Juno, Written by Diablo Cody
Lars and the Real Girl, Written by Nancy Oliver
Michael Clayton, Written by Tony Gilroy
Ratatouille, Screenplay by Brad Bird; Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
The Savages, Written by Tamara Jenkins
Many people are saying this race is over. It probably is, but let's take a look at it anyway. Convince ourselves that there is no way the frontrunner will lose. This past decade the WGA has matched with the Oscar 5/7 (missing in '00 and '02). It's 7/10 in the last ten (also missed in '97). Juno won the WGA this year and it's the script to beat right now.
Diablo Cody for Juno is clearly the frontrunner for this race. Everyone loves the script, the movie, and her. It's the film everyone is cheering for and it's hard not to like her in this race. Juno done a great job of mixing comedy with drama. Its dialogue is a little too quirky at times, but I'll let it slide. This script has a lot of heart and I think that is what people love about it so much. Diablo is a first time nominee, but she is quickly establishing herself as one of Hollywood's hottest writers. An Oscar should only add to her reputation.
Nancy Oliver for Lars and the Real Girl is in a tough position. It's also an indie, but it never really latched on. It's the film's only nomination and it's Oliver's first. I passed on a chance to see this film at the Boston Film Festival back in September, but from what I read it seems like an intriguing premise.
Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton is really the only other real contender in this race. Back at the beginning of the award season, it seemed like Gilroy would win this category. Now, it seems like he is in trouble. Clayton done a good job of twisting and turning with a political thriller. It's a well crafted script. This is his first nomination, but Gilroy has been around. He has written The Bourne trilogy, Armageddon, and The Devil's Advocate to name a few. Watch out for the veteran vote for him, but I don't think that will be enough.
Brad Bird for Ratatouille wrote a charming script. Yeah, it's an animation, but who cares? This film is just a great story and it has a lot of compassion. The problem is that I don't think it can stand next to either Juno or Michael Clayton. People still prefer live action over animation when voting for these categories. I could be wrong, but I don't think an animation has ever won in the screenplay category. Bird, a first time nominee, will probably just settle for an Oscar in the Best Animated Feature category, which he should win.
Tamara Jenkins with The Savages is the third indie screenplay nominated in this category. Like Lars and the Real Girl, it's in a tough position. I can't see it getting votes over Juno or Michael Clayton. I haven't seen this film, but it strikes me as a movie I want to see. Hopefully, Tamara uses this nomination as motivation to get back here in the future.
On Oscar night, it will be a battle between Juno and Michael Clayton. Some people want to say Juno is a lock and I say it's damn close. I still worry about Tony Gilroy since he is the only veteran writer of the bunch. He could sneak in there, but the veteran vote probably won't be enough.
Another thing to consider is that this and the Adapted Screenplay Oscar tend to work as consolation prizes for Best Picture. It's worked that way for Lost in Translation, Sideways, and Brokeback Mountain to name a few recent examples. I know both of the serious contenders are up for Best Picture, but people seem like they want to give it to Juno since that film will not take home the top prize. That could leave Michael Clayton empty-handed or it could win another Oscar (check back next week to see what category I'm talking about).
Check back tomorrow as I look at another Oscar category.