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2011 Oscar Predictions: Best Original Screenplay

Before I get into my prediction picks and second best choices for Best Original Screenplay, here are some titles that are worth mentioning and that I think are on the outsides looking in. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Biutiful (how will he do without Guillermo Arriaga as his wingman?), Mark Heyman and Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (I think the Academy will find the title too risque)…

Before I get into my prediction picks and second best choices for Best Original Screenplay, here are some titles that are worth mentioning and that I think are on the outsides looking in. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Biutiful (how will he do without Guillermo Arriaga as his wingman?), Mark Heyman and Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (I think the Academy will find the title too risqué), Gregory Bernstein and James D. Solomon’s The Conspirator (there’s going to have to be some blistering court room scenes, and intense dialogue), Will Reiser’s I’m with Cancer (might not even be released this year if Summit finds a hit in The Beaver – both are top tier Black List scripts), Michael Arndt’s Toy Story 3 (will the voters still be enthusiastic about Woody and Buzz?), Marcus Hinchey and Marc Smerling’s All Good Things (I’m looking forward in seeing which distributor will come and rescue this film), Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right (it’ll need a strong critical push just like what happened in Sundance) Norman Snider’s Casino Jack (I think there is only one place for a political scandal to be better served by Fair Game), Jason Lew’s Restless and I’m not including the Oscar winning scribe Dustin Lance Black’s What’s Wrong with Virginia – but look forward in seeing how it’ll enter into the mix.

Again, the image above is my pick for who’ll win in the category. 

Leigh, Killen, Coppola, Malick, peter morgan

The Five Noms:

Mike Leigh for Another Year 
Comments: As usual, we’ll have to wait until the pre-festival synopsis to get word on what this latest Mike Leign entales, so I’m going with his track record of four previous nominations (Secrets & Lies, Topsy-Turvy, Vera Drake and Happy-Go-Lucky) with this prediction. If this is a strong improv outing for Leigh, we might as well add a fifth nom.

Kyle Killen for The Beaver
Comments: Top screenplay of 2008’s Black List, I’m wondering how Jodie Foster translated a first-timer’s script onto film? Will people buy Mel Gibson with a hand puppet? Will it be dismissed as another Lars and the Real Girl? If it hits the right emotional cords, my guess is it’ll be a surprise sleeper hit, but Summit has their work cut out for them.

Peter Morgan for Hereafter
Comments: Previously nominated for The Queen and Frost/Nixon, it’ll be another great year for Morgan who has more behind the scenes Tony Blair  with The Special Relationship, but the script that should receive the most buzz is the year-end thriller directed by Eastwood.

Sofia Coppola for Somewhere
Comments: A previous winner for Best Original Screenplay (Lost in Translation), my thinking is that hotel rooms and celebrity are domains that Coppola knows well. A lot will have to do with the strategy Focus Features has in store for the film. 

Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life
Comments: I’ve heard that Malick (who wasn’t nominated once before in this category for The Thin Red Line) has been working on this since he completed Days of Heaven. Some industry folk who’ve read the screenplay call it ambitious in scope and compare the parts that have nothing to do with 1950’s America with Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

The Dark Horse Picks:

Pamela Gray for Betty Anne Waters
Comments: I’m thinking that the scribe behind A Walk on the Moon and Music of the Heart has penned what will be an audience favorite, and I think those at Fox Searchlight who picked up the title might sense that as well. 

Derek Cianfrance for Blue Valentine 
Comments: Having worked on the script for dozen years, Cianfrance manages to make the mundane events in couplehood feel pertinent and compelling – this only gets amplified by the Gosling/Williams combo. It’ll have the support from the Gotham Awards and Spirits. 

Phil Johnston for Cedar Rapids
Comments: Another title that Fox Searchlight will decide whether its fate belongs to 2010 or 2011 slate, the Miguel Arteta directed dramedy was a Black List finalist for 2009 (#5). Ed Helms’ character will need to a well-written player sort of the likable Nicholson was in About Schmidt.

Paul Attanasio and Lewis Colick for The Fighter
Comments: Attanasio is a two-time Oscar nominee for his work in Quiz Show and Donnie Brasco, but I think the success of the film will depend on the kind of campaign Paramount mounts — they have True Grit waiting in the wings.

Christopher Nolan for Inception 
Comments: Convoluted or conceptual, this year’s big budget film will have to be as ingenious as Nolan’s best work was with Memento (for which he received his only screenwriting nom).   

Woody Allen for You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
Comments: I think fans know what to expect with this ensemble pic in terms of tone and quality (Allen has been nominated fourteen times before for his writing), but much like Mike Leigh, Allen has been tightlipped about the make-up of this film.

Here are my other predictions so far in the categories of: Best CinematographyBest Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor. Of course, I’d like to know your thoughts & let us know what you think might be missing.

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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