2019 Oscars Look: Best Original Screenplay

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Welcome to our annual Oscar Look series, formally known as “Oscar Circuit” – our deep dive 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 Look 2018. 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 own predicted winners in the comment section too!

And the nominees are:

  • The Favourite” – Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
  • First Reformed” – Paul Schrader
  • Green Book” – Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, and Peter Farrelly
  • Roma” – Alfonso Cuarón
  • Vice” – Adam McKay

If you were looking to the WGA for guidance in Original Screenplay, they decided to shake up this race a little more. The Writer’s Guild gave their top prize to Bo Burnham for “Eighth Grade,” a film that was snubbed by Oscar. But this year’s contenders are an interesting collection. Controversies surround several of the nominees, for problems in the scripts and for off-screen problems with some of the writers. Only one film here is not nominated for Best Picture. The Original Screenplay lineup includes eight writers. Of them, six are first-time nominees. Here is a closer look at the nominees.

“The Favourite” (Fox Searchlight)

Nominees: Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
Oscar Scene: Every scene of this film is an Oscar scene.

After directing his own screenplays for the last several years, Yorgos Lanthimos made the decision to work with an original script he did not write. The result was ten-time Oscar nominee, “The Favourite.” Deborah Davis crafted the original draft of the story of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and the women competing for her favor, Lady Sarah Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail Masham (Emma Stone). Tony McNamara went to work on turning the historical dramedy into a story more fit for the signature Lanthimos style. The script brilliantly weaves fact and lore, tying it together with the wittiest dialogue of 2018.

Smart, biting, and fiercely funny, “The Favourite” also revels in women taking charge. All of the men in this cast are relegated to the background, scheming and trying their best to manipulate the women who simply won’t have it. Davis and McNamara won the BAFTA and a lot of regional critics’ group prizes. They also scored a lot of key nominations. Logically, this still feels like a wide open category, but “The Favourite” has been consistently loved and praised, and this is a great way to reward it where it may fall short in other contests.

“First Reformed” (A24)

Nominee: Paul Schrader
Oscar Scene: Reverend Toller counsels with Michael

It is strange to think that the writer of “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” has never been nominated for an Oscar before now. Although his career in the 1980s and 90s took a turn away from awards recognition. He returned this year with a film that is his most widely appreciated in more than 20 years. “First Reformed” boasts a 93% critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes, and many are of the opinion that star Ethan Hunt was snubbed in the Lead Actor race.

Focusing on themes of crises of faith, moral obligation, and guilt, Paul Schrader‘s script is strengthened by its performances. The story wanders on tangents and side roads, but is certainly a favorite among a lot of film fans. The fact that “First Reformed” was not nominated in any other categories suggests that there is not a big push for this film to win. Coupled with reports of Schrader’s past scandalous proclivities, this film has a tough road to victory. But if there is a sense of an overdue factor, Schrader will certainly draw votes.

“Green Book” (Universal Pictures)

Nominees: Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, and Peter Farrelly
Oscar Scene: Dr. Shirley helps Tony write a letter to his wife

Of all the nominees in this category, “Green Book” has been fraught with the most controversy. The film tells the story of writer Nick Vallelonga‘s father and his friendship with acclaimed concert pianist Don Shirley. Vallelonga and co-writers Brian Currie and Peter Farrelly (who also directs), will attend the ceremony as first-time nominees. “Green Book” was once considered a frontrunner for Best Picture. However, after questions were raised about the film’s veracity, as well as old tweets from Vallelonga, many voters may shy away.

On the other hand, “Green Book” won a competitive screenplay race for the Golden Globe. And despite a very vocal contingent of detractors, the film has a lot of fans that could choose to reward this story of friendship overcoming racism.

“Roma” (Netflix)

Nominee: Alfonso Cuarón
Oscar Scene: Cleo and family on the beach

Writer and director Alfonso Cuarón has spoken at length about the fact that “Roma” is his most personal film. Culled from his own childhood, Cuarón’s story follows Cleo, an indigenous woman who works for an upper-middle-class family in Mexico City. The film is beautifully composed and edited. The screenplay nomination is one of ten for the film overall and shows broad general support. However, with tales of actors never seeing a completed script, it’s hard to know how vital the pages were to the finished product on the screen.

The last foreign language film to win for Original Screenplay was Pedro Almodóvar’s “Talk to Her” in 2002. The precedents exist for “Roma” to win as a Spanish language film. But the strength of Cuarón’s work comes from beautiful visuals and from long, silent takes where every emotion is communicated without words at all. The nomination is a good indicator that this will do well in other categories, but this will likely not be one of the places where it wins.

“Vice” (Annapurna Pictures)

Nominee: Adam McKay
Oscar Scene: Cheney lays out his conditions to George W. Bush

Perhaps the most divisive film in the Original Screenplay race is “Vice” by Adam McKay. McKay is the only nominee that is a previous winner. His script tells parts of the true story of Vice President Dick Cheney, incorporating speculation, rumor, and Shakespeare to make his point. But the film has met with a lot of criticism from viewers who feel it doesn’t go far enough, or that it draws the wrong conclusions.

“Vice” is nominated for eight awards, but with McKay failing to do much in the precursors, a win seems unlikely here.

Will Win: “The Favourite”
Could Win: “Green Book”
Should Have Been Nominated: “Eighth Grade”

Which films should have been nominated for Best Original Screenplay? Which film is your predicted winner? Comment below and share!

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