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Oscars 2018 Category Breakdown: Best Original Screenplay

So what we do here each year as a warm up for the Oscars is, I break down each of the 24 categories. The idea is to both familiarize everyone with the category and its history. I look at what the major trends are throughout the past bunch of years, how the precursors tend to go, whether they matter or not, that sort of stuff. I look at how the category came to be this year, and just anything else that seems totally pertinent about it. Then I rank each of the nominees and tell you what their likelihood (at this particular moment in time) of winning is.

This is all prelude to my giant Oscar ballot that I’m gonna give you. But I figure, if you have these as the warmup, it’s not as intimidating. You’ll have seen a lot of the pertinent trends here and we’ll all be able to reference these as a sort of cheat sheet. Plus it shows you where my head is at for how I think each of the categories are gonna go, and you can see me working my way up to all the bad decisions I usually make while guessing. Pretty much, with this, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how the category is gonna turn out.

Today is Best Original Screenplay. One of the more interesting categories of the year. It’s a toss up, but it’s an interesting toss up.

Year Best Original Screenplay Winners Other Nominees
1940 The Great McGinty Angels over Broadway

Dr. Erlich’s Magic Bullet

Foreign Correspondent

The Great Dictator

1941 Citizen Kane The Devil and Miss Jones

Sergeant York

Tall, Dark and Handsome

Tom, Dick and Harry

1942 Woman of the Year One of Our Aircraft Is Missing

Road to Morocco

Wake Island

The War Against Mrs. Hadley

1943 Princess O’Rourke Air Force

In Which We Serve

The North Star

So Proudly We Hail!

1944 Wilson Hail the Conquering Hero

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek

Two Girls and a Sailor

Wing and a Prayer

1945 Marie-Louise Dillinger

Music for Millions

Salty O’Rourke

What Next, Corporal Hargrove?

1946 The Seventh Veil The Blue Dahlia

Children of Paradise

Notorious

Road to Utopia

1947 The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer Body and Soul

A Double Life

Monsieur Verdoux

Shoeshine

1948 No Award Given. No category.
1949 Battleground Jolson Sings Again

Paisan

Passport to Pimlico

The Quiet One

1950 Sunset Boulevard Adam’s Rib

Caged

The Men

No Way Out

1951 An American in Paris Ace in the Hole

David and Bathsheba

Go for Broke!

The Well

1952 The Lavender Hill Mob The Atomic City

The Sound Barrier

Pat and Mike

Viva Zapata!

1953 Titanic The Band Wagon

The Desert Rats

The Naked Spur

Take the High Ground!

1954 On the Waterfront The Barefoot Contessa

Genevieve

The Glenn Miller Story

Knock on Wood

1955 Interrupted Melody The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell

It’s Always Fair Weather

Mr. Hulot’s Holiday

The Seven Little Foys

1956 The Red Balloon The Bold and the Brave

Julie

La Strada

The Ladykillers

1957 Designing Woman Funny Face

Man of a Thousand Faces

The Tin Star

I Vitelloni

1958 The Defiant Ones The Goddess

Houseboat

The Sheepman

Teacher’s Pet

1959 Pillow Talk The 400 Blows

North by Northwest

Operation Petticoat

Wild Strawberries

1960 The Apartment The Angry Silence

The Facts of Life

Hiroshima Mon Amour

Never on Sunday

1961 Splendor in the Grass Ballad of a Soldier

La Dolce Vita

General della Rovere

Lover Come Back

1962 Divorce, Italian Style Freud

Last Year at Marienbad

That Touch of Mink

Through a Glass Darkly

1963 How the West Was Won 8 ½

America, America

The Four Days of Naples

Love with the Proper Stranger

1964 Father Goose A Hard Day’s Night

One Potato, Two Potato

The Organizer

That Man from Rio

1965 Darling Casanova 70

Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines

The Train

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

1966 A Man and a Woman Blowup

The Fortune Cookie

Khartoum

The Naked Prey

1967 Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner Bonnie and Clyde

Divorce American Style

La Guerre Est Finie

Two for the Road

1968 The Producers 2001: A Space Odyssey

The Battle of Algiers

Faces

Hot Millions

1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

The Damned

Easy Rider

The Wild Bunch

1970 Patton Five Easy Pieces

Joe

Love Story

My Night at Maud’s

1971 The Hospital Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

Klute

Summer of ‘42

Sunday Bloody Sunday

1972 The Candidate The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Lady Sings the Blues

Murmur of the Heart

Young Winston

1973 The Sting American Graffiti

Cries and Whispers

Save the Tiger

A Touch of Class

1974 Chinatown Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

The Conversation

Day for Night

Harry and Tonto

1975 Dog Day Afternoon Amarcord

And Now My Love

Lies My Father Told Me

Shampoo

1976 Network Cousin, cousine

The Front

Rocky

Seven Beauties

1977 Annie Hall The Goodbye Girl

The Late Show

Star Wars

The Turning Point

1978 Coming Home Autumn Sonata

The Deer Hunter

Interiors

An Unmarried Woman

1979 Breaking Away All That Jazz

…And Justice for All

The China Syndrome

Manhattan

1980 Melvin and Howard Brubaker

Fame

Mon oncle d’Amerique

Private Benjamin

1981 Chariots of Fire Absence of Malice

Arthur

Atlantic City

Reds

1982 Gandhi Diner

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

An Officer and a Gentleman

Tootsie

1983 Tender Mercies The Big Chill

Fanny and Alexander

Silkwood

WarGames

1984 Places in the Heart Beverly Hills Cop

Broadway Danny Rose

El Norte

Splash

1985 Witness Back to the Future

Brazil

The Official Story

The Purple Rose of Cairo

1986 Hannah and Her Sisters Crocodile Dundee

My Beautiful Laundrette

Platoon

Salvador

1987 Moonstruck Au revoir, les enfants

Broadcast News

Hope and Glory

Radio Days

1988 Rain Man Big

Bull Durham

A Fish Called Wanda

Running on Empty

1989 Dead Poets Society Crimes and Misdemeanors

Do the Right Thing

Sex, Lies and Videotape

When Harry Met Sally…

1990 Ghost Alice

Avalon

Green Card

Metropolitan

1991 Thelma & Louise Boyz N the Hood

Bugsy

The Fisher King

Grand Canyon

1992 The Crying Game Husbands and Wives

Lorenzo’s Oil

Passion Fish

Unforgiven

1993 The Piano Dave

In the Line of Fire

Philadelphia

Sleepless in Seattle

1994 Pulp Fiction Bullets Over Broadway

Four Weddings and a Funeral

Heavenly Creatures

Three Colors: Red

1995 The Usual Suspects Braveheart

Mighty Aphrodite

Nixon

Toy Story

1996 Fargo Jerry Maguire

Lone Star

Secrets & Lies

Shine

1997 Good Will Hunting As Good as It Gets

Boogie Nights

Deconstructing Harry

The Full Monty

1998 Shakespeare in Love Bulworth

Life is Beautiful

Saving Private Ryan

The Truman Show

1999 American Beauty Being John Malkovich

Magnolia

The Sixth Sense

Topsy-Turvy

2000 Almost Famous Billy Elliot

Erin Brockovich

Gladiator

You Can Count on Me

2001 Gosford Park Amélie

Memento

Monster’s Ball

The Royal Tenenbaums

2002 Talk to Her Far from Heaven

Gangs of New York

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Y tu mama también

2003 Lost in Translation The Barbarian Invasions

Dirty Pretty Things

Finding Nemo

In America

2004 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind The Aviator

Hotel Rwanda

The Incredibles

Vera Drake

2005 Crash Good Night, and Good Luck

Match Point

The Squid and the Whale

Syriana

2006 Little Miss Sunshine Babel

Letters from Iwo Jima

Pan’s Labyrinth

The Queen

2007 Juno Lars and the Real Girl

Michael Clayton

Ratatouille

The Savages

2008 Milk Frozen River

Happy-Go-Lucky

In Bruges

Wall-E

2009 The Hurt Locker Inglourious Basterds

The Messenger

A Serious Man

Up

2010 The King’s Speech Another Year

The Fighter

Inception

The Kids Are All Right

2011 Midnight in Paris The Artist

Bridesmaids

Margin Call

A Separation

2012 Django Unchained Amour

Flight

Moonrise Kingdom

Zero Dark Thirty

2013 Her American Hustle

Blue Jasmine

Dallas Buyers Club

Nebraska

2014 Birdman Boyhood

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Nightcrawler

2015 Spotlight Bridge of Spies

Ex Machina

Inside Out

Straight Outta Compton

2016 Manchester by the Sea 20th Century Women

Hell or High Water

La La Land

The Lobster

2017 Get Out The Big Sick

Lady Bird

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

So I think we all know how to adjudicate this one. The WGA is the big precursor, and then BAFTA and BFCA. The WGA is rife with ineligible scripts (and we have one of those this year), so it only goes so far. But generally you have a good idea about the Screenplay categories just by looking at them.

Here’s the WGA’s recent history in this one:

  • 2017: Get Out wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
  • 2016: Moonlight wins WGA Original and won the Oscar for Adapted. So I guess they were right?
  • 2015: Spotlight wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
  • 2014: Birdman is ineligible for the WGA and wins the Oscar. The Grand Budapest Hotel wins WGA Original.
  • 2013: Her wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
  • 2012: Django Unchained is ineligible for the WGA and wins the Oscar. Zero Dark Thirty wins WGA Original.
  • 2011: Midnight in Paris wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
  • 2010: The King’s Speech is ineligible for the WGA and wins the Oscar. Inception wins WGA Original.
  • 2009: The Hurt Locker wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
  • 2008: Milk wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
  • 2007: Juno wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
  • 2006: Little Miss Sunshine wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
  • 2005: Crash wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
  • 2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
  • 2003: Lost in Translation wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
  • 2002: The WGA winner and the Oscar winner were not nominated in the other’s category. So this one’s a blank.
  • 2001: Gosford Park wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
  • 2000: You Can Count on Me wins WGA Original and Almost Famous wins the Oscar.

It’s interesting to know that the last time the WGA Original winner lost the Oscar to something that was eligible at WGA was 2000. Good to know. But also, we have an ineligible this year, so this doesn’t help us that much.

Looking at BAFTA now, they are 11/18. In the seven misses, the Oscar winner was nominated six of those times (Her is the only Oscar winner that wasn’t nominated at BAFTA). So they were just wrong five of those times.

BFCA, meanwhile, split their Screenplay categories in 2009, and since then are 8/9. The only miss was 2009, where they took Quentin, who ended up losing the Oscar to The Hurt Locker. Otherwise they’re 8/8. Though pretty sure that streak ends this year.

Oh, and before we get into this year’s category — here’s a list of all the times the Best Picture winner did not win Best Screenplay (either category):

  • 2017, The Shape of Water loses to Get Out.
  • 2011, The Artist loses to Midnight in Paris.
  • 2004, Million Dollar Baby loses to Sideways.
  • 2002, Chicago loses to The Pianist.
  • 2000, Gladiator loses to Almost Famous.
  • 1997, Titanic isn’t even nominated.
  • 1996, The English Patient loses to Sling Blade.
  • 1995, Braveheart loses to The Usual Suspects.
  • 1992, Unforgiven loses to The Crying Game.
  • 1986, Platoon loses to Hannah and Her Sisters.
  • 1978, The Deer Hunter loses to Coming Home.
  • 1976, Rocky loses to Network.
  • 1968, Oliver! loses to The Lion in Winter.
  • 1965, The Sound of Music isn’t even nominated.
  • 1964, My Fair Lady loses to Becket.
  • 1962, Lawrence of Arabia loses to To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • 1961, West Side Story loses to Judgment at Nuremberg.
  • 1959, Ben-Hur loses to Room at the Top.
  • 1952, The Greatest Show on Earth isn’t even nominated.
  • 1949, All the King’s Men loses to A Letter to Three Wives.
  • 1948, Hamlet isn’t even nominated.
  • 1947, Gentleman’s Agreement loses to Miracle on 34th Street.
  • 1941, How Green Was My Valley loses to Here Comes Mr. Jordan.
  • 1940, Rebecca loses to The Philadelphia Story.
  • 1938, You Can’t Take It With You loses to Pygmalion.
  • 1936, The Great Ziegfeld isn’t even nominated. (Though there was only one Screenplay category. Also, the nominees were The Story of Louis Pasteur, After the Thin Man, Dodsworth, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and My Man Godfrey. That’s awesome.)
  • 1935, Mutiny on the Bounty loses to The Informer.
  • 1932-1933, Cavalcade isn’t even nominated.
  • 1931-1932, Grand Hotel isn’t even nominated.
  • 1929-1930, All Quiet on the Western Front loses to The Big House.
  • 1928-1929, The Broadway Melody isn’t even nominated.
  • 1927-1928, Wings isn’t even nominated.

32 times out of 90 Best Picture winners. Just something to note, is all.

Best Original Screenplay

The Favourite

First Reformed

Green Book

Roma

Vice

This was a category where you had four locks all the way through — The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, Vice — and the fifth spot was totally up for grabs. It was First Reformed vs. Eighth Grade vs. A Quiet Place. BFCA swung for the fences by giving First Reformed the award, so that probably was the big sign that it was gonna get on. I figured A Quiet Place just because I figured it would get a Sound nomination, but in the end, nothing too surprising.

In terms of precursors, WGA announced on Sunday, so we’ve got everything we’re gonna get.

  • WGA: Eighth Grade
  • BAFTA: The Favourite
  • BFCA: First Reformed

Oh, and I guess Green Book won the Globe for Screenplay. They have a single category and are 12/18 going back to 2000. And three of the six misses came in the past three consecutive years. So there’s that too.

I think we’ve got everything we need to make a ruling on this.

Rankings:

5. Vice — McKay won this for The Big Short. Don’t think Vice is as liked as that was, even though it has more overall nominations. I can’t see anyone feeling the need to vote for this, even though I assume that with eight overall nominations it may get a few votes. Still, seems like an easy fifth or fourth at best.

4. First Reformed — I know BFCA gave it a win, but it was a somewhat surprise nominee, has no other nominations, and has four Best Picture nominees up against it. Can’t see this being anything higher than fourth choice. Didn’t even get nominated at the guild, so I can’t see enough support for a win here at all. That BFCA win only goes so far.

3. Roma — From here on out you have the Best Picture favorites. That’s a 65% chance right there that it’ll come in, and that’s before you look at precursors and think about it logically. I don’t necessarily think this is a real contender here, but if it might win Best Picture, it’s a contender. I know that there wasn’t really a script here. But they wrote one up, and they sent it out to the Academy in both English and Spanish, so that will earn it a bit of support. I don’t think I can put it higher than third, and probably would have seen it as a fourth choice if the other two weren’t ones I didn’t think really had a chance at it. Hard to see this as a major contender though, without any precursors.

2. Green Book — So it’s in the WGA category, where The Favourite is ineligible. Even if it won that category, I’d have still questioned whether or not it could beat The Favourite for the Oscar. And it loses. To Eighth Grade, which isn’t even nominated. That is very puzzling. But it also means that I can’t consider it the favorite, because it didn’t even win its own guild. And all it has going into Oscar night is the Globe.

1. The Favourite — It won BAFTA and was ineligible for the WGA. Most years that spells an automatic winner. This year, it’ still gonna be in a 50/50 tossup with Green Book until the end. Green Book losing the WGA should have made it very obvious that this is gonna win. But you know what? Green Book can still win Best Picture. It has the PGA, and it’s definitely something that could win. Theoretically The Favourite could too, but I don’t see any precursor support there. But Green Book, if it’s going to win Best Picture, it’s going to win Screenplay. That’s usually how that goes. I can’t see it winning one without the other. I just can’t. So that’s why, no matter how much this looks like The Favourite winning here, I’m not gonna call it. But The Favourite is the likely winner. I think we can all see that one pretty plainly.

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