Oscars Best Original Screenplay battle: ‘Manchester by the Sea’ v. ‘La La Land’

While “Manchester by the Sea” writer/director Kenneth Lonergan remains the favorite to win Original Screenplay at the Oscars on Sunday, he could be swept aside by “La La Land,” which is on track to win at least nine Academy Awards. That film’s helmer, Damien Chazelle, is tipped to become the youngest-ever Best Director winner at age 32. Might he also win for writing this paean to classic Hollywood musicals?

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Remember, when these films went head-to-head at the Golden Globes in the catch-all screenplay race, it was “La La Land” that prevailed. While “Manchester by the Sea” rallied to win this category at the BAFTAS, both of these films lost the WGA race to “Moonlight” (which contends over in adapted at the Oscars.)

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What does this all mean for Sunday? Lets’ review the five nominees for Best Original Screenplay to assess its chances.

20th Century Women” (Odds of winning: 80/1)
Writer/director Mike Mills was the surprise among these five on Oscar nominations morning. In this case, the nomination is the win.

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The Lobster” (Odds of winning: 66/1)
Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou won the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. award for their quirky script. Theirs is exactly the sort of truly original film to be nominated by the writers branch (e.g., “Nightcrawler,” “Ex Machina”) but lose the race.

Hell or High Water” (Odds of winning: 50/1)
The film is, of course, deserving of all of its nominations (including this one for Taylor Sheridan) but the fact that it’s done better than most expected at the start of the season – even earning a Best Picture bid – will prove to be reward enough.

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“La La Land” (Odds of winning: 21/10)
Oscar night could go one of two ways. 1) Voters decide to spread what little love they’ll have left over after they’re through rewarding “La La Land” and give this award to “Manchester by the Sea.” It could well be the only chance they’ll have to give that film anything considering Denzel Washington (“Fences”) has now overtaken Casey Affleck as Best Actor favorite. 2) A sweep happens and Original Screenplay gets ticked off along with everything else, much as was the case when the final film in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “The Return of the King” went 11 for 11 back in 2003.

“Manchester by the Sea” (Odds of winning: 1/10)
Barring a “La La Land” tsunami, this award is Lonergan’s to lose. That Affleck’s star is waning, means that this could be the only award for “Manchester by the Sea.”

Predict the Oscar winners now; change them till February 26

Be sure to make your Oscar predictionsWeigh 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 2017 Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.

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