With only a handful of weeks before the Oscars, now is the time for me to start formulating some predictions, and I'll start with what may be the surest lock of the year, Best Original Screenplay.
It's hard to imagine the prize going to anything but the former Best Picture frontrunner Spotlight. Though it's no longer favoured to win the top award after The Big Short's momentum shifting PGA win, Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer's dense journalistic procedural will surely be given its due here.
The nearest challenger -- a distant second despite being a perfectly respectable option -- is probably Matt Charman and the Coens' austere political quasi-thriller Bridge of Spies, being the only other Best Picture nominee in the field.
Duking it out for the hypothetical and meaningless third place honour are a pair of once-Best-Picture-hopefuls Inside Out and Straight Outta Compton, finding consolation from the savvy writers branch after being ghettoized by the general membership; Let's just say there are multiple biases evident in this year's prominent Best Picture snubs. Both likely harbour pockets of passionate support.
The former was always a safe bet, given the haven that top tier Pixar efforts have found in the screenplay categories (this marks Pete Docter's fourth writing nomination, first for his co-scripters Ronnie Del Carmen, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley). The latter felt like a fringe contender right up until it was announced, and was then met with the initial optimism of an upswing in minority recognition, only to boomerang into more controversy fodder when knowledge disseminated that the film's committee of authors -- Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, S. Leigh Savidge and Alan Wenkus -- are all white. That facile complaint aside, at least this by-the-numbers music bio is an upgrade over the Quentin Tarantino default nomination that we surprisingly didn't get.
That leaves Alex Garland's cerebral sci-fi Ex Machina as the longest of shots, but the nomination is reward enough for his auspicious directorial debut, and a fitting honour for the gifted scribe of such award-worthy, genre-tinged screenplays as
28 Days Later, Sunshine and Never Let Me Go.
Will win: Spotlight
Runner-up: Bridge of Spies
Should win: Spotlight
Should be nominated: Son of Saul