To shove the elephant out of the room right off the bat, two actually relevant things are working against Woody Allen’s chances for a win here, despite having extended his record for most nominations ever in this category. First, the justifiable but still faintly ludicrous categorization of Blue Jasmine as an original screenplay despite its obvious debt to A Streetcar Named Desire. Second, the tangible evidence recently pointed out by Mark Harris that suggests the Academy’s expansion of the Best Picture lineup has consequently made the screenwriting category more adjuvant to the main race than ever before. In other words, with Blue Jasmine the only nominee here not also competing for the top prize, voters were already likely to leave Allen babbling on a park bench while whoever’s sitting next to him thumbs through the editorial page of The New York Times.
Based on an informal poll of Slant’s Oscar gang of four, Nebraska just barely edges Dallas Buyers Club as our most-loathed Best Picture nominee this year. But even those of us who would rather see June Squibb flash her respects right in our faces than endure Nebraska again have to admit that Bob Nelson’s screenplay isn’t without its nuanced moments of flyover cynicism, such as the genuinely sympathetic response offered by the magazine sweepstakes receptionist to a pride-wounded son’s mordant observation that his father “believes what people tell him”: “Aw, that’s too bad.” Meanwhile, Dallas Buyers Club’s insidiousness exists right there on the ground level, but it’s admittedly easier to understand how this whitewashed hagiography of a true-life person’s purported story is more “original” than “adapted,” taking into consideration how much Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack fabricated the allegedly non-homophobic bisexual Ron Woodroof’s Straw-straight Redemption story arc.
As much as those six nominations mark Dallas Buyers Club as this Oscar year’s dangerous overachiever, and even though its kneejerk bona fides stand conspicuously alone here, it faces two rivals more powerful and recklessly maligned than, well, AZT is in Dallas Buyers Club. American Hustle’s detractors charge Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell with throwing kit and caboodle into their ’70s “science oven” and hoping for an explosion, and Spike Jonze’s earnest, open-hearted Her flatly doesn’t negotiate with skeptics. American Hustle’s plot offers more twists and tantrums, and one has to assume Russell’s hot streak (11 acting nominations for his last three films) will climax with a win sooner than later, as Oscar bloggers from every corner expect to happen here. But bloggers aren’t precursors, and those Golden Globe, BFCA, and WGA wins for Her, which starts with the category’s most audacious concept and branches out beautifully from there, have Jonze in the highest-waisted pants of all.
Will Win: Her
Could Win: American Hustle
Should Win: Her