Post Venice/Telluride/Toronto Predictions
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo "Birdman"
Richard Linklater "Boyhood"
E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman "Foxcatcher"
JC Chandor "A Most Violent Year"
Mike Leigh "Mr. Turner"
Other Contenders - Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan "Interstellar", Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness "The Grand Budapest Hotel", Ava DuVernay and Paul Webb "Selma", David Ayer "Fury", Damien Chazelle "Whiplash", Ira Sachs "Love is Strange", Scott Alexander and Larry Karazewski "Big Eyes", Ned Benson "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them", Dan Gilroy "Nightcrawler", John Carney "Begin Again", Woody Allen "Magic in the Moonlight", Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and Steven Baigelman "Get On Up", Theodore Melfi "St. Vincent", Justin Simien "Dear White People", Chris Rock "Top Five", John Michael McDonagh "Cavalry", Xavier Dolan "Mommy", Oliver Assayas "Clouds of Sils Maria", Mike Binder "Black and White", Steve Zaillian, Bill Collage, and Adam Cooper "Exodus: Gods and Kings", Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Dan Hageman, and Kevin Hageman "The Lego Movie", Mark Heyman and Craig Johnson "The Skeleton Twins"
Commentary - It is always nice to see an Original Screenplay race that is exciting, packed full of top contenders, and hard to predict. It means that Hollywood is capable of a few good ideas still left in the coffer. The first place is start is the new festival hit Birdman. The critics and fans are singing its praises, and I expect it to play extremely well across the board, including in this category, where its searing look at fame packs a punch of originality. Speaking of originality, Boyhood remains a hot topic and maintains its initial heat and buzz. I still think people are overestimating its potential. While nominations (including for Best Picture) are a real possibility now, if the rest of the contenders prove to be worthy, despite its revolutionary set up, it could be too small or not have enough big splash to survive the onslaught. All of that being said, I think the writers will definitely go to bat for it, the way they went for Linklater's films in the past including the last two entries in the Before series. Foxcatcher hit well at Cannes and continues to do well across the festival circuit. I expect it to play as well or even better than Miller's last two features, and I don't see why screenplay isn't one of its nominations. The last two slots, right now, are the most flexible. The Nolans have been nominated here before, but I am always weary of sci-fi films in the writing categories. Moonrise Kingdom made the cut, and Wes Anderson is one of the most original and creative filmmakers working today. So I am leaving The Grand Budapest Hotel as a solid backup. Selma and Fury have a lot of early support, and positive views so far out of production, both could easily play here. The smaller films are not giving up yet. Whiplash was reinvigorated after its Toronto premiere, Top Five is getting rave reviews, Cavalry could have the BAFTA support, Woody Allen is Woody Allen, St. Vincent is popular, and Begin Again and Love is Strange, are well-done romances with nice twists on a familiar genre. Tim Burton's Big Eyes could be his big Oscar breakthrough, and contenders like Mommy, The Skeleton Twins, Clouds of Sils Maria, and Exodus: Gods and Kings are on the radar as well. But I am going to stick with one film that I think will be a big hit, and one that we know is good, both from previous nominees in this category. Mike Leigh's Mr. Turner has done well on the festival circuit, and even if Timothy Spall can't muscle into that brutal Best Actor race, or Leigh into director, you can better the writers will have Leigh and the film on its mind. They love him, have nominated him constantly, and we already know the film will play well. Finally, I know a lot of pundits and bloggers are not putting A Most Violent Year on their list, but I think that JC Chandor is looking for his big Oscar breakthrough, and with the cast, and baity story line, I think this could be the film.