Oscar Handicap 2010: The Screenplays

Our annual Oscar Handicap series continues with a look at the writing categories.

(For explanations as to how our scoring system works, make sure to read our first article in the series, Best Picture of the Year, linked at the bottom of this article.)

As a writer myself, I admire the hard work and dedication it takes to create a story that can crawl above the din of the seemingly millions of screenplays floating about. While many will say coming up with an original story is the tougher job, I believe it is the adaptation that is trickier. You have to find the balance between what to keep and what to cut, pleasing the author (if they are still alive) and/or the fans of the work. If the importance of the writer was not evident before, the continuing effects on the industry by last year’s WGA strike should hammer home how everything really does begin with the written word. This is where it all begins, and any director who says a screenplay is just a blueprint is just an egotistical jackhole who needs to go back to making music videos and Planters commercials.

Best Original Screenplay

The Breakdowns

1) Best Original Screenplays have won for a film with at least one acting nomination 30 of the past 31 times (96.77%). Advantage: The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, The Messenger

2) As long as you’re not the one who wrote the lowest grossing nominee at the time of the announcements, you’ve won 25 of 31 times (80.64%). Advantage: The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, A Serious Man, Up

3) A film also nominated for Best Picture has won for Best Original Screenplay 25 of 31 times (80.64%). Advantage: The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, A Serious Man, Up

4) Films written by first-time nominees have won for Best Original Screenplay 25 of 31 (80.64%). Advantage: The Hurt Locker, The Messenger, Up (Tom McCarthy)

5) Original Screenplays mainly set in the United States have won 23 of 31 (74.19%). Advantage: The Messenger, A Serious Man

6) Screenplays with only one credited writer have won 22 of 31 times (70.97%). Advantage: The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds

7) Dramas have won for Best Original Screenplay 22 of 31 times (70.97%). Advantage: The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, The Messenger

8) Best Original Screenplay winners have had stories set in the present day or very recent past 21 of 31 times (67.74%). Advantage: The Hurt Locker, The Messenger, Up

9) The winner of the WGA Award for Original Screenplay has gone on to win the Oscar 19 of 31 times (61.29%). Advantage: The Hurt Locker

By The Numbers

With eight advantages and only one disadvantage, it’s almost assured The Hurt Locker will win in this category

The Hurt Locker (Mark Boal): +1, +2, +3, +4, -5, +6, +7, +8, +9

Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino): +1, +2, +3, -4, -5, +6, +7, -8, -9

The Messenger (Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman): +1, -2, -3, +4, +5, -6, +7, +8, -9

A Serious Man (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen): -1, +2, +3, -4, -5, -6, -7, -8, -9

Up (Screenplay by Bob Peterson & Pete Docter, Screen Story by Bob Peterson & Pete Docter and Tom McCarthy): -1, +2, +3, +4, -5, -6, -7, +8, -9

Personal prediction for Best Original Screenplay: The Hurt Locker

Personal choice amongst these nominees: Up

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Breakdowns

1) The Best Adapted Screenplay has been awarded to a best picture nominee 29 of the past 31 ceremonies (93.55%). Advantage: District 9, An Education, Precious, Up in the Air

2) Films with at least one acting nomination have won for Best Adapted Screenplay 28 of 31 times (90.32%). Advantage: An Education, Precious, Up in the Air

3) As long as you’re not the one who wrote the lowest grossing nominee at the time of the nominations, you’ve won 28 of 31 times (90.32%). Advantage: District 9, An Education, Precious, Up in the Air

4) A film also nominated for Best Director has won for Best Adapted Screenplay 25 of 31 times (80.65%). Advantage: Precious, Up in the Air

5) A Screenplay nominee for the Golden Globes, which only has one category for Screenplays regardless of whether they are original or adaptations, has won for Best Adapted Screenplay 25 of 31 times (80.65%). Advantage: District 9, Up in the Air

6) A film also nominated for Best Director has won for Best Adapted Screenplay 25 of 31 times (80.65%). Advantage: Precious, Up in the Air

7) Screenplays with only one credited writer have won 24 of 31 times (77.42%). Advantage: An Education, Precious

8) The winner of the Writers Guild award in this category has also won here 24 of 31 times (77.42%). Advantage: Up in the Air

9) Unlike Best Original Screenplay, the Best Adapted Screenplay winners have had stories predominantly set outside the present or the past decade 21 of 31 times (67.74%). Advantage: An Education, Precious

10) Of the eleven times a film nominated in this category was that movie’s sole chance to win that night, not one of them won (0%). Disadvantage: In the Loop

By The Numbers

Many look to this category to be Up in the Air’s sole win, but don’t be too surprised by a Precious upset

District 9 (Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell): : +1, -2, +3, -4, +5, -6, -7, -8, -9, +10

An Education (Nick Hornby): +1, +2, +3, -4, -5, -6, +7, -8, +9, +10

In the Loops (Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche): -1, -2, -3, -4, -5, -6, -7, -8, -9, -10

Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire (Geoffrey Fletcher): +1, +2, +3, +4, -5, +6, +7, -8, +9, +10

Up in the Air (Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner): +1, +2, +3, +4, +5, +6, -7, +8, -9, +10

Personal prediction for Best Adapted Screenplay: Up in the Air

Personal choice amongst these nominees: Up in the Air

All articles in this series:

Best Picture of the Year
Best Director
Best Actor and Best Actress
Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress
Best Cinematography
Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Animated Feature
The Technical Categories

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