These are two categories I always have a hard time with considering I don't read scripts before seeing a movie, wanting to go into each and every one of them knowing as little as possible, and I rarely read them after the fact. So what am I basing my opinion on? Gut instinct, buzz around the net, history and anything I can possibly glean from watching the films themselves. To be honest, I don't think the voters are doing anything all that different.
While studios do tend to make virtually every single screenplay up for consideration available to read (which I will make available again this year as I have in previous years), I don't read many of them, though I will browse through them on occasion as I did with the screenplay for Martha Marcy May Marlene last year, which drummed up a healthy amount of conversation. I wonder, though, how many Academy voters actually read those screenplays in search of nuance and potential nuggets of information you can't necessarily take away from simply watching the film on screen?
I do think it is clear there are some occasions where either some attention is paid to the work that's done (or someone does some spectacular campaigning) such as when WALL-E earned an original screenplay nomination. There must have been a few people that also got the word out on Asghar Farhadi's screenplay for A Separation last year as well.
Best Adapted Screenplay
In adapted, Chris Terrio's Argo script looks like an easy front-runner to me. David O. Russell's screenplay for Silver Linings Playbook is certainly in second, I think the claims it is cliche and predictable from even those that love it is going to make it a tough sell to win this category, which could mean movement very soon once some heavy hitters start to screen.
Right now, Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin's screenplay for Beasts of the Southern Wild is likely to remain in the hunt for some time and I expect it to make some indie waves along the way, especially if the short film that inspired the screenplay, Glory at Sea (which you can watch directly below), starts making waves across the Internet.
As of right now, my confidence in the last two slots is limited at best. I've placed Tony Kushner, John Logan and playwright Paul Webb's screenplay for Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals and William Nicholson's screenplay for the musical Les Miserables in slots four and five.
Looking at previous work from Spielberg, his historical epics (fiction and non) do quite well in the screenplay department including nominations for Schindler's List, Munich and Saving Private Ryan. In addition, Kushner, who is getting most of the screenwriting credit, is hardly a slouch having received an Oscar nomination for Spielberg's Munich and written the heavily awarded "Angels in America".
As for Les Mis, it's tough considering it's a musical, but the year Chicago won Best Picture it too was nominated for several acting Oscars (as I have it at this point), several technical awards and screenplay, though it lost out to The Pianist. It's an applicable comparison in fact, considering I think we might be looking at an Oscar year that plays out a lot like it did in 2003.
All things considered, I have three screenplays in positions six-thru-eight that I could very easily see sliding into the top five including Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain's screenplay for Rust and Bone, David Magee's adaptation of Yann Martel's Life of Pi and Tom Stoppard's screenplay for Anna Karenina.
One I will personally be pulling for is Steven Chbosky's adaptation of his own work for The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I fear it will be looked at as a teen film rather than much of a serious Oscar contender, but it, at the very least, deserves the attention here.
And with that, I give you my top five for the time being directly below and invite you to click here to browse my full field of 16 contenders. Titles may be added moving forward, some dropping out, etc. but for now this is how I see this category playing out.
- Chris Terrio (Argo)
- David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)
- Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
- Tony Kushner, John Logan and Paul Webb (Lincoln)
- William Nicholson (Les Miserables)
Click through to Page 2 for a look at Best Original Screenplay...