Generally, the Best Screenplay categories are filled with Best Picture hopefuls and, when there is room, one or two “honorable mention” choices. These are films that don’t necessarily get the love they might deserve in other categories, but the WGA and the Academy want to honor their merits in some way.
In the Original Screenplay category, this is something like The Big Sick or 20th Century Women. Both are great films that could have competed in other categories, but for one reason or another didn’t quite make the cut. For whatever reason, the screenwriting branch seems to be more forgiving of these clever little films.
- If Beale Street Could Talk
- Can You Ever Forgive Me?
- The Death of Stalin
- A Star is Born
In the Mix:
- Leave No Trace
- Black Panther
- First Man
There is really only one spot in the top five that remains up in the air.
Barring something out of the ordinary coming up in the WGA nominations, Beale Street, Blackkklansman, and Can You Ever Forgive Me? seem locked in. All three seem likely candidates for the WGA. Even if a film like Beale Street has uncertain Oscar chances in all categories, what feels like an inevitable WGA nomination should translate into an Oscar nod.
A Star is Born is less primed for a WGA nod, but it is a probable outcome given the competition. Even if it doesn’t land that, it is an Oscar vehicle through-and-through. The only thing going against it is that it is a remake, something that doesn’t always fare well during awards season. But it is the darling hit of the year (a la La La Land), so I would suspect it will show up.
The fifth spot has a few dark horse contenders. Although it is not a heavy contender this year, I like the look of The Death of Stalin. Armando Iannucci’s In the Loop received a nomination in this category in 2010, and his show Veep has won three WGA awards. If The Death of Stalin sneaks into the WGA race, then it will be sitting in a good spot going into the Oscar nominations.
That said, Leave No Trace is a critically beloved movie that hasn’t been receiving its share of awards season attention. But its screenplay is something that the WGA may turn to to fill its fifth slot. It may not be the type of film that is in the Oscars’ wheel-house (too indie and underseen), but it is a perfect fit for a Best Screenplay nod of recognition.
Black Panther and First Man are question marks to me. First Man just doesn’t appear to be enough of a contender to break out of the technical awards that it is currently vying for. And Black Panther is a big blockbuster film; it’s not exactly the type of movie that usually shows up in a Best Screenplay category.
I’m just going off of Gold Derby for those two, as they both have, according to those prognosticators, 16/1 odds of sneaking into the Oscar nominations. But I find it hard to believe that either would overtake The Death of Stalin, Leave No Trace, or Widows.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)