Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjani "The Big Sick"
Anthony McCarten "Darkest Hour"
Greta Gerwig "Lady Bird"
Paul Thomas Anderson "Phantom Thread"
Martin McDonagh "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
Other Contenders - Guillermo Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor "The Shape of Water", Christopher Nolan "Dunkirk", Mark Boal "Detroit", Simon Beaufoy "Battle of the Sexes", Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor "Downsizing", Liz Hannah and Josh Singer "The Post", Matthew Aldrich, Adrian Molina and Lee Unkrich "Coco", Simon Baker and Chris Bergoch "The Florida Project", Jordan Peele "Get Out", Taylor Sheridan "Wind River", Darren Aronofsky "mother!", Jenny Bicks, Michael Ardnt, and Bill Condon "The Greatest Showman", Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymius "The Killing of the Sacred Deer", Joon-ho Bong and Jon Ronson "Okja", Edgar Wright "Baby Driver", Woody Allen "Wonder Wheel", Michael Haneke "Happy End", Steven Soderbergh "Logan Lucky"
Commentary - This is a really tough race, as quality contenders keep piling up. By the way, this is good news that this race is so tough. In the era of sequels, prequels, and unnecessary remakes, its nice to know there are still a few great original ideas left in Hollywood. So let's start with my current five. The Big Sick is just the kind of comedy that writers enjoy, and the fact that its based on the true story of its writers adds an extra layer of appeal. Out of the fall film festivals, three contenders have emerged in many categories: Darkest Hour, Three Billboard Outside Ebbing Missouri, and Lady Bird. These three have wowed critics, and all could end up with Best Picture nominations, or at least many across the categories. Plus, Oscar winner Martin McDonagh, Oscar nominee Anthony McCarten, and indie superstar Greta Gerwig, are all names that writers will recognize as awards worthy. Finally, Paul Thomas Anderson gets a writing nomination almost every film he releases, and Phantom Thread, with Daniel Day-Lewis at its lead, feels like it has Oscar written all over it. I know what your thinking: what about The Shape of Water? Genre pieces have trouble getting into non-technical categories, and even those that love the film think that some of its storylines are not the best. Del Toro has been nominated here before for genre work, and he is getting raves for his latest. But for now, I'll take my chances on leaving him out. I am also, begrudingly leaving out the perennial nominees of Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor. Downsizing still has a lot of potential, but its mixed reaction from the film festivals means it has an uphill climb. Battle of the Sexes is a crowd pleaser, that, as it has opened around the country, is getting rave reviews, and Simon Beaufoy is an Oscar winner. But this feels like a film that writers will not find as worthy as other branches. Steven Spielberg's latest is in the running, but screenplay doesn't always tag along. Detroit was a box-office dud, but its visceral and Mark Boal is an Oscar winner, so don't count him out. Coco could join other past Pixar favorites, The Florida Project is set to be an indie contender, Wind River features an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, The Greatest Showman could be more than its title, mother! could inspire writers who respect Aronofsky, and never count out previous nominees/winners Woody Allen, Michale Haneke, Steve Soderbergh, and the team of Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymius Filippou. Finally, Get Out is going to get a well-deserved Oscar push, and Jordan Peele is definitely one to watch for.