Re-ranking the contenders in Best Original Screenplay

After a short break, today I’m continuing on down the line of the big eight categories and re-ranking them all The latest one to get this treatment? Best Original Screenplay, which will be one of the final ones that I’m doing in this series (I’ll conclude with the other screenplay category and Best Animated Feature before the month is out). Enough talk now though, right? Right!

Here now are the ten particular films/scripts that I have in play for Best Original Screenplay, with the top five cracking the unofficial lineup at this point:

1. Boyhood – The thinking goes that Richard Linklater is going to be rewarded somehow for his massive achievement. Even if you don’t have him contending to win in Best Picture or Best Director, this category is where he could win his first Academy Award. As such, he’s certainly in play for the top spot. If you have Boyhood winning in those categories though, then this is a slam dunk number one. It’s not a lock to win, but I wouldn’t bet against it right now.

2. Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance – It remains to be seen just how the script for this one will be received. Most of the praise so far has surrounded the acting and directing, though the writing is hardly anything to scoff at. If Birdman is going to be heavily in play across the board, it’ll be hard for this one not to really be high up on most ballots. We’ll see though…

3. Interstellar – There’s going to be a lot of buzz about whether Christopher Nolan can finally get a Best Director nomination, but a citation here in Best Original Screenplay seems hard to bet against. In fact, I’m tempted to say that this could really be the spoiler to win. We’ll see how Interstellar winds up doing overall, but the more nominations it has, the bigger a threat it’ll be.

4. Whiplash – I’m slightly more bullish on this contender than some, but I find it hard to believe that voters who surely will be crowning J.K. Simmons won’t also look to cite the movie somewhere else. Considering that I have Whiplash in Best Picture and Best Director, a nod here as well makes perfect sense. I’m doubtful it can pull the upset win, but with Simmons essentially a lock for Best Supporting Actor, things could get interesting here with this player.

5. Foxcatcher – Once upon a time this was the odds on favorite to win, but through no fault of its own, a nom itself would be the reward at this point. More contenders than expected have emerged to challenge Foxcatcher, so the film will have to fight it out to even be nominated. I think it’ll ultimately hold on, but I wouldn’t bat an eye at all if it wound up snubbed.

6. Mr. Turner – Never count out a Mike Leigh script in this category, even if the movie itself isn’t going to be in play elsewhere. Leigh almost always gets nominated when he pens a flick, so Mr. Turner has to be close to the number five spot, as he’s essentially a default pick for the Academy at this point. Don’t sleep on this one, even if it’s far from a sexy choice.

7. A Most Violent Year – The hot new toy on the market, folks are very excited about the trailers that have dropped for this one. I’m not certain exactly how big a player it’ll ultimately wind up being, but there’s a chance that A Most Violent Year could upend the race in a few categories, this one included. For now though, it’s broken through to the top ten, at least for now.

8. Selma – Depending on who you ask, this is either a huge contender to be reckoned with or something that will almost immediately fade away. Currently, I find myself stuck somewhere in between, wondering if it’ll just wind up lost in the shuffle. It’ll be fascinating to read the first reviews when they come in/when I see Selma for myself, as it’s a dark horse/X factor to keep an eye on.

9. The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson tends to be hanging around this category often, so the fact that he’s here again this year isn’t too surprising. Especially if Ralph Fiennes is going to contend for a surprise Best Actor nomination, The Grand Budapest Hotel will stick around in this category. Don’t expect a nod, but don’t 100% count it out either.

10. Begin Again – If you want a really likable long shot that certainly could wind up shocking, this is one to keep an eye on. With a nom (and potentially a win) likely coming its way in Best Original Song, John Carney could cross his fingers and hope that Oscar goes for this one slightly more than they did for Once. Don’t hold your breath, obviously, but anything is possible.

Next in line I’d have these ten contenders (just sans my commentary here) for Best Original Screenplay:

11. Top Five
12. St. Vincent
13. Nightcrawler
14. The Skeleton Twins
15. Dear White People
16. The Lego Movie
17. Fury
18. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
19. Chef
20. Love is Strange

Finally, here are ten more possibilities to give us a top 30 to cull from, just sans commentary as well:

21. Wish I Was Here
22. Big Eyes
23. Calvary
24. Magic in the Moonlight
25. Locke
26. Exodus: Gods and Kings
27. The Immigrant
28. Noah
29. Wild Tales
30. The Judge

That’s what the updated Best Original Screenplay race could very well be made up of ladies and gents. Stay tuned next week for my look at the Best Adapted Screenplay race!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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