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Taking a look at potential Best Original Screenplay contenders

Well folks, it’s come to that time again. No, not the start of fall, though here on the east coast we’ve finally got some chilly weather here and there (finally, it’s freaking October already). 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. Roma – Some have said that Best Original Screenplay is a weak category this year. That may actually be the case, but there’s currently an interesting battle brewing at the top. For now, the pole position is occupied by Alfonso Cuarón and his passion project Roma. Academy members who want heavy emotion in their winners will certainly be backing this one in a big way.

2. The Favourite – If voters are in a lighter mood, this period dramedy could certainly end up the frontrunner here. It’s currently the main competition for Roma, which is a very different sort of flick. The Favourite feels like a Yorgos Lanthimos movie, despite having not been written by him, and instead penned by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. It’s almost a 1A/1B situation here right now…

3. Green Book – Watch out for this one. Peter Farrelly directs and co-writes Green Book with Brian Hayes Currie and Nick Vallelonga. Initially not on the Oscar radar, this film has really come on strong during the fall festival season. Now, it looms as a legitimate threat to upset in Original Screenplay. Keep an eye on it as the season progresses!

4. Vice – We’ll know more tomorrow when the Trailer hits, but this is one of the true X factors right now. Adam McKay writes and directs Vice, the biopic of Dick Cheney. The Academy may not want to reward Cheney the man, but this particular filmmaker may be the only one to tell this story in a way they’d get on board with. Honestly, would you bet against McKay?

5. Sorry to Bother You – This slot is wide open, so for the moment, I’m out on a limb for one of the most creative films of the year. Boot Riley’s debut is utterly spectacular and just the sort of thing that Best Original Screenplay should recognize. With some precursor help, it could definitely crash the party. Stay tuned to see if it can pull off a bit of a surprise nomination. Right now, I think it can!

6. Eighth Grade – This powerful movie from Bo Burnham announces his entry into the world of filmmaking with authenticity and authority. Watching Eighth Grade is almost like watching a documentary. If that period of life reflects profoundly for voters, this screenplay could find itself with a nomination. There’s actually a pretty solid chance that this film gets in.

7. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Can you ever count out the Coen Brothers? Joel Coen and Ethan Coen initially made The Ballad of Buster Scruggs as a television miniseries, but now that it’s a feature, Academy members who love them have a chance to nominate them again. As such, you have to consider them heavily when running down Original Screenplay contenders.

8. On the Basis of Sex – AFI Fest will unveil this one at last. If it’s a hit, scribe Daniel Stiepleman could find himself in the Original Screenplay mix. On the Basis of Sex needs to feel like more than just a garden variety biopic, so that’s the challenge. Luckily, Ruth Bader Ginsberg is a political rock star, so that’s a plus for this film…

9. A Quiet Place – Don’t totally sleep on the candidacy of this flick. The trio of Scott Beck, John Krasinski (who also directs and stars), and Bryan Woods came up with a concept that made A Quiet Place really stand out. It may not be enough to get into Original Screenplay, but it may well have them in the running at least.

10. Hearts Beat Loud – This spot could go to any number of titles, and keep an eye on Stan & Ollie (written by Jeff Pope), but for the moment, I have Marc Basch and Brett Haley’s charmer here. Hearts Beat Loud would represent an upper in a potential sea of downers. That could count for something.

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

11. Stan & Ollie
12. At Eternity’s Gate
13. First Reformed
14. Bohemian Rhapsody
15. Mid90s
16. Everybody Knows
17. Welcome to Marwen
18. Tully
19. White Boy Rick
20. All About Nina

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

21. What They Had
22. Capernaum
23. Hereditary
24. Outlaw King
25. Ben is Back
26. Destroyer
27. The Rider
28. Private Life
29. The Little Prince
30. Under the Silver Lake

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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