Oscar Watch: Predicting Best Screenplay

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When it comes to predicting the Best Adapted Screenplay category and the Best Original Screenplay nominees, one thing struck Movie Fanatic's Oscar watch when the Academy Award nominations were announced: This was one great year.

After the less than terrific year that was 2011, 2012 came on like a hurricane with terrific scripts, both original and based on previously published material. The result was a clear victory for audiences demanding stories that challenge the soul and spirit. So, without further ado... let's look at who will win the writers' prizes at this year's Oscars.

Best Original Screenplay

We think the clear favorite to take home his second Oscar (after penning those great Pulp Fiction quotes) in this category is Quentin Tarantino for his work on Django Unchained. As the Academy awarded him Best Original Screenplay for a great film with Pulp Fiction, they will do the same with Django Unchained. Although they (at least not yet) will not award one of his films the highest honor of Best Picture, this is the Academy's way of commending a stellar writer for outstanding work.

Django Unchained Photo: Tarantino

Probably the writer with the best chance of upsetting Tarantino is Wes Anderson for his stellar screenplay Moonrise Kingdom that he wrote with Roman Coppola. As we stated in our Moonrise Kingdom review, the film is a wildly original story with a heart of gold. The work showed by Anderson illustrates why he is one of our best writer-directors working. And what an original story... a coming of age love story, set in the early 1960s, with the most unique cast of characters.

The surprise nomination in this category, but completely worthy, is John Gatins for Flight. The way he weaves complex morality issues in a story that is still wildly entertaining is a pure marvel. We look forward to more outstanding work from Gatins in the future... he will be back and one day take the Dolby Theatre stage to accept his own Oscar. Check out the Flight trailer and it is amazing how they capture Gatins' themes in a few short minutes.

Denzel Washington Stars in Flight

The "just glad to be nominated" award this year for Best Original Category goes to Amour writer Michael Hanake, also a Best Director nominee. Hanake will have to be satisfied with the Best Foreign Language Film Oscars... it's Amour's to lose. Intrigued by this German-Austrian film? Read the Amour quotes and see why this film is capturing such buzz.

If anyone could pull an upset in this category this year, it is Mark Boal for his vast, thrilling and timely screenplay for Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty. The way he managed to capture a decade-long manhunt by our military and clandestine service is nothing short of stunning. He won this award for his work on The Hurt Locker, but in all honesty... it is unlikely he will repeat.

Best Adapted Screenplay

In an era when so many books are made into films, it could be argued that Best Adapted Screenplay is one tough category. Leading the charge, and the favorite in our minds, is Tony Kushner for Lincoln. Tackling Doris Kearns Goodwin's epic biography of our sixteenth president was no easy task. Kushner did the smart thing and narrowed down his story to the final months of Lincoln's life as he sought to get passage of the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery. It is one of the most beautiful and eloquent scripts we've seen come to life in some time. Honestly, if he doesn't win... it is a crime.

Lincoln Stars Daniel Day Lewis

Close behind for his work adapting a magazine article on the little-known story of six Americans who were smuggled out of Iran in the shadow of the U.S. Embassy takeover is Chris Terrio for Argo. The film crackles with suspense, and that is largely due to the web that Terrio weaves for director Ben Affleck. Looking at the Argo trailer, one can see that this is an epic in the making... but alas, there is the smallest of chances that he wins February 24 when the Oscars are announced.

Lucy Alibar and Behn Zeitlin get the "just glad to be nominated" spot in this category for this brilliant debut work, Beasts of the Southern Wild. When so many films are remakes, sequels or superhero films, this little film became a $100 million-grossing blockbuster and it's easy to see why. The feel, captured in the Beasts of the Southern Wild trailer, is as unique as they come. A little girl, trying to making a go of it with her mentally challenged father as they live in the shadow of catastrophe, is nothing short of brilliant.

Director David O. Russell, also a nominee for Best Director, scored a nod for Best Adapted Screenplay for his work on The Silver Linings Playbook. He said he wrote the film for a family member and that love is seen on every page and every frame of film. Russell will not win, but should take great solace that his words gave all of his lead actors (Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Jacki Weaver) Oscar nominations for acting.

Life of Pi Suraj Sharma

Life of Pi screenwriter David Magee worked with director Ang Lee to do the impossible: He made a movie out of an "unfilmable" book. Simply seeing the Life of Pie trailer and one can see how much that was unspoken had to be inserted into a screenplay. That is no easy challenge and the way Magee took Yann Martel's book and brought it to life is as miraculous as Pi's story itself. 

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