The screenplay categories have been a roller coaster that no one could have imagined with precursors for adapted split amongst three films: CODA, The Lost Daughter and The Power of the Dog. Pre-season, The Power of the Dog was an early crowned frontrunner as an easy win for Jane Campion, a previous winner for original screenplay (for 1993’s The Piano) but as the season progressed it lost its balance in the face of non-Best Picture nominee The Lost Daughter winning USC Scripter and the recent rise of CODA, which won BAFTA against the exact same films nominated for the Oscar and WGA (against non-Oscar nominated films, save Dune). A win for CODA here, as an American remake of a non-English language film, would be quite extraordinary and be a sign that it’s on a path to an almost unprecedented Best Picture win. While I recognize the recent surge of CODA I’m sticking with what I’ve predicted all along, The Power of the Dog, largely because there are some major history stats potentially breaking in Best Picture and Best Director unless Campion wins here.
Original Screenplay might be even more fractured and strange as not have three films here also split the precursors, but two of the nominees have such strong narratives as multi-nominees without wins. Kenneth Branagh (Belfast) has eight Academy Award nominations in seven different categories, an Oscar record, and is nominated both here as well as for Best Director and Best Picture. Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza) has 11 Academy Award nominations, including the same three as Branagh this year. Those are both super strong narratives but they can’t both come to fruition. Since neither are winning Best Director, it will come down to this. While neither is also likely to win Best Picture, Belfast has a stronger case by virtue of having more nominations, including two acting, than Licorice Pizza. In looking at the types of films that win here, especially if it’s a sole win for the film, Belfast seems a very strange choice. Licorice Pizza makes more sense as a ‘type,’ auteurs often have an edge here, but is this where the Academy finally recognizes PTA, for a film with just three nominations and nothing below the line? Will The Worst Person in the World leech some high brow/international votes that would normally go to him? I’m leaning to Belfast purely for those extra nominations and because for a quite some time it was a BP frontrunner alongside The Power of the Dog.
But…what about Don’t Look Up? The screenplay beat Licorice Pizza at WGA this weekend in what many felt was a surprise. Sure, Adam McKay is a previous winner there and as an exec producer on HBO’s wildly successful series Succession (which won two WGAs on the same weekend) and PTA having never won there, it kind of makes sense. Is it strong enough to come from behind and be the Oscar winner? In a strange way, it makes a certain amount of symbiotic sense; it keeps the never-won narrative status for both Branagh and Anderson to fight another day, and likely not against each other, and the Academy has already given McKay an Oscar for writing (for 2015’s The Big Short, in adapted). It could happen, especially in this upside down season.
Something to think about, with these scattered wins, the best shot in the last 20 years has come from the film that only won WGA, not BAFTA and not the Globe. If there’s a spoiler here – or something that’s been right in front of us all along – it’s Don’t Look Up.
Here are my final Oscar predictions for Adapted Screenplay and Original Screenplay.
- The Power of the Dog – Jane Campion (Netflix) – GG, CCA, BAFTA, USC
- CODA – Siân Heder (Apple Original Films) – CCA, BAFTA, WGA
- The Lost Daughter – Maggie Gyllenhaal (Netflix) – CCA, BAFTA, USC
- Drive My Car – Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe (Sideshow/Janus Films) – BAFTA
- Dune – Denis Villeneuve, Jon Spaihts, Eric Roth (Warner Bros/HBO Max) – CCA, BAFTA, USC, WGA
- Belfast – Kenneth Branagh (Focus Features) – GG, CCA, BAFTA
- Don’t Look Up – Adam McKay, David Sirota (Netflix) – GG, CCA, BAFTA, WGA
- Licorice Pizza – Paul Thomas Anderson (MGM/UAR) – GG, CCA, BAFTA, WGA
- King Richard – Zach Baylin (Warner Bros/ HBO Max) – CCA, BAFTA, WGA
- The Worst Person in the World – Eskil Vogt, Joachim Trier (NEON)