So I’ve told Ed I only plan to weigh in on the screenwriting categories, on the theory of sticking to what I know.
The screenwriting Oscar – like many others – doesn’t cut much ice with most screenwriters. The list of appalling scripts that have gotten Oscars – Ghost, The Last Emperor, Almost Famous, Forrest Gump, Dances with Wolves, and c’mon folks, Lost in fuckin’ Translation? – sends most of us scurrying for the sanctuary of the vastly more sensible Writers Guild awards, which this year went to Crash (original) and Brokeback Mountain (adapted).
My guess is that this year the WGA award is a pretty accurate bellwether.
In the original script category, I think Crash is most likely to bring the award home, appealing largely to liberal Hollywood guilt. In the past Woody could usually count on winning this one but that was pre-Soon-Yi. Syriana was a bit too complicated for your average Academy voter to follow, and The Squid and the Whale disappeared at the box office, and the Oscars do reward success. Good Night and Good Luck is the dark horse here, on the theory that it has to win something. (Screenplay Oscars are often consolation prizes.) But our money is on Crash. (Screenwriter Paul Haggis, incidentally, is having a bash at the new Bond, Casino Royale.)
Adapted screenplay, well, this is the year of Brokeback, and Academy voters are nothing if not lemmings. They’ve never met a zeitgeist they could turn down and I suspect this one will take the award home. It also makes Hollywood feel all nice and literary about itself, what with the Annie Proulx source material. Munich and A History of Violence are out, and although The Constant Gardener was a fine adaptation, I don’t think it will break the Brokeback juggernaut. The one that might do that is Capote - the only thing Oscar voters like more than PC zeitgeist is a genuine success story, and Dan Futterman has been ingratiating and self-deprecating in all the magazine pieces about how, knowing nothing about scripts, he pulled Capote out of his ass. So it’s a Capote/Brokeback race but if I had to put money down, I’m looking to the cowboys to ride off into the sunset together. (Plus my agent thinks Brokeback will win, and he’s way smarter than I am.)
We’ll check back Sunday night and see how I did.