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  • Pierce Budnyj

Oscar Predictions - 2024 (Part 2)

Hello and welcome to the second part of four Oscar Prediction articles. The first two (including this one) are currently available, with Parts Three and Four scheduled to be released a few nights before the ceremony.

This one covers both Adapted Screenplay and Original Screenplay. Part One featured a proper introduction, as well as predictions for the two Supporting Acting categories.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Adapted Screenplay is probably the most contentious of all the Big Eight categories. This has undoubtedly been added to by the questionable, enforced addition of 'Barbie' to this category.

Initially, the film was campaigned for Best Original Screenplay as, theoretically, it is not based on a narrative - it just so happens to feature characters based on dolls created by Mattel. As a result, it has ended up in this category.

This shake-up likely led to the rather surprising snubbing of the script for Martin Scorsese’s 'Killers Of The Flower Moon', which many anticipated to be a front-runner for this category in the early days of the awards season. Many reasons for its snub, beside the category switching of Barbie, have been suggested, including a rather bizarre one that renowned auteur filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson wrote the final draft of the script. What is most likely is that, around the time of nomination, support for 'Killers Of The Flower Moon' was dwindling - something also hinted at by DiCaprio not getting nominated in the end and BAFTA snubbing Scorsese in Best Director.

Out of this selection of nominees, 'The Zone Of Interest' is by far the least likely to actually win and, if anything, is actually quite lucky to be here - considering how many reviews have focused on the directing and the general production of the film, rather than its screenplay. My supposition is that the film was helped in getting nominated here because of the novel’s original author being the beloved Martin Amis (the author of 'Money and London Fields', amongst others), who tragically passed away last year - pretty soon after the Cannes premiere of 'The Zone Of Interest'. What makes this a little strange is that, from my understanding, 'The Zone Of Interest' is VERY loosely based on the original novel. All the same, there stands a very, very small chance of winning.

At one point, many people thought that Yorgos Lanthimos’ eccentric 'Poor Things' would stand a very good chance at winning this category due to its unusual, yet entertaining, dialogue. However, it has not yet won any of the televised awards, which makes it seem unlikely that it will go on to win the Oscar. Though, weirder things have happened.

'Barbie' - the curve ball in this category - could end up winning. The screenplay is amongst the film’s most praised aspects and it would appear that this is a logical place to award the film. It also helps that both Greta Gerwig (the film’s celebrated director) and her husband, Noah Baumbach (another celebrated auteur, probably best known for doing 'Marriage Story'), are nominated here. This could be an opportunity for the Oscars to acknowledge their talents, but the category switch-up does make this a bit tricky to predict. 'Barbie' did win the Critics’ Choice award for Best Original Screenplay, but that’s with a completely different line-up of films.

On paper, 'Oppenheimer' seems like an easy pick to win here. It’s a chance to award the film’s director, Christopher Nolan, with an award for his screenwriting talents, it’s the biggest film of the year and, unlike 'Barbie' or 'The Zone Of Interest', it is more obviously an adaptation of a written work. There are complications, though. These are mainly that the film’s screenplay is probably one of its most criticised elements, with many not being huge fans of the way in which Christopher Nolan writes female characters. Additionally, being a clear front-runner, at this stage, for Best Picture might not help it. At the 2021 ceremony, 'Nomadland' was expected by many to be the front-runner for Adapted Screenplay, due to it being the film expected to win both Best Picture and Best Director. However, the Oscars ended up spreading the love a little and gave the Adapted Screenplay award to Florian Zeller’s 'The Father'. Much like 'Oppenheimer', 'Nomadland'’s script, although praised by many and winning many critics awards, was not necessarily the film’s most well-regarded aspect. Therefore I am currently predicting something similar to occur this year.

The film that I would consider most likely to win the award is Cord Jefferson’s 'American Fiction' - a film that many pundits hadn’t even considered for the Oscars, prior to its release at the Toronto Film Festival. It’s a film that has sort of gatecrashed the awards season and has succeeded in over-performing throughout. It even managed to win Best Adapted Screenplay at BAFTA and the Critics' Choice Awards, which many had not anticipated. It is also probably helped by being the most overtly literary out of all the nominated films, with its witty screenplay being one of its most well-regarded aspects.

I would say 'American Fiction' is a very good bet to win this category, but not necessarily a lock. Keep a keen eye to watch out for 'Oppenheimer' and 'Barbie', in particular - both having obvious potential to steal the award.

Likelihood Ranking:

1. American Fiction (65%)

2. Oppenheimer (20%)

3. Barbie (12.5%)

4. Poor Things (2%)

5. The Zone Of Interest (0.5%)

Best Original Screenplay

This category, like Adapted, is less resolved and 'locked in' than the Supporting Acting

categories I talked about in Part One. However, unlike Adapted Screenplay, there does appear to

be a very clear and hard-to-dispute front-runner here.

Justine Triet’s 'Anatomy of a Fall' had been a question mark in the grand scheme of this year’s awards season ever since it was snubbed for 'The Taste Of Things' as France’s submission for the Best International Feature category. The reason for this has been questioned by many, but it possibly has something to do with the film featuring significantly more English than most films submitted for the 'International Film' category usually do. However, it has impressively rebounded at the televised awards, with Triet even attaining a surprising Best Director nomination, fending off bigger and more established names (at least in Hollywood) like Bradley Cooper, Greta Gerwig and Alexander Payne. It now appears that this is the category in which the film will be rewarded for being one of the most well-regarded of the year. It, perhaps unsurprisingly, won at BAFTA, which often rewards more international films, such as last year - where 'All Quiet on the Western Front' won Best Film to major upset. However, more impressively, it won Best Screenplay at the Golden Globes, facing off Adapted Screenplay candidates that included 'Oppenheimer' and 'Poor Things', due to the Globes streamlining the two screenplay categories into one. The only televised award it failed to win was the Critics' Choice for Best Original Screenplay, where it ended up being beaten by 'Barbie' - which ended up being transferred to Adapted Screenplay. This is seemingly fairly locked.

That does not rule out the chance for an upset, however...

Early in the race, many suspected that 'The Holdovers' might well be the front-runner. It even appeared that, with a combined win-count of both Da’Vine Joy Randolph for Supporting Actress and Original Screenplay, that it could well be a contender for Best Picture. Of course, this didn’t happen, but it doesn’t mean that it’s totally out of the question for it to win here. But it is now extremely unlikely, in spite of it racking up sixteen wins with critics' guilds.

Similarly, 'Maestro' and 'May December' do not really stand a real chance at winning.

'May December' seems notably unlikely, having received no other nominations. There hasn’t been a film that has won Adapted Screenplay and not been nominated for Best Picture since the lineup for the latter category expanded to more than five nominees every year. Having said that, it’s pretty surprising, in some ways, that a film like 'May December', which was so critically acclaimed, was directed by a reasonably well-known director, is easily accessible on Netflix (in America) and has two very well-known lead actresses ended up performing so poorly in comparison to how it performed at the Golden Globes and at many critics’ guilds. Many have suggested that this could have been caused by the film’s disturbing subject matter and dark sense of humour. Others have suggested it is due to the film just falling out of the zeitgeist. Most significantly, there has been the suggestion that, because one of the people whom the film is mutely based on is not thrilled with the final product, the taste of the film has been soured. And I’d agree that it’s certainly part of the reason... But, in my opinion, the most likely reason for the film’s decline is that it’s only available on Netflix in America. The point of decline for the film was when the BAFTA long-lists were released, and it received only a single mention... I think it’s also probably worth reiterating that these are long-lists, where ten nominations per category are included. A likely factor in this under-performance is, more than likely, that the film is currently only accessible in the UK via Sky Cinema and only received a very, very fleeting cinematic release schedule - similar to Netflix’s approach for their streaming movies. And, let’s be honest, most people don’t have Sky Cinema. I got a chance to see this over Christmas, at about two o’clock in the morning, but that’s another story for another time and, irrespective of my own experience, I just don’t think most people saw this film. In terms of 'shocking', 'deranged' movies, it probably got overshadowed by the more divisive 'Saltburn'.

'Maestro' - Bradley Cooper’s simultaneously well-regarded and reviled Oscar-bait vehicle - has, like 'May December', dwindled in its repute since the start of the awards season. Initially, many thought it could well be a major player and stood a good chance to win in several categories... I’ll get more into the reasons why when I cover Best Actor in Part Three, but the film has clearly not clicked with many people and, in many ways, it is a miracle that it's even been nominated here. This is, by far, the least likely film to actually win this category. Recently, at the WGA Awards, it wasn’t even nominated. Instead, it was snubbed in favour of Ben Affleck’s 'Air' - a film that was, prior to the 'Barbenheimer' craze, looking to be a potentially major contender - which is arguably a pretty funny conclusion to 'Maestro'’s awards chances.

The one film that I genuinely believe has a decent shot at potentially taking out 'Anatomy Of A Fall' and winning Best Original Screenplay for itself is Celine Song’s 'Past Lives'. However, as I am writing this, the Independent Spirit Awards just came out and, although 'Song' won Best Director, she lost the Screenplay category to 'American Fiction'. Now, that might be indicative of very little, due to 'American Fiction'’s script being in a different category at the Oscars, but a good speech and some good ink about 'Past Lives'’ screenplay could have given it a bit more of an edge. As it stands, I’d argue there is the potential for 'Past Lives' to win this category in a way not dissimilar to 'Women Talking' last year. Like that film, 'Past Lives'’ only other nomination, outside of a Screenplay one, is for Best Picture. And, like that film, it is currently leading the amount of total wins from various organisations for Original Screenplay with seventeen. Admittedly, 'Women Talking' had pretty unconvincing competition, with its most likely runner-up being 'All Quiet on the Western Front' - a war film that was generally more praised for its directorial stylings than its screenplay - and 'Glass Onion' - the mildly underwhelming follow-up to 'Knives Out'. I’m not saying 'Past Lives' is going to win, but its the most likely runner-up, I’d wager...

Likelihood Ranking:

1. Anatomy Of A Fall (92.5%)

2. Past Lives (5%)

3. The Holdovers (2.3%)

4. May December (0.2%)

5. Maestro (0%)


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