For writing that hinges on indulgent exposition, leaden metaphor, painful grade-school symbolism, and cliché characterization, Courtney Hunt is now an Oscar nominee thanks to the same AMPAS voters who don’t recoil into the fetal position at the sound of actors reading aloud from a Paul Haggis screenplay. That’s a pretty significant bloc of the academy, but we’re guessing there’s a considerable overlap of fans between Frozen River and the smarmy In Bruges, which was quickly forgotten after opening in early February but has built a sizeable cult following since then and is now riding high off Golden Globe and BAFTA fumes. Of course, it’s rare for a screenplay to win here without also being nominated for Best Picture, so don’t bet on In Bruges taking this one unless you also think six-time Oscar nominee Mike Leigh will be given a chance to wax cynically—and justifiably so—about his improvisational style of writing and Happy-Go-Lucky’s egregious snub in the Best Actress category. Dustin Lance Black, the openly gay ex-Mormon who writes for HBO’s Big Love, should have had this one in the bag, especially after his Writers Guild of America victory, but Black didn’t have to contend with WALL-E for that award. Critically and financially, WALL-E benefits from being the most successful film in this category, but we’re of the opinion that the same blue-haired types who confuse Most Editing for Best Editing will feel somewhat uneasy—and mistakenly so—about voting for a film that’s written in chirps and beeps for a significant portion of its running time, even if they do prefer WALL-E to Milk at the end of the day.
Will Win: Milk
Should Win: Happy-Go-Lucky