Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Oscar Watch: The Writers

Taking a small break from my retrospectives, it's time to deliver a new edition of Oscar Watch, cause after all this is award's season. Today we're taking a look at the Writing categories of Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay. Let's get this show on the road talking about the Original Screenplays in contention.

It's been a pretty poor year for Original Screenplays, with only a few actually even being good enough to be tossed into the mix. For me, the only one really worth any mention is Scott Neustadter & Michael Weber's script for (500) Days of Summer. The script was witty, original, and extremely well-crafted. To me, if that doesn't present its case as to why it should win, then I don't know what can.

Other potentials in this category are the Coen Brothers for A Serious Man, Mark Boal for The Hurt Locker, James Cameron for Avatar, Bob Peterson for Up, Jane Campion for Bright Star, and Quentin Tarantino for his latest.

Out of all of these, I think Campion will be totally overlooked, the Coens will most likely get the recognition that they always deserve, Bob Peterson should get in there with the extremely lovable Up, and James Cameron is kind of on the fence for me with Avatar. I see this film being more of a technological showcase than a writing vehicle, but the film is highly original, which is what this category is about.

There is a ton of love for Tarantino, but it is possible he'll be overlooked, and as for Mark Boal, he will most likely get in there simply because there is so much critical appreciation for The Hurt Locker, even if it is more of a directing vehicle than anything else. A potential wildcard could be Woody Allen for Whatever Works, but I doubt it. Now, moving onto the bigger category, the Adapted Screenplays.

The clear frontrunners here are Damien Paul for Precious, and Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner for Up in the Air. While I have seen neither of these films (I do plan on seeing Up in the Air tomorrow), I do think that the love for both of these films will make them shoo-ins come January. Filling out the field with the logical choices: Nick Hornby for An Education, Anthony Peckham for Invictus, Tom Ford for A Single Man, and Nora Ephron for Julie & Julia. Out of all of these, Ephron is out, and both Ford and Peckham will probably be overshadowed by the films and the performances within them. The only one left standing is Hornby, who deservedly should be included for infusing An Education with so much wit, charm, and sizzling dialogue. But what about the dark horses, or the wild cards so to speak?

There are actually a lot of wild card choices just chomping at the bit to squeak in there. Steve Kloves for the sixth Harry Potter film is a potential choice, but one that I don't think will pan out. Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci could get in there for Star Trek, but that is a big "if", and I'm wondering if their work on Transformers could keep them out of the hunt?

Then there is Neil Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell for District 9; Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, & Fran Walsh for The Lovely Bones; David Eggars & Spike Jonze for Where the Wild Things Are; and Wes Anderson & Noah Baumbach for Fantastic Mr. Fox. Wild Things is a longshot at best, so is Fantastic Mr. Fox, but I do think that The Lovely Bones, even though it has had a mixed reaction from critics and audiences alike, is still in the hunt and should not be disregarded. As for District 9, maybe it has enough supporters in the writing branch to make it, but the Academy is full of so many older members, I wouldn't place my bets on it.

So what about my nominee predictions at the moment? Well, for Best Original Screenplay, they are:

Bob Peterson, Up
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, (500) Days of Summer
Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
Joel & Ethan Coen, A Serious Man
James Cameron, Avatar

As for Best Adapted Screenplay:

Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, & Fran Walsh, The Lovely Bones
Nick Hornby, An Education
Damien Paul, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' By Sapphire
Neil Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell, District 9

And that does it for this edition of Oscar Watch. Tune in next week as I start Part 1 of looking at the Tech Categories. Till then, enjoy my retrospectives on 2009!

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