Oscar Best Original Screenplay: Despite WGA loss, ‘Manchester By the Sea’ pulls further ahead of ‘La La Land’

Manchester By the Sea,” the longtime Oscar frontrunner for Best Original Screenplay, was expected to win this race at the WGA Awards on Sunday. Instead, “Moonlight” – which was reclassified as an adapted screenplay by the writers branch of the academy because it is based on an un-produced play — took this trophy. Does this unexpected loss mean that playwright turned filmmaker Kenneth Longeran is vulnerable at the Oscars?

He faces off there against another multi-hypenate, Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”). The two talented men shared this award at the Critics’ Choice kudos back in December. Will Oscar voters want to reward Chazelle as often as they can for his sensational singular vision, which is nominated for a record-tying 14 Academy Awards.

Not according to the overwhelming majority of our 28 Oscar experts derived from major media outlets.  Twenty-two are now backing Lonergan for his dark domestic drama and that gives him leading odds of 4/11. Six experts now favor Chazelle for his frothy musical fable, which translates into odds of 7/2. Last week, the spit was 14 to 11 in favor of Lonergan.

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According to our experts, “La La Land” is far ahead in 10 races: picture, director, actress (Emma Stone), cinematography, costume design, film editing, production design, score, song and sound mixing. That haul would be one shy of the benchmark set by “Ben-Hur” and equalled by “Titanic” (1997) and “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003).

“La La Land” also contends in Best Actor, where Ryan Gosling is ranked third behind Casey Affleck b(“Manchester by the Sea”) and Denzel Washington (“Fences”) and Best Sound Editing, where it is second to “Hacksaw Ridge.”

See how our experts rank Oscar nominees according to likelihood of winning in all top races. Use the drop-down menus at the top of each page to see other categories. And see individual experts’ Oscar predictions as well.

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BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

1. Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea,” (22 experts: 4/11 odds)
Thelma Adams (Gold Derby), Eric Deggans (NPR), Edward Douglas (Weekend Warrior),  Joyce Eng (TV Guide),  Bonnie Fuller (Hollywood Life), Michael Hogan (Vanity Fair), Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post), Tariq Khan (Fox News), Scott Mantz (Access Hollywood), Michael Musto (Out.com), Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby), Kevin Polowy (Yahoo!), Paul Sheehan (Gold Derby), Keith Simanton (IMDB),  Sasha Stone (Awards Daily), Anne Thompson (Indiewire), Peter Travers (Rolling Stone),  Brian Truitt (USA Today), Adnan Virk (ESPN), Jeff Wells (Hollywood Elsewhere), Susan Wloszczyna (RogetEbert.com).

2. Damien Chazelle, “La La Land” (6 experts: 7/2 odds)
Matt Atchity (Rotten Tomatoes), Erik Davis (Fandango), Tim Gray (Variety), Jack Mathews (Gold Derby), Christopher Rosen (Entertainment Weekly), Nicole Sperling (Entertainment Weekly).

3. Taylor Sheridan, “Hell or High Water” (50/1 odds)

4. Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou, “The Lobster” (66/1 odds)

5. Mike Mills, “2oth Century Women” (80/1 odds)

Predict the Oscar winners now; change them till February 26

Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films are faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before winners are announced on February 26 at 5:00 pm PT/8:00 pm ET. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.

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