This year’s nominees for best original screenplay at the Academy Awards are certainly of a diverse variety. First up is the darkly comic period piece The Favourite written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. Not only is Deborah Davis the only female nominee in this category but this is also the first script she's ever written. This is incredibly impressive considering the quality of The Favourite, which along with its leading performances is majorly dependent on its screenplay. With the wittiest dialogue of the year and the creation of three strongly defined female characters, Davis and McNamara's screenplay is ironically the ‘favourite' to take home the prize on awards night and rightfully so. That doesn't mean it's not up against fierce competition from its fellow nominees, however.
Alfonso Cuarón’s walk down memory lane Roma is nominated here as well. Although it is a lock for several categories as well as a potential frontrunner for best picture, it is unlikely to win original screenplay for the simple reason that the driving force of the film is its visuals and technical achievements. That being said, the way Cuarón seamlessly recollects his personal memories from his childhood into a working narrative is undoubtedly something to be commended making his nomination here wholly justifiable.
A screenplay that I find harder to defend here is Adam McKay’s political satire Vice centred on George W. Bush's vice president Dick Cheney. A rather messy script that fails to blend McKay's trademark comedy and an informative drama into an appeasable tone. Vice can be incredibly frustrating at times for legitimately enthralling you in its discussions before McKay feels the need to throw you off guard with five minutes of Dick and Lynne Cheney conversing in Shakespearean-esque dialogue just in an attempt to generate some laughs. Even if it does succeed in doing that, it undermines the message the film is trying to send which is a failing of the script. That being said, you shouldn’t count out McKay as he is a previous screenplay winner for his previous film The Big Short so the academy clearly has a soft spot for his work.
Paul Shrader, the writing veteran who previously penned the classic Taxi Driver is shockingly receiving only his first Oscar nomination here for his work on the thrilling character study First Reformed. A film that’s genre is honestly quite difficult to classify follows the minister of a church who struggles with his faith and begins to develop growing concerns for the environmental crisis gripping the globe. It’s a story that has an important message that the world of film hasn’t really addressed before and its concept provides for a fascinating backdrop for leading man Ethan Hawke to work in. Of all the nominees, First Reformed is the only film not nominated for best picture and that is likely a sign that it doesn’t quite have the support it needs to pull off an upset win.
Finally, we have The Favourite’s biggest competition in Green Book. Written by lead character Tony Lip's real-life son Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie and the film’s director Peter Farrelly, Green Book is the telling of the true story of how a racist Italian American bouncer valeted for an African American musician in the American south during the 60s and how they bonded during that experience. It's easily one of the most feel-good films of the year and provides an amazing showcase by two lead actors who were given great material to work with. Despite picking up a Golden Globe for its script in January. The film has faced a series of controversies including having its accuracy called into question. This is why it is unlikely to topple The Favourite but don’t count it out just yet.
In terms of notable omissions, it’s a shame coming off of Jordan Peele’s win for his social horror Get Out last year that notable horror scripts A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, Scott Beck and Bryan Woods) or Hereditary (Ari Aster) weren’t considered this year. Also absent was the surprisingly socially aware screenplay of the coming of age comedy Eight Grade (Bo Burnham) which was awarded original screenplay by the Writer’s Guild. Easily though, if I had a choice to insert one of these films into the running it would be A Quiet Place replacing Vice for its brilliant use of a story that required minimal dialogue.