OSCARS 2011: Analysis & Prediction (The Key Categories)

[Film still from Rango]


Screenplay, also commonly known as the script, is the first thing to be accomplished before any film can enter production. From a commercial standpoint, it is the first measure of the film's potential to score in specific markets and demographics. From an artistic standpoint, a good screenplay puts character and story first, and everything else second.

There are adapted and original screenplays. Both are challenging in different ways. An original screenplay affords more freedom and creativity for the screenwriter, though he or she must crack his or her mind to deliver either something that is not cliche, or taking conventional elements to create a fresh and new story.

[Film still from Bridesmaids]

The nominees:

  • THE ARTIST - Michel Hazanavicius
Known for: Nil
  • BRIDESMAIDS - Kristen Wiig, & Annie Mumolo
Known for: Nil
  • MARGIN CALL - J.C. Chandor
Known for: Nil
  • MIDNIGHT IN PARIS - Woody Allen
Known for: Annie Hall (1977), Manhattan (1979), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), Match Point (2005).
  • A SEPARATION - Asghar Farhadi
Known for: Beautiful City (2004), Fireworks Wednesday (2006), About Elly (2009).

 The Academy will pick... Midnight in Paris 
 The Dark Horse is... The Artist 
 My vote will go to... The Artist 

[Film still from Margin Call]

 To be honest, Margin Call has virtually no chance of upstaging the other nominees. The Academy is also unlikely to reward a raunchy all-girls' comedy like BridesmaidsA Separation has an outside chance, but we think that the Academy will reward the Iranian film with the Best Foreign Language Feature Oscar instead. This brings us to The Artist, and Midnight in Paris. The latter has a slight edge, but don't discount The Artist from winning this category en-route to Best Picture.


An adapted screenplay needs to condense the source material (usually a best-selling or acclaimed novel) into a two or three-hour film. The screenwriter needs to know what to leave out, and what must stay, in an attempt to appease both fans of the source material, and the director, who might have a vision that is different from that of the original author. The best screenplays are rewarded for their singular vision, clarity, and how they create unforgettable characters in light of a great story. 

[Film still from Moneyball]

The nominees:

  • THE DESCENDANTS - Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, & Jim Rash
Known for: Election (1999), About Schmidt (2002), Sideways (2004).
  • HUGO - John Logan
Known for: Gladiator (2000), The Last Samurai (2003), The Aviator (2004), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Rango (2011).
  • THE IDES OF MARCH - George Clooney, Grant Heslov, & Beau Willimon
Known for: Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)
  • MONEYBALL - Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, & Stan Chervin
Known for: A Few Good Men (1992), Schindler's List (1993), Gangs of New York (2002), The Social Network (2010), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011).
  • TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY - Bridget O'Connor, & Peter Straughan  
Known for: The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009), The Debt (2010).

 The Academy will pick... The Descendants 
 The Dark Horse is... Moneyball 
 My vote will go to... The Descendants 

[Film still from The Ides of March]

This is arguably the strongest category of the 2012 Oscars, hence it is difficult to predict a clear winner, and a dark horse. Still, we can rule The Ides of March out. The other four nominees are deserving of the award, but we feel that the Academy is likely to give Alexander Payne his consolatory Oscar here for The Descendants. The most difficult source material to adapt is Moneyball, and with Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, and Stan Chervin doing an exceptional job creating a narrative out of a book with almost no narrative at all, it is the best bet for the dark horse spot out of the other three nominees.    



[Film still from A Separation]

The nominees:

  • BULLHEAD - Michael R. Roskam (Belgium)
Known for: Nil
  • FOOTNOTE - Joseph Cedar (Israel)
Known for: Campfire (2004), Beaufort (2007)
  • IN DARKNESS - Agnieszka Holland (Poland)
Known for: Europa Europa (1990), Julie Walking Home (2002)
  • MONSIEUR LAZHAR - Philippe Falardeau (Canada)
Known for: It's Not Me, I Swear! (2008)
  • A SEPARATION - Asghar Farhadi
Known for: Beautiful City (2004), Fireworks Wednesday (2006), About Elly (2009).

 The Academy will pick... A Separation 
 The Dark Horse is... In Darkness 
 My vote will go to... A Separation 

[Film still from In Darkness]

 Quite an easy category to predict with A Separation the clear frontrunner. The only issue is that this category has had its fair share of surprises over the last few years. Examples include The Secret in their Eyes pipping The White Ribbon in 2010, and Departures pipping Waltz with Bashir in 2009. So don't be surprised if In Darkness (with its Academy-friendly Holocaust theme) pips A Separation on Oscar night.



[Film still from Kung Fu Panda 2]

The nominees:

  • A CAT IN PARIS - Alain Gagnol, & Jean-Loup Felicioli
Known for: Nil
  • CHICO & RITA - Fernando Trueba, & Javier Mariscal
Known for: Year of Enlightenment (1986), The Age of Beauty (1992), The Girl of Your Dreams (1998).
  • KUNG FU PANDA 2 - Jennifer Yuh
Known for: Nil
  • PUSS IN BOOTS - Chris Miller
Known for: Shrek the Third (2007)
  • RANGO - Gore Verbinski
Known for: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003).

 The Academy will pick... Rango 
 The Dark Horse is... Chico & Rita 
 My vote will go to... Rango 

[Film still from Puss in Boots]

 With The Adventures of Tintin out of the picture, Rango has one palm over the statue already. This category rarely produces upsets, but if there is one this year, it will be for Chico & Rita, which won the Best Animated Film at the European Film Awards. 



[Film still from Pina]

The nominees:

  • HELL AND BACK AGAIN - Danfung Dennis, & Mike Lerner
Known for: Afghan Star (2009)
Known for: Street Fight (2005)
  • PARADISE LOST 3: PURGATORY - Joe Berlinger, & Bruce Sinofsky
Known for: Brother's Keeper (1992), Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996), Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004).
  • PINA - Wim Wenders, & Glan-Piero Ringel
Known for: Paris, Texas (1984), Wings of Desire (1987), Faraway, So Close! (1993), Beyond the Clouds (1995), Buena Vista Social Club (1999).
  • UNDEFEATED - Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin, & Rich Middlemas
Known for: Nil

 The Academy will pick... Pina 
 The Dark Horse is... Hell and Back Again 
  My vote will go to... Pina 

[Film still from Hell and Back Again]

 The great Wim Wenders has never won an Oscar before, thus this is the best opportunity for the Academy to award him with one for his beautiful, evocative tribute to choreographer Pina Bausch that is also innovatively shot in 3-D. Hell and Back Again is the category's dark horse because of its Academy-friendly subject matter - the conflict in Afghanistan. It will be surprising if the other nominees win this.


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