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Oscar Contest - Category Highlight - Original Screenplay and Adapted Screenplay

February 18th, 2009

With our annual Oscar Prediction contest under way, now is the best time to look at the nominees and try and figure out who the favorites are and which films should just feel honored to be nominated. Today we will look at Best Writing - Original Screenplay and Best Writing - Adapted Screenplay.

(Note: All previous awards listed are only for writing and not other categories.)

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

Dustin Lance Black for Milk
Tomatometer Score: positive
Movie's Previous Major Nominations: WGA and Independent Spirit Awards
Movie's Previous Major Wins: WGA
Screenwriter's Previous Major Nominations: First Screenplay
Screenwriter's Previous Major Wins: First Screenplay
Notes: I think this is a two-horse race with Milk and WALL-E being the two main contenders. WALL-E earned better reviews and was seen by more, but Milk is a great movie that was nominated for a lot of awards, most of which it lose to Slumdog Millionaire, and this is one of the few categories where the two are not going head to head. This could mean that Oscar voters will vote for Milk here to make up for other categories. Also, it's a live action movie, which could be the decisive factor here. On the other hand, this is Dustin Lance Black's first major screenplay, and voters could say, "He's young, he could win next time."

Courtney Hunt for Frozen River
Tomatometer Score: 86% positive
Movie's Previous Major Nominations: Independent Spirit Awards
Movie's Previous Major Wins: None
Screenwriter's Previous Major Nominations: First Screenplay
Screenwriter's Previous Major Wins: First Screenplay
Notes: Not a favorite to win this award. First of all, the film earned great reviews, but generally I think a film needs 90% positive reviews to be Oscar-worthy. Also, the film never expanded into 100 or more theaters, which means not many Oscar voters have seen it. Finally, this is Courtney Hunt's first screenplay, and a lot of voters will think, "She's young, she could win next time."

Michael Leigh for Happy-Go-Lucky
Tomatometer Score: 93% Positive
Movie's Previous Major Nominations: None
Movie's Previous Major Wins: None
Screenwriter's Previous Major Nominations: 3 Oscars and 1 WGA
Screenwriter's Previous Major Wins: None
Notes: Great reviews and a writer / director that is due for a win bode well for this film's chances here. A total lack of previous major nominations does not. Can't be seen as a favorite here; after all, if Michael Leigh didn't win for Vera Drake, I don't think he'll win for Happy-Go-Lucky.

Martin McDonagh for In Bruges
Tomatometer Score: 81% positive
Movie's Previous Major Nominations: None
Movie's Previous Major Wins: None
Screenwriter's Previous Major Nominations: First Screenplay
Screenwriter's Previous Major Wins: First Screenplay
Notes: I'm impressed voters remembered this movie, as it was released in February, which is generally seen as way too early for an Awards Season player. That said, I'm not impressed by its chances. It earned no other writer nominations / awards, and it's the first screenplay by its writer / director. Add in the time between its release and when the voting happened, and it is a big underdog.

Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, and Jim Reardon for WALL-E
Tomatometer Score: 96% Positive
Movie's Previous Major Nominations: None
Movie's Previous Major Wins: None
Screenwriter's Previous Major Nominations: 2 Oscars
Screenwriter's Previous Major Wins: None
Notes: Arguably the best movie of the year. Should have received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Will win for Best Animated Picture, and quite frankly, it should sweep the categories it was nominated it, but that's not going to happen. It does have a decent shot at winning here, partially because this category doesn't seem as strong as others, but I still think Milk is the favorite here.

Conclusion: It's a two-horse race between Milk andWALL-E. And while WALL-E arguably deserves it more, I think Milk will win.

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire
Tomatometer Score: 94% Positive
Movie's Previous Major Nominations: WGA and Golden Globe
Movie's Previous Major Wins: WGA and Golden Globe
Screenwriter's Previous Major Nominations: 1 Oscar and 1 WGA
Screenwriter's Previous Major Wins: None
Notes: Simply put, I think it will be Slumdog Millionaire's night, and it will continue its winning streak with this award. So far it has been nominated for two previous writing nominations, winning both of them. There could be an upset here, but this film is the overwhelming favorite, and by that I mean it has a better chance of winning than the other four films combined.

David Hare for The Reader
Tomatometer Score: 60% Positive
Movie's Previous Major Nominations: Golden Globe
Movie's Previous Major Wins: None
Screenwriter's Previous Major Nominations: 1 Oscars, 1 Golden Globes, and 1 WGA
Screenwriter's Previous Major Wins: 1 WGA
Notes: 60% positive reviews? That's not Oscar-worthy.

Peter Morgan for Frost/Nixon
Tomatometer Score: 91% Positive
Movie's Previous Major Nominations: Golden Globe and WGA
Movie's Previous Major Wins: None
Screenwriter's Previous Major Nominations: One Oscar, One Golden Globe, and one WGA.
Screenwriter's Previous Major Wins: One Golden Globe
Notes: There has been Oscar Buzz surrounding this film for a long, long time. However, while it has done well in every aspect of its run (reviews, box office, previous nominations) it hasn't done well enough to suspect it is a favorite to win. Its box office run has been good, but not great. Its reviews are above 90% positive, but barely. And it earned some previous nominations, but no wins for writing. I think that will continue on Sunday.

Eric Roth for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Tomatometer Score: 71% Positive
Movie's Previous Major Nominations: WGA and Golden Globe
Movie's Previous Major Wins: None
Screenwriter's Previous Major Nominations: Three Oscars, Three Golden Globes, and Two WGA
Screenwriter's Previous Major Wins: One Oscar and One WGA
Notes: If any film has a shot at taking down Slumdog Millionaire, it's this film. However, there's little chance of that happening, as its reviews are weak for an Oscar contender, and it hasn't beaten Slumdog Millionaire so far this year. On the other hand, it is the biggest release of the major players, and it should have the most studio support behind it, and it has a halfway decent shot at pulling the upset.

John Patrick Shanley for Doubt
Tomatometer Score: 77% Positive
Movie's Previous Major Nominations: WGA and Golden Globe
Movie's Previous Major Wins: None
Screenwriter's Previous Major Nominations: One Oscar, One Golden Globe, and One WGA screenplay
Screenwriter's Previous Major Wins: One Oscar and One WGA
Notes: This film might be hurt by the strength of its cast. Bear with me, because this might seem counter-intuitive. The cast of this film is so strong with all four main cast members earning Oscars (and Golden Globes, And SAG nominations), that it could overshadow other aspects of the movie, including the script. So far its wins have all come in acting categories, and not just major awards, and this trend it likely to continue on Sunday night.

Conclusion: Slumdog Millionaire is the favorite to win this award. Of the rest, only Frost/Nixon has Oscar-worthy reviews, while only The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons has the studio support to overcome Slumdog Millionaire's momentum. I don't think either will be able to do it.

Prize Highlights With each category highlight, we will also take a look at the prizes we will be giving away for the Oscar Prediction contest, as well as some of the prizes we will have when our regular Box Office Prediction contests start back up after the Oscars.

Today we look at the The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Soundtrack. This 2-disc set includes one disc with songs from the movie, and the second with the Oscar nominated score. Fans of the movie will certainly be interested in this prize.

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Filed under: WALL-E, Slumdog Millionaire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Reader, Doubt, Milk, Frost/Nixon, In Bruges, Happy-Go-Lucky, Frozen River