John Ridley "12 Years a Slave"
Tracey Letts "August: Osage County"
Jason Reitman "Labor Day"
George Clooney and Grant Heslov "The Monuments Men"
Terence Winter "The Wolf of Wall Street"
Other Contenders - Richard Linklaker, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke "Before Midnight", Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope "Philomena", Billy Ray "Captain Phillips", William Nicholson "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom", Abi Morgan "The Invisible Woman", Lee Daniels and Danny Strong "Lee Daniel's The Butler", John Singer "The Fifth Estate", Steve Conrad "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", Christopher Kyle "Serena", Phillipa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro, Fran Walsh and Peter
Jackson "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"
Commentary - As always, this race is stacked with contenders, and while Before Midnight was my favorite film of the first half of the year, I am currently leaving it in sixth place. There are so many high-profile projects left to be seen in this category, that I am keeping it in the wings in case some of the favorites stumble towards the finish line. This year at the Tony's Pulitzer Prize winning writer Tracey Letts had a huge upset victory over Tom Hanks in the Best Actor in a Play category for his role in the revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? He is clearly well-liked by the Broadway community, as he has another Tony for, you guessed it, his play August: Osage County (which is what won him the Pulitzer in 2008). Letts is also translating his play to the screen, much like John Patrick Stanley did for Doubt. Shanley got an Oscar nomination and his four main actors all got nominated as well. I think that if the film version of August: Osage County is half as respected as the play was, then Letts could follow up a Tony win with an Oscar nomination. Jason Reitman returns to the race with his adaptation of Labor Day. I personally think he has yet to make a bad movie (I loved Young Adult), and his adaptation of Up in the Air was great, and this time around (like usual), he has an incredible cast to help elevate the material. He may have missed out for Young Adult, but I get the feeling that Labor Day is his ticket back into the Oscar race. Probably two of the most anticipated projects this year are The Monuments Men and The Wolf of Wall Street. Terence Winter's previous films don't really stack up, but he has had a very successful career as a television writer winning four Emmy awards for one of TV's best shows, The Sopranos. With Martin Scorsese behind the camera, I have a feeling Wolf will be a hit, and Winter will earn his first Oscar nomination. The Monuments Men will probably get in even if it is not quite as good as the hype for two incredibly good reasons: George Clooney and Grant Heslov. In the last slot, I am going with Steve McQueen's latest effort 12 Years a Slave. While his previous films were too dark for the Academy, I think that this film, with its great cast and baity subject matter, might finally be the one that gets recognition, including in his category for John Ridley's adaptation of Solomon Northup's historical account.