Hollywood Contenders – Looking at Best Original Screenplay hopefuls

Folks, it’s that time again. No, not the start of fall, though here on the east coast we’ve finally got some chilly weather. 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!

Best Adapted Screenplay and the candidates there got their due last week, so this week, you know what that means…

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:

1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – This seems like a two horse race right now. The frontrunner is this script from Martin McDonagh. There’s a chance that Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ends up as the one to beat in Best Picture, so as such, it has to get top billing here. I’ve seen the film and will be writing about it soon, but just know that it’s as good as advertised, if not better.

2. The Shape of Water – The other horse in the race is this fantasy outing from Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor. Much of what applies to McDonagh and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri also applies here. The Shape of Water could be a huge deal for Oscar, so del Toro and his co-writer Taylor undoubtedly will be in the thick of the awards season. That goes without saying.

3. The Big Sick – If there’s a potential spoiler in Original Screenplay, it could be this crowd pleaser. Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani took their real life courtship and crafted a winning romantic dramedy out of it. This is one of those situations where getting nominated will be the hardest part for The Big Sick. If Gordon and Nanjiani can crack the lineup, watch out for them…

4. I, Tonya – Keep an eye out for this one. As more people see what scribe Steven Rogers came up with for an offbeat Tonya Harding biopic, they’ll understand why he might very well get nominated. Rogers has something special with I, Tonya. That’s clear to anyone who sees it. More on the movie soon. Sleep on it at your own risk folks!

5. The Florida Project – Likewise, consider this one a dark horse, making for a really strong top five slate in Original Screenplay. Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch have captured life in a really captivating way. As you all know, I love The Florida Project, so it would be great to see Baker and Bergoch get in. Their main issue will be if voters find the film to be too improvisational feeling. Perhaps that will matter, but…perhaps not?

6. The Post – Logic suggests that this one will ultimately crack the top five. For now, Liz Hannah and Josh Singer are right there on the periphery of the race. If The Post winds up one of the ones to beat in Best Picture, it’ll be impossible not to move up Hannah and Singer into one of the main slots. Until we know more about the flick though, I’m holding back for a bit.

7. Darkest Hour – Similarly, it’s hard to imagine a snub for Anthony McCarten, considering the material and reception so far for the Winston Churchill biopic. Depending on how the precursors shake out, we’ll know just how big a thing Darkest Hour is. The bigger is turns out, the more likely it is to save a spot for McCarten…

8. Dunkirk – One of the ways we might know that Dunkirk is truly going to be a Best Picture frontrunner would be to see Christopher Nolan get nominated here. Nolan crafted a film that’s incredibly visual and far from reliant on dialogue, so some voters may struggle with it. The more citations he receives here, the more likely it is that he has the movie to beat overall.

9. Wonder Wheel – Woody Allen is sort of the king of the Original Screenplay category. As such, it’s impossible to do a list like this without including him. That being said, Wonder Wheel was not received as one of his best writing efforts, so that will be a chink in his armor. Allen could still slip in, but it seems like a longer shot than it did just a few weeks ago.

10. Battle of the Sexes – The final position could just as easily have gone to something like Downsizing or Lady Bird, but for now, Simon Beaufoy’s script slips in. He has the right sort of material with Battle of the Sexes, so it’s just waiting to see if the precursors raise it up. That remains to be seen, obviously, but there’s a definite chance here, so sit tight for the answer!

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

11. Downsizing
12. Lady Bird
13. Detroit
14. Phantom Thread
15. Suburbicon
16. Get Out
17. Wind River
18. Novitiate
19. The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected)
20. mother!

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

21. The Greatest Showman
22. Breathe
23. Coco
24. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
25. Baby Driver
26. The Hero
27. Chappaquiddick
28. I Love You, Daddy
29. The Square
30. A Ghost Story

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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