Sizing Up 2014: Best Original Screenplay

BirdmanAll good things must come to an end. We’re at the conclusion of the 2014 Sizing Up series and closing it out with a look at the final major category…Best Original Screenplay. This is the last race to be analyzed before next year, so I’ll quickly say how much I enjoy doing it and the interaction in the comments section afterwards. You all know the drill by now, so I’ll also just give a quick overview now. Basically, this is a fairly stacked lineup, as per the usual of late. Last year, I got four out of five, including eventual winner Her, just missing Dallas Buyers Club.  It’s time to size up the Best Original Screenplay race!

The “Wishful Thinking” Category

First up, these are the scripts to films that I’d say are really and truly 100% out of the race, regardless of their quality. Some are screenplays from good films that either are just too small or too problematic for the Academy to be included in the field, and others just didn’t live up to the expectations that we all had for them. There are plenty, but I’ll mention ten of them. They would be Draft Day, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Force MajeureGet On Up, Leviathan, Mommy, Noah, The Skeleton Twins, Song of the Sea, and Two Days, One Night. In another time and place a few might have been more realistic contenders, just not in this one. Let’s now move on to some screenplays that actually have a shot though, albeit still a pretty small one.

The “Dark horse/Long shot” Category

This first big/more notable grouping consists of ten films this year that I think most likely won’t be contenders for their screenplays, but aren’t out of the race completely yet. There’s something definitely missing from the equation though in order really take them seriously in the way that Oscar nominees need to be. Some of them are a bit bigger contenders than others are, but for me I’m inclined to bet against them all right now and keep it that way. Maybe I’m wrong, but I sincerely doubt it. The movies/scripts in question are the following:

Big Hero 6
The Immigrant
The Judge
Magic in the Moonlight
Wild Tales
Wish I Was Here

Honestly, I don’t think that any of these scripts will come close at all to getting nominated, but there’s at least one with a small chance. That’s Cake, which will benefit from the likely Best Actress nomination for star Jennifer Aniston. Calvary is one that will have its supporters, but it’s been roundly ignored, with the same going for The Immigrant. Personally, I wish more folks actually fairly considered Zach Braff‘s script for Wish I Was Here, but that ship has sailed. Basically, that’s about it for this section (unless someone thinks Woody Allen will be in contention for Magic in the Moonlight, though it’s off year Allen, so I think that won’t be an issue), but things are about to get much more exciting, I can assure you of that much.

The “Second Tier” Contenders

This next particular assortment of scripts and their associated movies are solidly in play for Best Original Screenplay (or at least more solidly than that previous group), but have a number of serious question marks holding them back from approaching top tier status. I’m not sure that any of these will be able to make it to the big show, but I wouldn’t write them off just yet, as stranger things have happened. I don’t see them as really big time contenders, but like I said, they’re not too far off from the pack. As you know, there are ten contenders in this category, and the words on the page that I see in this light are:

BEGIN AGAIN-John-Mark_largeBegin Again
Dear White People
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
The Lego Movie
Love Is Strange
Obvious Child
Top Five

As is always the case with this portion of my rankings, I’m sure that there’s a version of this year’s race where more than a few of these films/screenplays could make up a portion of the Best Original Screenplay field, but there’s still another dozen flicks and their scribes to come with way better chances at the nomination slots. If you’re looking for certain horses to back here though, I’d say to look at The Lego Movie, Love Is Strange, and Top Five as the big trio with upward mobility. One level down is Dear White People and Fury, but they’re longer shots. Once upon a time Begin Again (particularly since John Carney was considered a snubbed filmmaker), Chef, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, and Obvious Child were possibilities, but likely no longer. The impending big group is next of course, and that’s where all the major players are hanging out this year.

The “Pole Position” Contenders

Sigh. My last grouping of the season, which is always a sad thought for me. I’ll be back next year of course though with another Sizing Up series, so fear not, but melancholy has still begun to set in. Anyway, here we go. These are the dozen most likely contenders for Best Original Screenplay. As previously mentioned, the big flicks and their scripts are all pretty much housed here. My personal Oscar predictions consist of a grouping of some of these screenplays, but all of my predicted nominees are included here. They each have a ton of things going in their favor, and for the most part have received plenty of precursor attention. They’re some of the most mentioned films so far this year too, and that definitely helps things along. Which 12 screenplays are they, you ask? Well, they are the following:

interstellar-matthew-mccon-christopher-nolan1Big Eyes
The Grand Budapest Hotel
A Most Violent Year
Mr. Turner
St. Vincent

It’s easy to see just how much stronger the Original field is than Adapted is, much like last year. Anyway, the dozen here are basically all possibilities for a nod, but a few are longer shots for the nom than others. Locked in for nominations are Birdman and Boyhood, with The Grand Budapest Hotel looking like a pretty safe bet as well. If you follow that logic, we have two slots available to nine contenders. Realistically, Big Eyes and St. Vincent are bringing up the rear, while Mr. Turner remains in the conversation mostly due to Mike Leigh‘s popularity with the Academy (so he could be an upset special), which means it’s actually a half dozen contenders. I’ll split it into two groups of three, with the more likely trio being Foxcatcher, Interstellar (keep in mind that Christopher Nolan does show up in the screenplay fields from time to time), and Whiplash. By that line of thinking, the screenplays needing to make a last minute jump belong to A Most Violent Year, Nightcrawler, and Selma. They all have the potential to do it, but I think we’re looking at the final two nominees probably being Foxcatcher and Whiplash. They’re easily replaced by any of those other ones though, and certainly going to lose to either Birdman or Boyhood (or perhaps even The Grand Budapest Hotel), so stay tuned to see what happens when the Oscar voters actually chime in.

Check out the official Oscar Predictions for Original Screenplay!

Thoughts? How do you see Best Original Screenplay shaping up? Discuss in the comments!

What do you think?

Film Lover

Written by Joey Magidson

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.


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