Sat. Sep 26th, 2020

Final 2020 Oscar Predictions – ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

The screenplay categories, and especially original, have the widest range of winners across the multiple precursors leading up to the Oscar of any field in recent history. Before you do anything, scroll down and check out the chart of precursors and you’ll find that not a single film was able to run the entire season for Original Screenplay. Four got very close, but missed out on one before winning the Oscar.

Like adapted screenplay, this has come down to a two-horse race with little chance of a surprise outside of that. BAFTA and WGA winner Parasite and Critics Choice and Golden Globe winner Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will fight for this, and fight hard. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood enjoyed a short-lived status last fall as the Oscar frontrunner not only here but also in Best Picture. Then Parasite came. Then Knives Out. Then 1917. And the hopes for Quentin Tarantino to win a record-tying third Original Screenplay Oscar (he’d join Woody Allen there) seemed to start to dim. Then the Golden Globes raised it back up with three big wins; Best Picture (Comedy or Musical), Supporting Actor and Screenplay. The very next week Critics Choice did the exact same, putting QT back in the driver’s seat…for a little while.

Tarantino isn’t a member of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) so he’s never been nominated there (it was the only thing keeping him from a clean run in 2012 with Django Unchained) so it’s never a ‘snub’ for him there. But it can be an opportunity for someone else and it was. Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won took the WGA for Parasite and, like at SAG when the cast won, the applause that erupted was the biggest of the evening. People love seeing this film win. The pair took this win to BAFTA just last week where they bested QT in their first head to head since the Golden Globes.

Now, there does exist one precedent for a film to win Critics Choice and the Globe and then lose WGA and BAFTA yet still come back to win the Oscar. But, and it’s a big but, that film was 2014’s Birdman and it won the Best Picture Oscar. Interestingly enough, it’s identical to what happened the year before with 12 Years a Slave in adapted screenplay. Is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood going to win Best Picture? Seems pretty unlikely at this stage. That opens the door for Parasite, which is also in better shape for a Best Picture win, to take it. In mixed seasons of precursors the Golden Globe winner only prevails here when the film is winning Best Picture (see Green Book last year), otherwise it stumbles at the end (see Three Billboards, La La Land).

It’s hard to make a case for any of the other three nominees, none of which have managed a single precursor win this season. Although I think Marriage Story is the closest since it has the most precursor nominations going in, if 1917 is the Best Picture winner there is an outside chance for it here but only in a full sweep for the film. War movies, while they’ve often won Best Picture, don’t often win screenplay prizes. I’ll also drop the same dire stat as I did in Adapted Screenplay: if 1917 loses here (it was co-written by Krysty Wilson-Cairns) we will have gone an entire decade without a female winner in either of the screenplay categories, the first time that’s happened since the 1960s.

Here are my ranked Final Oscar predictions for Original Screenplay with a chart of a decade of related precursors and history.

1. Parasite (Neon)BAFTA, CCA, GG, WGA
2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Sony/Columbia)BAFTA, CCAGG
3. Marriage Story (Netflix)BAFTA, CCA, WGA
4. 1917 (Universal)WGA
5. Knives Out (Lionsgate)BAFTA, CCA, WGA
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