Though, thanks to category inflation, both screenplay categories now boast showdowns between no less than four best picture nominees, this is by far the easier contest of the two. Solid cases could be made for Nick Hornby’s name recognition, the viciously funny tirades spewing forth from the BBC’s The Thick of It: The Movie, and the even funnier parade of miseries inflicted on Poor Little Precious Jones, Put Upon Pie. But each comes with its own obstacle: An Education’s latent strains of anti-Semitism, In the Loop’s gleeful deployment of the c-word, and Academy members’ confusion that anyone could eat an entire bucket of chicken. Wipe them all from the slate. The WGA, BAFTA, and Globe-winning Up in the Air seems to be coasting to a fairly turbulence-free win, especially since writers Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner have managed to keep their own personal beefs with each other simmering quietly, privately away from the scrutiny of increasingly nosy Oscar bloggers. You see, Air’s screenwriting credits went into arbitration with the Writers Guild, and the result is a shared credit between two people who never even met until after filming was finished. The story, should you choose to believe it, is that Reitman threw together a script of his own after being taken by Walter Kirn’s novel, unaware the whole project was already in development with a screenplay having been written up by Turner. In the warped world of Oscar prognostication, Reitman hitching his name up to what is now perceived to have been a double-published script smacks of Oscar Consolation Prize Game strategizing. It stands to reason, given the Academy’s now clear affinity for the middlebrow wunderkind. But compare the filmographies of the two, and tell us it’s not clear that only one of them has another script under his belt to rival Air’s smug self-satisfaction.
Will Win: Thank You for Smoking, Part Deux
Should Win: In the Loop