I don’t think I can recall a season as bleak for adapted screenplay contenders as this one, so much so that we actually have to consider Top Gun: Maverick for a spot.
It’s not that sequels don’t get love, it’s just usually after the first or original screenplay have already set the stage with awards attention. The first Borat and its sequel both received Oscar nominations. Knives Out landed a nomination and its sequel Glass Onion is in prime shape to as well. There’s no notable comparison to be made for Top Gun: Maverick though, a sequel to a 36-year old action film that was an Oscar winner for song and a nominee for editing and both sound categories (when there were two). Its chances hinge on two factors; its massive box office and a dearth of competition. The closest we can probably get is 2017’s Logan, adapted from the Wolverine comics and a box office hit. It’s less a sequel in the traditional sense and its screenplay was powered in part by Scott Frank, a previous Oscar nominee in adapted screenplay for 1998’s Out of Sight. I know it might feel right to point to 2019’s Joker instead but that film was an 11-time nominee with the eventual Best Actor winner in it, a pretty far cry from what Top Gun: Maverick will look like.
Original Screenplay is where it’s at this year, with new works from Martin McDonagh, Todd Field, Alejandro G. Iñárritu and more. It’s also a category with a deep bench of Best Picture contenders in The Fabelmans (featuring Steven Spielberg’s first feature screenplay credit since 2001’s A.I.), Everything Everywhere All at Once, Bardo and Triangle of Sadness, each representing not only the vast styles of films and filmmaking this season but each’s unique history with the Oscars. You have powerhouses like Spielberg and Iñárritu with newcomers The Daniels hoping to break through and Ruben Östlund, who’s had great success at Cannes as a double Palme d’Or winner but yet to crack in the U.S. and with the Academy in a big way.
One thing both categories are deplete of this year are women behind the pen. While adapted’s likely frontrunner is Sarah Polley for Women Talking, based on the book by Miriam Toews about women in a religious cult deciding on ending their abuse at the hands of the men in their community, the only next likely would be Rebecca Lenkiewicz and her script for She Said, based on the book by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, about the women who helped launch the #MeToo movement after exposing Harvey Weinstein and more in the Hollywood machine. Dana Stevens and Maria Bello could find attention for their script for The Woman King, which is enjoying both box office and reviews to back it up. After that, not much. Till? Pearl? Marcel the Shell with Shoes On? Not likely.
Here are my 2023 Oscar predictions in Adapted Screenplay and Original Screenplay for September 2022.
1. Women Talking (UAR/Orion)
2. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (Netflix)
3. The Whale (A24)
4. She Said (Universal Pictures)
5. White Noise (Netflix)
6. Living (Sony Pictures Classics)
7. The Son (Sony Pictures Classics)
8. The Wonder (Netflix)
9. The Good Nurse (Netflix)
10. Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount Pictures)
1. The Fabelmans (Universal Pictures)
2. Everything Everywhere All At Once (A24)
3. The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight Pictures))
4. Triangle of Sadness (NEON)
5. Bardo, Or False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (Netflix)
6. TÁR (Focus Features)
7. Babylon (Paramount Pictures)
8. Nope (Universal Pictures)
9. Empire of Light (Searchlight Pictures)
10. The Woman King (Sony/Tri-Star)
Other contenders (alphabetical)
Armageddon Time (Focus Features)
Bros (Universal Pictures)
Decision to Leave (MUBI)
Elvis (Warner Bros)
The Inspection (A24)