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With mere days to go before Hollywood’s biggest night, what was once an unpredictable race is coming very much into focus…so if you want to stand a chance at winning your Oscar pool, I offer you a few thoughts and a bit of prognostication.

Of course, with my luck, I find myself beginning with two of the most hotly-contested categories. But here goes nothing, beginning with Best Adapted Screenplay.

In a perfect world, INHERENT VICE would have made a greater impression to The Academy. However, the combination of a mixed reaction to its premiere and Warner Brothers all but abandoning it in favour of AMERICAN SNIPER make it a dead duck in this category. Some day P.T. Anderson will win a little gold statue – some day, not Sunday.

There’s an outside chance that AMERICAN SNIPER could get on a bit of a roll Oscar night and capitalize on its box office momentum. It should win one or two tech categories before this award comes up, so a win here might be a sign of bigger things to come…but it’s a slim chance.

THE IMITATION GAME and THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING seem somewhat cut from the same cloth. Both are backed by The Weinstein Company, both of them go back into the English past, both of them centre on geniuses who need to work past limitations. They are both very handsome, with well-bred actors turning in top-tier performances. So one could be forgiven if one thought that the two would cancel each other out and be a non-factor in this category. However, if one of the two is going to rise above the other in this category, my wager is on THE IMITATION GAME.

The film already has a WGA award to its name, and has the timeliness of gay rights on its side.

But then there’s WHIPLASH…

WHIPLASH is in a strange position here as it’s the only time in the entire Oscar run-up that it’s been tapped as an adapted screenplay instead of an original one (blame a wacky Academy rule for that). The interesting thing is that its designation as ‘adapted’ actually puts it into a less-crowded field. Had it been designated as ‘original’ – as it should be, if you ask me – it would be in a five-man slugfest with some pretty amazing scripts. In this category though, it’s handily in the top three…if not the one to beat.

Ryan’s Pick…

WHIPLASH catches an amazingly lucky bounce and takes home its second or third trophy of the night.

As mentioned, the original screenplay category is a battle royale, so let’s try to make it quick and painless.

FOXCATCHER is flat-out overmatched, and while its script has some interesting themes and treatments, its exclusion from the Best Picture category shows that it doesn’t have the love required to elevate it in categories like this. Frye and Futterman should get comfy in their seats.

NIGHTCRAWLER could jump up and grab this prize. It harkens back to the edgy scripts of New Hollywood, was an amazing effort by a screenwriter-turned-director, and is the sort of cutting script that Oscar likes to reward in a category like this. However, one has to think that if NIGHTCRAWLER was going to go home with a bauble, it would have turned up in a few more categories. It’s not “out of it”, but a victory would be surprising.

If BOYHOOD gets on a roll, this could go to Linklater. The overall achievement of the film is so multifaceted, that every craft category might just lay down their swords in its presence – including the writers. In a way that’s a bit puzzling since the film has less ‘a script’ than ‘a structure’…but hey, when was the last time we were able to say that? A win here is quite possible, and it would be a sign of things to come.

BIRDMAN could be in for an interesting night. It could go home with a lot of hardware, or it could go home with scant little. Considering that its writer is also its director, this could be a spot where The Academy honours a director who won’t be winning Best Director later. They’ve done this plenty of times lately – Spike Jonze, Quentin Tarantino, and Woody Allen have taken the last three – and it easily could be Alejandro González Iñárritu that gets added to that list.

The problem with that theory is that four of the five writers in this category are their films’ directors, and if The Academy are in fact going to throw more than one director a cookie, Iñárritu might not quite be where they are aiming.

No, that honour could well go to Wes Anderson – an artist whose film was one of the most nominated titles, and an artist who has already been nominated for writing three times before. The vision of THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is so uniquely his, and it is the culmination of an incredible run of films that began almost twenty years ago. In short, his time has come. The blend of bitter and sweet in this film’s screenplay is a delicate one, and a fitting place to honour the most uniquely visionary of all these scripts. The quality and ferocity of BIRDMAN and BOYHOOD won’t make this an easy win, but in a year that seems to have several frontrunners, this seems to be the easiest place to give this frontrunner an honour.

Ryan’s Pick…

Wes is Best.

Whaddaya think folks? Leave comments with your own thoughts on possibilities and predictions of the Best Screenplay races.