Thanks to Mark Boal’s second consecutive slam-dunk teaming with Kathryn Bigelow, the one certainty of this year’s Original Screenplay field is a bit of 2010 déjà vu. Boal picked up a statuette that year for penning Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, and he’s poised to do the same for his work on Zero Dark Thirty, his collaborator’s high-stakes, buzz-heavy follow-up. There are ample fine points to Boal’s script that fall in his favor, like the shaping of a classic hoo-ra heroine and the refusal to shy away from divisive torture scenes, which have surely provided the most popular angle for journalists covering the film. But the greatest asset should prove to be the movie’s all-access fascination, which only grows as this epic manhunt soldiers toward its killshot.
Next in line as a likely candidate is Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, a pint-sized love story beautifully suited to the offbeat auteur’s whimsy, and his most well-scripted effort since The Royal Tenenbaums. Currently teetering as a will-it-or-won’t-it Best Picture hopeful, Moonrise Kingdom has performed surprisingly well in the precursors, landing a Golden Globe nod for Best Picture—Comedy, getting shortlisted by the AFI, and clinching a heap of Indie Spirit nominations. If there’s one achievement for which the film is primed to advance, it’s Anderson’s markedly humane, yet still characteristically ironic, screenplay.