Jean McGianni Celestin and Nate Parker "The Birth of a Nation"
Damien Chazelle "La La Land"
Jeff Nichols "Loving"
Kenneth Lonergan "Manchester By the Sea"
Jon Spaihts "Passengers"
Other Contenders - Allan Loeb "Collateral Beauty", Mike Mills "20th Century Women", Warren Beauty "Rules Don't Apply", Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou "The Lobster", Asghar Farhadi "The Salesman", Pedro Almodovar "Julieta", Chad Hartigan "Morris From America", Richard Linklater "Everybody Wants Some!!", Woody Allen "Cafe Society", Guy Hibbert "A United Kingdom", Joey Hartsone "LBJ", Terry George and Robin Swicord "The Promise", Byron Howard, Jared Bush, Rich Moore, Josie Trinidad, Jim Reardon, Phil Johnston, Jennifer Lee "Zootopia", Andrea Arnold "American Honey", Ron Clements and Jon Musker "Moana", Jim Jarmusch "Paterson", Stephen Gaghan, Patrick Massett, John Zinman "Gold", Roger Eggers "The Witch", Richard Tanne "Southside With You", Jeff Nichols "Midnight Special", Steven Knight "Allied"
Commentary - These screenplay races are always tricky. A lot of these could be seen as adapted, and as we know, sometimes the committees that decide this do go a bit whack. Just ask Damien Chazelle, who I think will return to the Oscars with La La Land, but saw his Whiplash labeled Adapted. This one is definitely original, and if it as good as we think, it will easily get in. Jeff Nichols and Kenneth Lonergan have long been ignored. Lonergan has two Oscar nominations, but should have more, and Nichols has made a name for himself on the indie circuit, yet never grabbed the Academy's attention. Manchester By the Sea and Loving are already getting a lot of great reviews, and a lot of buzz. Both could have big Oscar contenders, and nominations on their hands. The big sci-fi movie of the year doesn't always go great in these categories. The Martian got in, but it was not a done deal beforehand. Inception and Life of Pi also made it, but Avatar, Gravity and Mad Max were left off. Passengers looks to be another smart, Oscar-y sci-fi film, and it might be able to at least even out the score. Finally, The Birth of a Nation looks to clean up in terms of Oscar nominations across the board, and finally give the Academy a diverse cast, director, and screenwriter to break their woes of recent years. These are my five, but as you know these categories will change dramatically after the trio of fall festivals. Collateral Beauty has a lot of promise, as does the new Warren Beatty film, and 20th Century Women from Mike Mills. There are a trio of foreign contenders to look out for. Previous winner and nominee Pedro Almodovar and Asghar Farhadi return with two new entries, and then there is the most original film of the the year The Lobster, which might be too weird for Academy voters. Indie comedies can sometimes breakthrough with the writers branch, so look out for Everybody Wants Some!!, Cafe Society, and Morris From America. A United Kingdom could be a big hit, American Honey got raves out of Cannes, The Witch is fantastic, Allied is Academy bait, and don't forget the animated films. Zootopia has already won over a lot of folks, and Moana could be a hit.