Oscars Watch 2017: The Less-Depressing Campaign: Best Original and Adapted Screenplay + A Few Awards Start To Shape The Race

Alright, folks, it’s only been a week, but we’ve got a goodly bit of ground to cover. Let’s start with a delayed bit of talk before we move into the first injection of some actual motion in this race in a little bit.

BEST ORIGINAL AND ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

So, this is another one of those categories that tends to be Best Picture-lite. If you look at the list down below, it’s pretty much my Best Picture list with a couple switch-ups. Only one film isn’t going to make that list by the end of this article anyway, so basically The Lobster is the odd man out.

It’s because we tend to look at the Screenplay category as an extension of what we look for in Best Picture. Coherent and interesting films as a whole must have well-done blueprints right? The only difference tends to be if a film was just a little too weird or off-putting for larger audiences, but the screenwriters could recognize the work and power that went into it in the writing process. But most of the time, it looks like this, it’s pretty much just choosing which ones end up getting the nod and which ones the Academy didn’t think were about the screenplay.

By the way, quick rules note. Original means that it’s not based on previously published material, Adapted means it is based on previously published material. Moonlight is a tricky one because it’s based on a play that’s currently not published or widely performed, so it does qualify for Original, which is where it’s being campaigned.

Original:

Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
The Lobster

Real quick, La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, and Moonlight are the obvious ones. These are the three that are the center of this race right now and the three that are going to end up sharing the bulk of the fights up and down the categories. So, easy enough.

Hell or High Water’s tight and focused genre work combined with the smarter and subtler bits of its political message makes it an obvious choice for screenplay, as so much of that strength is in the way the dialogue and relationships reveal themselves.

The Lobster is your odd man out. But the recent LAFCA win makes me a little more inclined to believe in it. It’s a weird, quirky little thing with a lot of impressive metaphor work and some truly unique character and dialogue choices. There’s always a bone thrown to movies like this (think Nightcrawler), so I could see this being the one.

Adapted: 

Arrival
Fences
Hidden Figures
Lion
Silence

Again, same deal, these are all Best Picture nominees and I think there’s gonna be enough conflation of the qualities of the film and the script that there won’t end up really being too much variation. These are just the ones that are big script contenders.

If you ask me, this is Arrival’s best chance at recognition. The difficulty of the structure of this film as well as its smart handling of a whole lot of emotional resonance and hard science is actually impressive, and seeing a film like this get an honest shot at an Oscar would be great.

THE FIRST AWARDS

It’s the official beginnings of Awards Season, as we got the first set of awards. So, let’s just start with a few links below, listing the four biggest awardings over the past week or so.

LAFCA
NYFCC
Gotham
National Board of Review

So, the big trends?

  • Two wins for Moonlight, one for La La Land, one for Manchester By The Sea.
  • Barry Jenkins has won every Best Director awarded (Gotham doesn’t award Best Director).
  • Isabelle Huppert has won 3 of the Best Actress awards so far, being double-awarded for Elle and Things to Come in two of those.
  • Most are giving different screenplay, but Manchester by The Sea is in the top conversation most of the time.
  • Casey Affleck is owning the Best Actor race, only losing at LAFCA (where he was still runner-up). I’m curious if some of the sexual harassment will start to hit him come the later races.
  • Mahershala Ali and Michelle Williams getting those Best Supporting awards. Sounds about right.
  • NBR is the biggest outlier here, but they’ve always been. I think NBR was a lot of what propelled Fury Road’s momentum last year, but nothing shocking enough to really get it going.
  • Fences and Silence, the biggest late game question marks in this race, are getting pretty much shafted. LAFCA and NBR and NYFCC all saw them, but minus a runner-up Supporting Actor (for Issey Ogata) and a Script award at NBR both for Silence, nothing yet.

Now, minus some momentum shifts, these awards probably won’t have terribly much overall effect on things. Remember, it was mostly critics voting so far, who aren’t voting in the Oscars (mostly). This is a temperature of the room thing, what the intelligentsia is thinking. The actual campaigning is just ramping up, the bigger awards are still to come. Most importantly, most of the major films haven’t had time to sit yet. La La Land isn’t out broader and Fences and Silence still won’t be out until the end of this month.

While I expect Moonlight, Manchester, and La La Land to be your trio of competitors for the year, that could change as it moves away from the critical conversation. These are critics’ films, so we’ll see how it goes when it goes broader.

But this does give us a little more idea how things are looking, which means…

UPDATED CATEGORY CALLS

Best Picture:
Arrival
Fences
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Loving
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
Silence

  • The big switch here is Live by Night for Hell or High Water. Some clear enthusiasm among early voting for the latter film combined with some incredibly tepid subtweet reactions and a lack of desire for anything but tech awards on the part of the former means the switch makes sense for me.

Best Actor:

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Joel Edgerton, Loving
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Tom Hanks, Sully
Denzel Washington, Fences

  • No changes here. I still don’t think we’ll end up seeing Garfield in the main category, Hacksaw Ridge seems to be getting less attention after its release.

Best Supporting Actor:

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Kevin Costner, Hidden Figures
Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
Dev Patel, Lion

  • I know I put Patel in at Lead, but he’s apparently getting campaigned at Supporting because Oscars. Lion seems to be getting a little more love as it expands and there’s enough support that I feel like it needs an Acting Oscar bone. Apparently Patel is amazing, so seems right to slot him in over the “Not Much In The Film” Neeson, if the book is anything to go by.

Best Actress:

Annette Benning, 20th Century Women
Isabelle Huppert, Elle 
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land

  • Take back what I said last time. Part of my confidence in Adams was on the critical love getting her in. I was thinking Cotillard from Two Days, One Night. But it’s become pretty clear that Huppert is the critical darling this year, and she had to take a slot. So out Adams goes. We’ll see how Benning in 20th Century gets out there to see if she gets back in.

Best Supporting Actress: 

Viola Davis, Fences
Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Janelle Monae, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

  • I’m holding this category here. It could change, but nothing seismic for now. Besides, this is still Davis’.

Best Director:

Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Martin Scorsese, Silence
Denzel Washington, Fences

  • Move Washington in. Fences seems already getting him the attention for getting powerful performances out of his actors. Seems like enough to me.

Best Original Song: 

“Runnin'” – Hidden Figures
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream) – La La Land
City of Stars” – La La Land
“How Far I’ll Go” – Moana
I’m Still Here” – Miss Sharon Jones! 

  • The Sharon Jones posthumous vote is gonna be powerful.
  • This is still the EGOT v. Awarding a Musical Battle. Moana v. La La Land.

Best Animated Feature Film:

Finding Dory
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
Sausage Party
Zootopia

  • I haven’t really seen anything to change my mind yet. I want to hold onto my crazy theory until more comes out of The Red Turtle. 

NEXT WEEK: Best Visual Effects!

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