We’re continuing on with our weeklong preview of the upcoming 85th Academy Awards, and after running down both acting categories it’s time to take look at some of the other races. Today we’ll be looking at the Best Animated Feature, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Screenplay categories in depth, and I’ll also make some way-too-early quick picks in the technical categories. The fun begins after the jump.
Best Animated Feature
Likely to Be Nominated:
- Wreck-It Ralph
- Rise of the Guardians
- Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
The Best Animated Feature race is a little all over the place at the moment. Many were expecting a frontrunner to emerge in the way of DreamWorks Animation’s Rise of the Guardians, but that film has received a much more mixed reception that most were expecting. The film is still likely to nab a nomination, though, as is Pixar’s Brave even though most agree the fairy tale isn’t exactly in the same league as many of the studio’s other films. It’s still leagues better than Cars 2, but that’s not really saying much.
Surprisingly, the closest thing we have to a frontrunner right now may be Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie. Though the film’s box office isn’t spectacular, it was warmly received by critics and generally liked overall by most who saw it. For my money, Laika’s ParaNorman is the best of the bunch, but it may be edged out by Frankenweeenie if voters are remiss to include two “Halloween” movies on their ballots.
Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph is a safe bet for a nomination as well, and also has a decent shot at the win. It nabbed quite a few high marks from critics and a hefty box office total of $159 million. Also in the mix is DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, which netted the best reviews and highest box office of any film in the franchise thus far.
Best Adapted Screenplay
- Tony Kushner – Lincoln
Likely to Be Nominated:
- Chris Terrio – Argo
- David O. Russell – Silver Linings Playbook
- Behn Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar – Beasts of the Southern Wild
- David Magee – Life of Pi
- William Nicholson – Les Miserables
- Ben Lewin – The Sessions
- Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Phillipa Boyens – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
- Judd Apatow – This Is 40
- Steven Chbosky – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
As many are expecting a big Oscar night for Lincoln, screenwriter/playwright Tony Kushner’s script for the Steven Spielberg film is undoubtedly a major contender here. The language in Lincoln is splendid, and much of the pic’s success is owed to Kushner’s magnificent screenplay given that the film is an incredibly talky drama that mostly takes place in rooms full of people. Kushner manages to make a story about political process wildly engaging, funny, and even thrilling, so I expect him to be this category’s primary frontrunner once nominations are announced.
Chris Terrio’s nail-biting script for Argo is also a big player in this category, and I imagine he’ll be singled out for skillfully blending the film’s lighter, Hollywood side with the dramatic hostage crisis. David O. Russell also looks poised to land another screenwriting nomination for Best Picture hopeful Silver Linings Playbook, but one of the more interesting contenders here is Behn Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar’s wonderful screenplay for Beasts of the Southern Wild. The tiny-budget drama is a magnificent piece of filmmaking due in large part to Zeitlin and Alibar’s fascinatingly original script, and it has a very good shot at netting a Best Screenplay nom.
The adaptation of Life of Pi could draw notice for its script given that the source novel was considered “unfilmable,” and it’s wise to consider Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Phillipa Boyens for The Hobbit given that they were previously nominated for penning The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King, winning the award for the latter. It’s also smart to keep an eye on Judd Apatow for This Is 40. The Academy recognized Bridesmaids in the Original Screenplay category last year, and Apatow was previously nominated by the Writers Guild of America for his The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up screenplays.
For my For Your Consideration pick, I’d like to single out Stephen Chbosky’s adaptation of his own novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Adapting a book as beloved as this was a hard enough task as is, but Chbosky made it that much more difficult by tackling the screenplay himself. He brilliantly translated the essence of the novel to the screen, making some pleasantly surprising alterations and additions that enhanced the book’s themes and even enriched a few characters in the feature film version. We’ve seen countless uninspired “translations” of books to screen in the past few years (ahem, Twilight), and I applaud Chbosky for recognizing the need to make changes when turning a book into a movie. Chbosky crafted not only one of the best films of the year, but he also turned in one of the best book-to-film adaptations in a long, long time.
Best Original Screenplay
- Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola – Moonrise Kingdom
- Michael Haneke – Amour
Likely to Be Nominated:
- Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained
- Paul Thomas Anderson – The Master
- Mark Boal – Zero Dark Thirty
- John Gatins – Flight
- Ava DuVernay – Middle of Nowhere
- Rian Johnson – Looper
- Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon – The Cabin in the Woods
The Original Screenplay category is a bit tougher to parse out at the moment, but there are a few clear major contenders that stand out from the rest of the pack. Wes Anderson made one of the best films of his career with this year’s delightfully charming Moonrise Kingdom, and the film’s crackerjack screenplay by Anderson and Roman Coppola will undoubtedly be one of this year’s nominees in the category.
Also at the top of the pile is Michael Heneke’s script for his devastating drama Amour. The film is an incredibly tough watch, but it’s been hailed as one of the best films of 2012 for quite some time now (it won the Cannes Palm d’Or back in May), so look for it to be a major contender in the Original Screenplay category.
Sight unseen, it’s pretty safe to say that Quentin Tarantino will find himself among the nominees for Django Unchained. The guy just doesn’t make bad movies, and depending on how things shake out he might pull off his first Oscar win since taking home the Best Original Screenplay trophy in 1995 for Pulp Fiction.
Another living legend, Paul Thomas Anderson, should also land among the nominees for his The Master screenplay. Even though the film has gathered a rather polarizing response, Anderson’s talent is unlikely to be overlooked. It’s shocking to think that the guy behind Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood has yet to win an Academy Award, but it’s entirely possible that he could find himself standing at the podium come Oscar night.
The last time Mark Boal wrote a screenplay he won an Oscar, and he’s reteamed with his The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty so look for him to be a major player in this category as well. We’ll have a better idea of his chances of winning once the film screens for critics, but he’s already talked extensively about the lengths to which he and Bigelow went to maintain accuracy when dramatizing the hunt for Osama bin Laden. I also don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for Rian Johnson to nab a nomination for his refreshingly original sci-fi film Looper. The pic was incredibly well-received by critics, and I’m really hoping it picks up some steam this awards season.
When I see the words Best Original Screenplay, one of the first 2012 films that comes to mind is my For Your Consideration pick for this category: Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s The Cabin in the Woods. The duo turned the horror genre entirely on its head with a brilliantly fresh genre film that was packed to the brim with humor and smarts. I know it’s a very long shot for a nomination, but when running down the best original screenplays of the year, I don’t see how it’s possible to leave this one out.
The technical categories are tricky enough to predict just before Oscar night, so in lieu of running down each category by frontrunners, likely nominations, and other contenders, I’ve simply listed four or five picks that are currently a part of the conversation. A lot can change between now and when the nominations are announced, so don’t be surprised if the end result is a tad different.
Many of the categories will be easier to parse out once the official list of eligible contenders is released. The Original Score category is particularly difficult to weigh in on as there are many strange rules that keep some worthy scores from being eligible to compete. Nevertheless, here’s a look at some of the contenders:
- Michael Kahn – Lincoln
- William Goldenberg – Argo
- Jay Cassidy – Silver Linings Playbook
- Peter McNulty – The Master
- Cloudio Miranda – Life of Pi
- Roger Deakins – Skyfall
- Robert Richardson – Django Unchained
- Mihai Malaimare Jr. – The Master
- Les Miserables
- The Dark Knight Rises
- The Dark Knight Rises
- The Avengers
- Dario Marianelli – Anna Karenina
- Tom Tykwer, Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek – Cloud Atlas
- Behn Zeitlin, Dan Romer – Beasts of the Southern Wild
- John Williams – Lincoln
- Life of Pi
- Cloud Atlas
- The Avengers
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Foreign Language Film
- Amour – Austria
- The Intouchables – France
- No – Chile
- A Royal Affair – Denmark
- The House I Live In
- The Central Park Five
- West of Memphis
That’s it for today’s run of Oscar categories. Check back tomorrow for our final installment of Oscar Preview 2013 when we take a look at the big ones: Best Picture and Best Director.