2016 Oscar Circuit: Best Original Screenplay

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Welcome to our annual Oscar Circuit series, our deep down look into each and every category that will be presented at the upcoming Academy Awards.  Each writer of AwardsCircuit.com will tackle a different category, offering up their own perspectives on those specific races.  If you miss a piece, click on the tag titled Oscar Circuit 2016. You can also see the official Oscar Predictions for that particular race by clicking on the link here or at the bottom of each article.  Make sure to include your predicted winners in the comment section too!

AND THE NOMINEES ARE:

  • Bridge of Spies (Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, and Joel Coen) – (DreamWorks)
  • Ex Machina (Alex Garland) – (A24 Films)
  • Inside Out (Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, and Ronnie Del Carmen) – (Pixar)
  • Spotlight (Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer) – (Open Road)
  • Straight Outta Compton (Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, S. Leigh Savidge, and Alan Wenkus) – (Universal Pictures)

Continuing on with the Oscar Circuit series, we come now to Best Original Screenplay. Sometimes, this can seem like the junior version of the Screenplay categories, but recently it’s actually been the stronger of the two. This year? Well, it’s about average, with at least one of the nominees being a really great citation, though one or two do seem like filler, which we have with Original Screenplay sometimes. Also, one thing that is the case here this year that isn’t always the case is that the result seems pretty cut and dry to me. I suppose one might be able to make the argument that an upset could occur, but spoiler alert, I won’t be one of them. Still, this is well worth some discussion, so that’s that will happen. Now, enough talk. Let’s take a look at the Original Screenplay category and see what we see. Who will be joining last year’s winner Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) in the history books?

First off, I have a bit of history for all of you. The last dozen winners in this category have been Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Her, Django Unchained, Midnight in Paris, The King’s Speech, The Hurt Locker, Milk, Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, Crash, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Lost in Translation. One thing you can take note of here is that only four of those have been Best Picture winners, so in the last 12 years we’ve seen merely a quarter of the Original Screenplay victors go on to win the biggest prize. There’s a distinct possibility, or even probability, that we’ll see another one this year, so keep that in mind. Winners of Original Screenplay don’t take Picture as often as their Adapted counterparts, but it certainly happens more than once in a blue moon.

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bridge-of-spies-posterBridge of Spies is our first nominee and really fits in here as an also-ran, as it were. The film is basically filler in the Best Picture race, and as such will struggle to compete with other contenders here which will almost certainly have other wins to their credit. The writers here are Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, and Joel Coen, with Charman a first time nominee and the Coen Brothers each four time winners, to go along with 14 nominations overall for them both. The only thing keeping them in the race this time around though is that they have a Writers Guild nomination, which only two other contenders here have. It’s still not going to be enough, but Bridge of Spies seems to be solidly in third place right now.
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ex-machina-2015-posterEx Machina comes next in this category and quite frankly is just happy to have been nominated. Nominated scribe Alex Garland is a first time nominee and this will be a real launching pad for him as a filmmaker, both in terms of his already respected writing as well as his newfound touch for directing. Sadly though, that has no chance of translating into a win, as this is clearly in the number five position, and probably will stay that way right up until the envelope is opened on Oscar night. Garland may very well win an Academy Award one day, but that won’t be this time around, especially with the lack of a WGA nod. The nomination is his reward, cliched as that sounds. For Ex Machina and Garland, it just happens to be true.

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inside-out-trailer-titleInside Out is the third nominee here and one of the rare animated features to be cited by the Academy in this way. The nomination goes to writers Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, and Ronnie Del Carmen, with LeFauve, Cooley, and Del Carmen being first timers. Docter is a previous winner in Best Animated Feature and overall is an eight time nominee now. The lack of a WGA nom prevents it from really having any true fuel in the race. Some think that despite not having that citation it’s actually in the number two slot, but I find that overly generous. Again, the nomination is the reward here. Animation struggles to get recognized elsewhere besides its own category, the getting into the final five is the feather in its cap that Inside Out will have to ride with, aside from the inevitable Animated Feature win on Oscar night.

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spotlightSpotlight comes to us fourth and is the undisputed frontrunner in Best Original Screenplay. Not only is it poised to easily win here, it could very well wind up taking Best Picture as well, among a few other potential victory laps. The nominees here are Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, with the former now a three time nominee and the latter being a first timer. McCarthy and Singer are in the pole position, and frankly, I don’t really see any way that they lose that spot on Oscar night. McCarthy is also up for Best Director, Spotlight has been cited by many as THE screenplay of the year, regardless of Adapted or Original, it has just about every award already, including almost certainly an impending WGA win, and this is its Academy firewall. If this win doesn’t come about, something very unusual will be happening at the Oscars. Don’t expect that though. Not only is this in the lead, it’s pretty much locked up the honor already.

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GsbjmqNStraight Outta Compton is our final nominee in this category and may just represent the dark horse, if there is one. The nominated group of writers are all first time nominees and consist of Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, S. Leigh Savidge, and Alan Wenkus. Call it a hunch, but if you’re looking for a long shot second place finisher, I think it could be Straight Outta Compton. Perhaps some voters will be reactionary, but I’m ignoring that and just focusing on the merits. As much as any other nominee, it’s got a small but loyal pocket of supporters, and while I could easily see supporters of the other contenders also voting elsewhere, fans of this one will remain fans of this one until the bitter end. It would be a huge upset and the chances of it happening are minuscule, but if you want to dream of a Spotlight loss, look to Straight Outta Compton as the one who is most likely to do it. It’ll need to pull a WGA upset, so keep that in mind. Still, even with that, it’s almost certainly not happening.

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tommcarthyspotlight3My one word summary here: Spotlight. Okay, a bit more to summarize. Essentially, I’d say with almost complete certainty that Spotlight is going to take the prize here in Original Screenplay. It has all of the elements in its favor, from being the most likely Best Picture winner of the group to having as many nominations/more nominations than any of the other nominees in the category, on top of the vast majority of the precursor attention. Quite frankly, unless it gets upset at the Writers Guild of America Awards, and that upset could only come from Bridge of Spies or Straight Outta Compton, this is a cakewalk. If an upset happens, it’s probably happening with Straight Outta Compton, but don’t bet on that happening. This is Spotlight‘s to lose, plain and simple. Bet against it at your own risk. Everything points to McCarthy and Singer on stage with statues in their hands when this category comes to a close on Oscar night.

Will Win: Spotlight (95% sure)
Could Win: Straight Outta Compton (Long Shot)
Should Win: Spotlight
Snubbed: Trainwreck or Youth

CHECK OUT THE OFFICIAL OSCAR PREDICTIONS FOR ALL CATEGORIES:

PICTURE |DIRECTOR | LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS |SUPPORTING ACTOR |SUPPORTING ACTRESS |ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY |ADAPTED SCREENPLAY |ANIMATED FEATURE |PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING | MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS | ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG | DOCUMENTARY FEATURE | FOREIGN LANGUAGE | LIVE ACTION SHORT | ANIMATED SHORT | DOCUMENTARY SHORT

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