Top 10 early-bird Oscar picks for original screenplay: ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ leads the pack for now

Frontrunners are already forming for the original screenplay race, according to early combined predictions at Gold Derby. While most films in contention have not yet been released, enough teaser trailers are out there, ranging from “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” and “The Irishman” to “Little Women” and “Ford v Ferrari” to provide some sense of what at least feels like a worthy contender. We’ve confirmed category placements with studios or campaigners, but — as awards season veterans know — such labels can change later. And once the fall film fests commence, the standings will likely rapidly shift.

Here are the current top 10 adapted screenplay picks on the Gold Derby site, in order, as of Aug. 20:

1. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”: Quentin Tarantino‘s ode to hippie-era Tinseltown has many of his big-screen trademarks, from bare female feet and rambling speeches to spot-on vintage music cues and  over-the-top violence. But this now-middle-aged game changer also indulges in a nostalgia for what might have been by shifting the course of tabloid history with a happy ending.

Oscar history: Tarantino’s two Oscar wins came in this category. He shared his honor for 1994’s “Pulp Fiction” will co-scribe Roger Avary while he went solo for his script for 2012’s “Django Unchained.” He also was nominated for his 2009 screenplay for his World War II -inspired effort “Inglourious Basterds.”

2. “The Farewell”: Bejing-born, Miami-raised director/writer Lulu Wang has been declared a star in the making ever since her 2014 feature debut “Posthumous” landed. Her second film came about after she shared a story on NPR’s “This American Life” in 2016 about how her grandmother wasn’t told about her terminal cancer diagnosis by her family and they stage a wedding as an excuse to have one last reunion. That tale became the basis of Sundance sensation, “The Farewell,”  which opened in July and stars comic actress Awkwafina as Wang’s stand-in in a more serious and emotion-driven role.

3. “Marriage Story” (No date yet): Some might assume that what might be a 21st-century version of “Kramer vs. Kramer” — about a bitter divorce between a New York-based playwright (Adam Driver) and a TV actress in L.A. (Scarlett Johansson) that includes a custody battle — is based on  director/writer Noah Baumbach‘s own divorce from actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, who — like the couple in the film — had a young son.

Oscar history: It turns out Baumbach is a whiz at depicting difficult break-ups, considering that his first and only Oscar nomination was tied to his  original screenplay for 2005’s “The Squid and the Whale,” which was based on his own parents’ divorce in the ’80s.

4. “Booksmart”:  A sort of “Superbad” for girls as two studious high school seniors (Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever)  realized that they missed out on much of the fun that they could have had if they hadn’t been so wrapped up with doing well in school. They try to make up for lost time and get more than they bargained for. Actress Olivia Wilde‘s directing debut was written (and re-written) by four woman: Emily Halper, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel and Kate Silberman.

SEE Quentin Tarantino’s all 10 films ranked worst to best

5. “Parasite” (opens on Oct. 11 in Los Angeles and New York): South Korean director/writer Bong Joon-ho (“The Host,” “Snowpiercer”) won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year with this class-conscious skin crawler that pits two families against one another — one wealthy, one poor — as they engage in a series of violent events.

6. “Harriet” (Opens Nov. 1): This biopic, directed by Kasi Lemmons (“Eve’s Bayou) and co-written with Gregory Allen Howard, centers on escaped slave  and abolitionist Harriet Tubman (Cynthia Erivo) who would go on to help others like herself to free themselves from their trapped existence.

7. “Pain and Glory”: Spanish movie maestro Pedro Almodovar‘s saga is about an aging film director  (Antonio Banderas), who is in a middle of a creative dry spell while dealing with physical and mental problems as he reflects upon moments in his life.

Oscar history: The director/writer won an Academy Award for his original screenplay for 2002’s “Talk to Her.”

8. “Us”:  The “Get Out” director/writer Jordan Peele drops the satire and does a full-on horror film about an African -American family who discover that their vacation home in Santa Cruz is inhabited by a clan of evil doppelgangers of themselves. The Tethered, as they called, are jealous of the lives led by the others. It sets off memories for mother and wife Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) about a violent incident from the past.

Oscar history: Peele became the first black screenwriter to win Best Original Screenplay for 2017’s “Get Out.”

9. “Queen and Slim” (Opens Nov. 27): This romantic drama thriller written by Lena Waithe finds a couple’s first date interrupted when a cop pulls their car over and matters take a violent turn. Pretty soon, they are being labeled “the black Bonnie and Clyde” as they hit the road. Danny Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith play the on-the-run pair.

Oscar history: No Academy Award yet, but she does have the honor of being the first black woman to win an Emmy for writing for a comedy series —  “Master of None.”

10. “The Lighthouse”(Opens Oct. 18): Two 19th-century lighthouse workers (Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson) on a remote New England island deal with their loneliness and sleepless nights by drowning their sorrows in alcohol while being spooked by their surroundings. Directed by Robert Eggers (“The Witch”) and co-written with his brother, Max.

PREDICT the Oscars nominations; change them until January 13

Be sure to make your Oscar nominee predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on January 13. And join in the fun debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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