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Hollywood Contenders – The State of The Race: Looking at potential Best Original Screenplay contenders

Ryan Gosling Emma Stone
Good afternoon folks! It’s that time again. Yes, today I’m continuing on down the line with the last of the big eight categories and finishing off with the other writing one…yes, Best Original Screenplay. It’s the final one of the big eight categories today, but not the final installment of this series overall, as I’ll continue on in the weeks to come with a few more, at the very least tackling Best Documentary Feature and perhaps even another category like Best Foreign Language Feature when that sort of race begins to make more sense. In the meantime though, it’s Original Screenplay time here, so let’s get started!

Here 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:

Casey Affleck  Michele Williams Manchester by the Sea
1. Manchester by the Sea – Hot off a Trailer earlier this week, Kenneth Lonergan’s new drama seems poised to be a top tier contender. Lonergan has been cited by the Academy before, so perhaps he’s set up to be a winner at this point? Time will tell, but in a very interesting Original Screenplay race, I see no reason not to have Manchester by the Sea in the top spot right now, especially given the status of a few of the other contenders below.

2. La La Land – If not for the fact that musicals don’t fare well in Screenplay categories, I’d have Damien Chazelle’s script in the lead. Considering the original nature of it all, La La Land has a definite chance to upend the equation and contend where others have not, though that will depend on the reception it receives. The first festival screenings for the movie are coming quickly, so we’ll know in short order just what to make of it/Chazelle’s work.

3. Loving – Jeff Nichols’ biopic of the Loving family made some waves at the Cannes Film Festival, with more to come as other fests get their hands on it. Loving appears to be a safe player in a number of categories, with the only question being if there’s enough passion to make it a winner (and how much help it gets from Nichols having also made Midnight Special earlier this year). That remains to be seen, but if you don’t have this one in your top five, you’re just ignoring the way the season has gone so far, plain and simple.

4. Passengers – A script that’s been floating around for a while as a top notch unproduced title, Jon Spaihts is finally seeing his work come to screens in December. If the execution is as good as we all hope, Passengers could be a unique player that’s unlike anything else in the race, which is a feather in Spaihts’ cap. Due to a lawsuit involving the VFX company working on the project, there’s a small chance the film could wind up getting delayed into 2017, but if that doesn’t happen, it’s certainly a player worth watching out for.

5. 20th Century Women – For Mike Mills, this sort of new contender on the scene is potentially the big comedy Oscar hopeful for 2016, and that’s a nice spot to be sitting in. Often, one of the slots goes to a lighter flick, especially in Original Screenplay, so 20th Century Women definitely is in a good position. If the debut at the New York Film Festival goes well for Mills, watch out for this one.

6. Miss Sloane – A somewhat below the radar script from Jonathan Perera could be one to upend the race before all is said and done. Miss Sloane is an issues movie and might be catnip to voters if done well. That obviously remains to be seen, but it’s shooting up the boards quickly for me and might be in the top five before long. It’s the sort of thing that the Academy tends to fall over itself for, so there’s that to consider in the favor of Perera.

7. The Lobster – There’s a chance that this one from Yorgos Lanthimos (co-writing here with Efthymis Filippou) winds up forgotten about, but also a chance that it strikes a chord with the Writer’s Branch. The Lobster is unlike anything else in the race too, which never hurts. It’ll need precursor support to stay in play, but I have a hunch that it’ll be in the hunt all season long. Lanthimos defied the odds once with Dogtooth, so anything is possible.

8. Hell or High Water – Snubbed for Sicario, Taylor Sheridan could find himself deep in the race for this gem. I obviously love Hell or High Water, but independent of that, it’s just the kind of mid level contender that sometimes makes real waves with the Academy. As the race develops over the fall, it’ll be interesting to see if it sinks or swims. My prediction is the latter for Sheridan, but I’m not sure to what degree. Time will tell, right?

9. Café Society – Never count out Woody Allen from a Screenplay race, obviously. Especially with Café Society having gotten solid reviews, it could wind up being a default choice for some voters. Allen doesn’t necessarily need another nomination, but his work is deserving of attention, so I doubt anyone will be too upset if this one comes to pass. Stay tuned!

10. The Birth of a Nation – Given the controversy surrounding Nate Parker and his co-writer Jean McGianni Celestin, we could see The Birth of a Nation pushed to 2017, which would open the door for other contenders like Allied or The Nice Guys, but for now, I’ll include it here. Parker isn’t hiding from the media, which is good, but it’s just a messy situation. Without the controversy, it would be right around the top five, but now it’s all up in the air. Sit tight to see what ends up happening…

Loving Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton
Next in line I’d have these ten contenders (just sans my commentary here) for Best Original Screenplay:

11. The Nice Guys
12. Allied
13. The Founder
14. Everybody Wants Some
15. Florence Foster Jenkins
16. Captain Fantastic
17. A United Kingdom
18. Bleed for This
19. Hail, Caesar!
20. Southside with You

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

21. Rules Don’t Apply
22. Gold
23. Zootopia
24. The Promise
25. Collateral Beauty
26. Paterson
27. Morris from America
28. American Honey
29. Sing Street
30. Sausage Party

the nice guys, crowe, gosling
That’s what the Best Original Screenplay race could very well be made up of ladies and gents. Stay tuned in the next week or so for my look at one of the other Oscar races!

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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