In the last decade Best Original Screenplay has gone to a wide-range of genres: dramas ("Birdman," "Crash"), comedies ("Midnight in Paris," "Juno," "Little Miss Sunshine"), biopics ("Milk"), period pictures ("The King's Speech"), dramatizations of real events ("The Hurt Locker"), and sci-fi ("Her"). Regardless of the type of film, to prevail a nominee needs broad academy support. All 10 of the most recent Best Original Screenplay winners were, at the least, Best Picture nominees.
Last year, four of the five nominees for Best Original Screenplay were crafted by writer/directors including the winner, "Birdman," which was also named Best Picture. In that instance, Alejandro G. Inarritu was one of a quartet of scribes, along with Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo.
Expect auteurs to be well-represented in this race once again, with 14 of them on the list of possible contenders below. Among these are past category champs Woody Allen and Quentin Tarantino as well as past nominees Noah Baumbach, Oren Moverman and David O. Russell.
While most film versions of true stories are adaptations, several of this year's, including Russell's ("Joy"), are based on original scripts. Other genres that could feature in this category include comedies, crime dramas and animation.
Below are brief overviews of these films, including studios, stateside release dates, festival appearances, Rotten Tomatoes (RT) and MetaCritic (MC) scores, box office, plot descriptions, cast lists, directing and screenwriting credits.
The 14 films by writers/directors vary in type, from domestic dramas to period pieces, from character studies to sci-fi.
"By the Sea" – Universal – Nov. 13
An American writer (Brad Pitt) and his wife (Angelina Jolie) travel to the south of France in the late 1970s to work on their failing marriage. Features Melanie Laurent, Niels Arestrup, Melvil Poupaud and Richard Bohringer.
Directed and written by Jolie.
"Clouds of Sils Maria" – IFC Films – April 10
RT: 89; MC: 78; $1.7 million
Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) is a international movie star who turns to her loyal assistant, Valentine (Kristen Stewart), during a career crisis. Stewart was the first American to win a Cesar, the French equivalent of the Oscar.
Directed and written by Olivier Assayas.
"Ex Machina" – A24 – April 10
RT: 92; MC: 78; $25.6 million (US)
A programmer (Domhall Gleeson) tries to help android with artificial intelligence (Alicia Viklander) escape from her inventor (Oscar Isaac).
Directed and written by Alex Garland
"Grandma" – Sony Pictures Classics – Aug. 21
Poet Ellie Reid (Lily Tomlin) is coping with the recent death of her longterm life partner when she discovers that her 18-year-old grand daughter Sage (Julia Garner) is pregnant. The two embark on a road trip to come to terms with their troubles.
Directed and written by Paul Weitz.
"The Hateful Eight" – The Weinstein Company – Dec. 25
In this Western, set in post-Civil War Wyoming, eight passengers seek refuge in a mountain pass during a blizzard. Stars Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walter Goggins and Bruce Dern.
Directed and written by Quentin Tarantino.
"I'll See You in My Dreams" – Bleecker Street – May 15
RT: 94; MC: 75; $7.2 million
A widow (Blythe Danner) embarks on an unlikely friendship with her pool maintenance man (Martin Starr), pursues a new love interest (Sam Elliott), and reconnects with her daughter (Malin Akerman).
Directed by Brett Haley.
Screenplay by Haley and Marc Basch.
"Irrational Man" – Sony Pictures Classics – July 17
RT: 39; MC: 53; $3.3 million (US)
At the small-town New England college campus of Braylin, philosophy professor Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) finds himself in an existential crisis, but he eventually discovers a new purpose in life when he enters into a relationship with Jill Pollard (Emma Stone), one of his students.
Directed and written by Woody Allen
"Joy" – 20th Century Fox – Dec. 25
The life of Joy Mangano, a Long Island single mother of three who invented the Miracle Mop. Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence is Mangano, with Robert DeNiro as her father, Edgar Ramirez as her ex and Bradley Cooper as a Home Shopping Network executive who believes in her.
Directed and written by David O. Russell.
"Mistress America" – Fox Searchlight Pictures – Aug. 14
RT: 84; MC: 75
A college freshman (Lola Kirke) cures her disappointment and loneliness by allowing herself to be pulled into the wacky schemes of her future stepsister (Greta Gerwig).
Directed by Noah Baumbach.
Screenplay by Baumbach and Gerwig.
"The Second Mother" – Oscilloscope – Aug. 28
Val (Regina Case) must leave her daughter behind when she moves to Sao Paulo to work as a nanny. Thirteen years on, and Jessica (Camila Márdila) comes to stay while preparing for a school exan.
Directed and written by Anna Muylaert.
"Son of Saul" – Sony Pictures Classics – TBD
Cannes (Grand Prix winner); TIFF (Special Presentation) A Hungarian-Jewish prisoner (Geza Rohrig) in Auschwitz tries to arrange the burial of a boy he believes to be his son.
Directed by Laszlo Nemes.
Screenplay by Nernes and Clara Royer.
"Spotlight" – Open Road Films – Nov. 6
Venice (Out of Competition); TIFF (Special Presentation)
A group of Boston Globe reporters uncover a massive cover-up by the Catholic archdiocese of child molestation. Stars Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams.
Directed by Thomas McCarthy ("The Station Agent").
Screenplay by McCarthy and Josh Singer
"Time Out of Mind" – IFC Films – Sept. 15
A homeless man (Richard Gere) in New York City tries to reconcile with his daughter (Jena Malone).
Directed and written by Oren Moverman.
"While We're Young" – A24 – March 27
RT: 83 MC: 76; $7.6 million (US)
The film centers on a New York-based documentary filmmaker and his wife (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts), who begin hanging out with a couple in their 20s (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried).
Directed and written by Noah Baumbach.
"Youth" – Fox Searchlight – TBD
Cannes; TIFF (Special Presentation)
A composer (Michael Caine) and filmmaker (Harvey Kietel) are on holiday in Switzerland when the former receives a visit from his daughter (Rachel Weisz) and the latter woos his muse (Jane Fonda).
Directed and written by Paolo Sorrentino.
Of these, only one — "Joy" — is based on a true story. Four other biopics could reap Best Original Screenplay bids:
"Bridge of Spies"- Walt Disney Pictures – Oct. 20
In 1960, lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is conscripted by the US government to negotiate a prisoner exchange of Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) and downed spy pilot Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell). Features Amy Ryan, Alan Alda.
Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Screenplay by Matt Charman and Ethan & Joel Coen.
"Love and Mercy" – Roadside Attractions – June 5
RT: 90; MC: 80; $13.1 million (US)
Biopic of the Beach Boys with Paul Dano and John Cusack as founder Brian Wilson at different ages.
Directed by Bill Pohlad.
Screenplay by Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner.
"Straight Outta Compton" – Universal – Aug. 14
RT: 90; MC: 72; $114 million (US)
In 1988, a groundbreaking new group revolutionizes music and pop culture, changing and influencing hip-hop forever. N.W.A's first studio album, "Straight Outta Compton," stirs controversy with its brutally honest depiction of life in Southern Los Angeles. With guidance from veteran manager Jerry Heller, band members Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E, DJ Yella and MC Ren navigate their way through the industry, acquiring fame, fortune and a place in history.
Directed by F. Gary Gray.
Screenplay by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff.
"Suffragette" – Focus Features – Oct. 23
The story of the efforts of women in early 20th century Britain to get the vote. Stars Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham-Carter and Meryl Streep.
Directed by Sarah Gavron.
Screenplay by Abi Morgan.
While comedies may not get the respect they deserve in the Best Picture race, the writers branch has embraced them. Diablo Cody won this award in 2007 for her first script, "Juno," and could be back in the running again while Amy Schumer could reap a bid for her debut offering.
"Ricki and the Flash" – TriStar (Sony) – Aug. 7
RT: 59; MC: 54
Ricki (Meryl Streep), a would be rock star, returns to Indiana at the request of her ex-husband (Kevin Kline) to help their daughter (Mamie Gummer) deal with her divorce.
Directed by Jonathan Demme.
Screenplay by Diablo Cody.
"Trainwreck" – Universal – July 17
RT: 86; MC: 75; $91 million (US)
A commitment shy career woman (Amy Schumer) faces her fears when she meets a good guy (Bill Hader).
Directed by Judd Apatow.
Screenplay by Schumer
Two of the 11 films in contention for Best Animated Feature could figure in this race as well:
"Inside Out" – Walt Disney Pictures (Pixar) – June 19
RT: 98; MC: 94; $273 million (US); $333 million (Rest of World) Set in the mind of a young girl, Riley Andersen (Kaitlyn Dias), as five personified emotions — Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) — lead her through life as she moves with her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) to a new city.
Directed by Pete Docter & Ronnie del Carmen.
Screenplay by Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley.
"The Good Dinosaur" – Disney/Pixar – Nov. 25
In an alternate timeline where Earth was never hit by an asteroid and dinosaurs never became extinct, a young Apatosaurus named Arlo loses his father in a tragic accident. One day, Arlo falls into a river and gets knocked out by a rock, finding himself far away from his home. While trying to find a way back to the Clawed-Tooth Mountains, he befriends a human caveboy that he names Spot.
Directed by Peter Sohn.
Screenplay by Enrico Casarosa & Bob Petersen
While the last crime drama to win this race was "The Usual Suspects" back in 1995, well-crafted tales of turpitude have been nominated since then, including last year's "Nightcrawler, and one more numbers among our top contenders this year:
"Sicario" – Lionsgate – Sept. 18
Cannes; TIFF (Special Presentation)
Working on the US/Mexico border, an FBI agent (Emily Blunt) is recruited to track down a drug lord. Co-stars Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin.
Directed by Denis Villenueve.
Screenplay by Taylor Sheridan.
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