Rule number one for prognosticating the Best Original Screenplay category: Rule out Mike Leigh at your own peril. He’s been nominated in this category for five of his last seven features and, for the second time in a row, earned his movie’s solitary nod. (In contrast, the actors’ branch has apparently grown weary of his films.) The screenwriters love him as much as they no longer love Woody Allen. Of course, I’m just talking about picking out potential nominees. When it comes to actually winning, his chances are nil even when we’re not talking about one of his more weakly received efforts because, among other reasons, there will always be some for whom the concept of awarding a writing Oscar to a filmmaker who notably works improvisationally is tantamount to awarding Best Actor to, say, Mr. Brainwash—no matter how appropriate the citation would be.
“Appropriate” would be especially true this year, when none of Leigh’s competition could even hope to approach his level of nuance and observation. No Charlie Kaufman, no brothers Coen, and no chatty robot recycling Chaplin. This year’s lineup ought to be the perfect slate to give Leigh his long overdue. But since he’s competing against four Best Picture nominees, expect him to come comfortably into fifth place—if he bothers to come at all.
Leading up to the nominations, many presumed that Christopher Nolan, having gotten his not-so-long overdue—or due at all—Best Director nomination, would be the frontrunner for a consolation prize in this category for apparently using color-coded note cards to organize the last hour of his allegedly mind-blowing, multi-leveled dreamscapes in Inception. “Robbed” once again, the Mark Harris “narrative” for that scenario has evaporated and been usurped by B-b-bertie’s… b-b-blighted… b-b-beans in the gob. And though the quartet behind the screenplay for The Fighter appeared to be having a ball working in and around sports-movie clichés (and came up with my favorite diss of the year: “MTV Girl”), and though Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg’s militantly sagacious, upper-middle-class lesbians occasionally talk like they were reciting stage directions (a plus in this category), there’s little doubt this one’s in the bag for The King’s Speech. Yes, the movie’s most celebrated sequence involves King George VI stomping around a working-class flat and transposing his dirty mouth, momentarily, into last year’s (losing) screenplay for In the Loop. Most voters will be focusing on pithy exchanges like:
King George VI: My physicians say [smoking] relaxes the throat.
Lionel Logue: They’re idiots.
King George VI: They’ve all been knighted.
Lionel Logue: Makes it official then.
Witty, right? If you don’t believe me, check out this video captured from the lobby outside an Academy screening of the movie last month.
Will Win: The King’s Speech
Could Win: The Kids Are All Right
Should Win: Another Year