You’d be hard pressed to find a Best Original Screenplay winner before 1940 – the Category was formerly Best Story. In 1940 the Best Original Screenplay joined Best Story as a category and in 1957 they were joined together into the now highly sought out Best Original Screenplay award. The 1957 winner was Designing Woman by George Wells. Best Original Screenplay has gone on to become one of the most well recognized and anticipated categories every year, with such praise worthy winners as Citizen Kane, Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, Rainman and Shakespeare in Love.
Diablo Cody, Juno
Why It’s Nominated: If you haven’t heard of Juno, welcome to Earth. Ever year Oscar a “little film that could” must be captured and celebrated and lavished with awards and this year, it’s Juno. The sassy acting of star Ellen Page brings this quirky story to life and helped earn it this nod.
Why It Might Win: Juno received a lot of big nominations and a lot of big hype. The Academy also loves to give underdog movies big awards. Juno, with its sharp, off-kilter story and the favor of the crowd behind it may look to follow in the footsteps of Little Miss Sunshine with a big win here. On a truly script level, this film may have some weaknesses compared to other entrants, but the pure level of hype behind this film will blind most critical interpretations of the plot.
Why It Might Not Win: If Juno has a weakness, it’s the critical reception against being so high. The Academy members may end up going in a more unexpected way, but it’s hard to see this media darling going home with this award. On it’s own merit, the film may not stand up as well to some of the more dramatic winners of past that keep a hard edge to them and are often more strongly written, but this film has a lot of people behind it.
Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl
Why It’s Nominated: Another quirky comedy-drama works its way on to the list. Soon I’ll start wondering if people are writing these movies just for the attention come Oscar season. This script offers up a unique story and has the talent of Academy up-and-coming wonderboy Ryan Gosling attached. Writer Nancy Oliver previously worked on the acclaimed HBO drama Six Feet Under.
Why It Might Win: Lars would win based on the true quirkiness of it all. It is an odd and inventive idea that is played for drama and laughs and has a small, but passionate, legion of supporters behind it. First timer Oliver faces an uphill battle to capture this award.
Why It Might Not Win: Aside from an unusual premise, Lars doesn’t seem to be able to compete on the same level as some of the other scripts in this arena. Much of the acclaim for the film goes to Ryan Gosling and his performance which doesn’t, and shouldn’t, mean accolades for the script. Further, the Academy rarely awards films a bit on the stranger side the grand prizes.
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Why It’s Nominated: Gilroy is a talented writer with such titles as Proof of Life and the Bourne films under his belt, but none of his films have been as highly praised as Michael Clayton. This taught melodrama slowly ratchets up the tension throughout the film and stays smart and relevant throughout. Gilroy also looks to take home the goldenboy for his directorial efforts.
Why It Might Win: This films subject matter, namely evil big business, is timely and gained a strong foothold in the era of government distrust and anti-big business feelings. The timeliness of it gives it a strong boost as does its strong roots in the dramatic arena. Of all the films, only Clayton can claim to a thrilling drama, or one with any real sense of danger throughout it.
Why It Might Not Win: Michael Clayton has been oft defeated already this award season by the likes of No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, and the only real challenge it should face in Best Original is Juno. The love and hype behind Juno may prove fatal to Clayton.
Nominee #4: Brad Bird, Ratatouille
Why It’s Nominated: Anything Pixar touches turns to gold and Ratatouille pulled in a strong box office and good critical reception with its cute story about a mouse cook.
Why It Might Win: Ratatouille faces a big uphill battle to capture this award. The cute factor of the story and its message of acceptance are the only thing putting it into contention.
Why It Might Not Win: It won’t win. I honestly don’t know why this film is nominated in this category. I felt it to be, by far, the worst of the Pixar films with a weak resolution and a mostly cookie cutter plot. Ratatouille will not take home the Oscar.
Tamara Jenkins, The Savages
Why It’s Nominated: The Savages may be one of the best reviewed films of the year, but its also one of the least viewed. The film can be, at times, both loving and hateful, dark and light, sad and funny. Typical of an Oscar favored movie for this category, it’s nomination was little surprise to those few who knew about it.
Why It Might Win: This complex film offers up everything at once that the Academy likes to reward, from its unknown indie stature to its subject matter of family reuniting. However, the battle will be a hard for the Savages.
Why It Might Not Win: The Savages has only an outside chance at victory. The real stars of the movie are the actors who pumped life into the script. Movies like this generally would fail without a stellar cast behind them, and this is no exception. Audiences who aren’t a member of the reviewing press often look on the film less favorably than their cynical peers.
Who Will Win?
Diablo Cody, Juno
The love boat behind this ship can’t be beat.
Who Should Win:
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
A really smart and coherent story that doesn’t rely on its actors or its gimmicks to glue people to the screen.
Who Was Overlooked:
Kelly Masterson, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead