master
2.(6) Moonrise Kingdom
3.(1) Django Unchained
5.(3) Zero Dark Thirty
6.(10) Seven Psychopaths
8. Hyde Park On Hudson
9.(9) Inside Llewyn Davis
10. Magic Mike
Leaving the Rankings: The Sessions, Beasts of the Southern Wild, To Rome With Love
It's pretty tough to argue with most of the conventional wisdom here, but I read it more like...
1. The Master - Paul Thomas Anderson has been nominated three times in the screenplay categories (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and There Will Be Blood) and never won. There is definitely some perception of an overdue factor at play here and the film is already well on its way to being on of the top reviewed pictures of the season. If it opens with any kind of box office success, it may well be completely unstoppable.
2. Moonrise Kingdom - This is the sort of film that could easily get a screenplay nod even if it doesn't get one for Best Picture. It is written by Roman Coppola and director Wes Anderson who has one previous nomination for The Royal Tennenbaums. Another of the best reviewed films of the year so far.
3. Amour - Auteur Michael Haneke has never been nominated (well, The White Ribbon was up for Foreign Language Film a few years ago, but technically that was a nomination for Austria), but he has a lot of admirers out there, and in the Academy. This film is currently the toast of the international film community in a way that suggests it could easily break out of the Foreign Language category and this would be the easiest place for it to do so.
4. Django Unchained - It's Tarantino, and Weinstein is obviously confident that it will be awards friendly Tarantino to at least some extent. Quentin already has an Oscar win in this category (for Pulp Fiction) and another nomination under his belt (for Inglourious Basterds), so why bet against one of America's best writer/directors, still in his prime?
5. Inside Llewyn Davis - With five nominations for Screenplay, it's not wise to doubt the Coen brothers. They may have won twice, but it appears increasingly as if the Academy has dubbed them the twenty first century's answer to Woody Allen.
6. Zero Dark Thirty - Yes, Mark Boal won last time out for The Hurt Locker, but he is still relatively inexperienced and it's the rare screen writer that goes two for two, especially so early on in their careers.
7. Seven Psychopaths - Martin McDonough has been nominated once before for In Bruges and the early word is very encouraging. If some little indie picture outside of the top races slides in this year, this one seems most likely.
8. Magic Mike - What seemed a very unlikely contender exceeded all expectations. Reid Carolin has no previous nods, but if this film breaks into Best Supporting Actor, it could score here as well.
9. Ruby Sparks - The Academy loves actors turned writer or director, and that could work in Zoe Kazan's favor.
10. Flight - John Gatins's dramatic work may prove too sentimental, or it could surprise us all. He has no previous nominations.
Which breaks us into the top eight categories. Up next weekend? The acting categories. Now I must tabulate new buzz...
Related posts: September Oscar Buzz and Predictions - The Genres, The Techs: Part One, Part 2, Awards Season Hits the Next Leg, Best That the Summer Wields (Beasts of the Southern Wild review), June Oscar Buzz and Predictions - The Screenplays