Oscar 2012 Predictions: Best Original Screenplay

Hey, who says there are no original ideas in Hollywood? Well, us actually, whenever we have to write about the next 80s-era television show getting a big screen reboot that no one on God’s green earth could possibly want to flash in front of their eyeballs on a giant cinema screen. But this year, there were at least five films that sprung from original ideas that were solid enough to get the ol’ Best Original Screenplay nod. Really, at least five. There’s five in this category! There could be more, but I’m too busy thinking about the Valley Girl reboot to come up with any of them right now.

Giggles and bad jokes aside, this year’s Oscar race for Best Original Screenplay is actually pretty, well, original. We’ve got an awards season frontrunner, a raunchy lady-centric comedy (how often do you hear “raunchy” when it comes to the Academy Awards? Not often, that’s how often), a Sundance flick about the financial crisis, a foreign film getting all sorts of (well-deserved) praise, and the latest from one of the Academy’s most nominated filmmakers. This category is truly one hell of mixed bag.

What’s perhaps most interesting about this race is that it four of its nominations belong to newcomers to the Oscars, while its fifth nominee is Woody Allen, who has received more nominees in this category (15) than any other screenwriter in the history of the awards. But does that little bit of trivia spell “winner”? Read on for the nominations and my predicted winner in red

The Artist, Michel Hazanvicius

Why He Was Nominated

This awards season is all about The Artist, an “unexpected” darling. Why the quotes? Well, Hollywood loves Hollywood, and they love stuff about Hollywood. What’s more Hollywood than a throwback black-and-white silent movie that is about black-and-white silent movies? The Artist is a fresh little romp, an easy pick, and Hollywood have rioted if it didn’t show up on this list.

Why He Might Win

Hazanvicius and The Artist have, arguably, the most heat this awards season. The film – and its director, stars, editors, and more (the film has been nominated for a total ten Oscars this year) – is the darling of the year, at least when it comes to those who vote on these things. Hazanvicius’ script is frothy and surprisingly detailed, charming and able to make the old fogies that make up the Academy remember why they love movies.

Why He Might Not Win

Perhaps the biggest strike against The Artist is that, as it’s a silent film, the assumption might be that the script is thin. That’s stupid, but it needs to be mentioned. But there’s another strike against the film that few people seem to be voicing: Hazanvicius’ previous films are spy spoof flicks – quite well-done spy spoof flicks, it must be said, but spoofs nonetheless. To me, The Artist has an authenticity problem – it’s frisky and fun and well-crafted, but Hazanvicius’ background gives me pause. Is The Artist just another well-made spoof? I can’t help but wonder.

Previous Nominations: 0

Previous Wins: 0

Bridesmaids, Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig

Why They Were Nominated

Because the Academy might finally be loosening up? Because perhaps the Academy’s younger members staged a coup? Because even they couldn’t deny how fresh, funny, and true Mumolo and Wiig’s script was?

Why They Might Win

I hate to do this to Bridesmaids (a film I love) and Mumolo and Wiig (two talents I love), but we all know Bridesmaids is not going to squeak out a win. It is simply too fresh, funny, and true for the Academy. And I bet at least fifty percent of the voters positively freaked out during that bathroom scene. If the film does win, though, I’ll eat a shoe – and happily.

Why They Might Not Win

We all know by know that the vast majority if Academy voters are older white dudes – Bridesmaids isn’t a film for them. It’s a film about modern women on the cusp of fully realizing who they are – until they slide back into infantile habits. It’s also about poop (sadly).

Previous Nominations: 0

Previous Wins: 0

Margin Call, J.C. Chandor

Why He Was Nominated

Chandor’s film gobbled up all the awards season love that other films from last year’s Sundance should have (hello, Martha Marcy May Marlene and Take Shelter). Why? Because it’s “of the moment” and about problems that everyone can sort of identify with and because it’s packed with a star-studded cast. Chandor’s script accomplishes its major aim exceedingly well – it distills down complicated financial issues into language most people can understand. He also crafted a murderer’s row of characters without muddling them up into each other.

Why He Might Win

Buzzy topic, dazzling cast, scads of awards already under his belt, smart writing, Chandor might just shock us all and pull this one out. This is the dark horse bet in this race.

Why He Might Not Win

It’s still a dark horse. Chandor’s film was not a major release and there’s a big possibility that many voters haven’t seen it already, either thinking it was too dense (finance! scary!) or too dumb (a debut film that played at Sundance, please!). Even without an Oscar, Chandor should be proud he earned this nomination.

Previous Nominations: 0

Previous Wins: 0

Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen

Why He Was Nominated

It’s Woody Allen’s biggest hit in years, and the Academy loves throwing the nominations at the filmmaker. It’s the increasingly rare Allen flick that pleases both critic and audiences, and it’s got a fun and frisky plot to boot. Also, uh, it’s Woody Allen.

Why He Might Win

Allen’s film was the delight of the year, a moneymaker and crowd-pleaser, but one that also comes with a script that has the most pay-off for book nerds, art fans, and history wonks. It’s Academy bait, but the rare kind that everyone can enjoy. Also, Academy members probably watched this with their grandkids.

Why He Might Not Win

Even though Allen has gotten more nominations than any other screenwriter in Academy history, his odds aren’t so hot. Two wins out of fifteen nominations? Oof. There’s also that little beast called The Artist, Allen’s biggest competition by far, and one that he should be afraid of.

Previous Nominations: 15

Previous Wins: 2

A Separation, Asghar Farhadi

Why He Was Nominated

By the grace of God? Seriously, Farhadi’s film is one of the very best of the year, but it’s nomination for Best Foreign Language Film could have very well hurt it when it came to other categories. Too often solid foreign flicks are a) ignored or b) tossed into the Foreign Language category to duke it out with other foreign films, simply because Academy voters still seem to think that “foreign” is a genre. Paired with Bridesmaids, and Farhadi’s nomination must might signal a real paradigm shift in the Academy.

Why They Might Win

Because Farhadi’s script is a seamless amalgamation of family drama, culture study, and court-room brawler. The script is so perfectly penned, so meticulously constructed, it’s no surprise that the film is earning praise and nominations. It’s good – that’s why.

Why They Might Not Win

While Farhadi’s film is arguably the Foreign Language Film with the most heat on it, that doesn’t mean much even in the Best Foreign Language Film race, which frequently churns out winners that make you go “huh?” That cred means even less in a completely separate category.

Previous Nominations: 0

Previous Wins: 0

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