The Lone Screenplay Nominee: An Oscar Prediction Analysis

We are getting the nitty gritty on nailing down Oscar predictions on this blog and it’s time to consider a prevailing trend in the 21st century when it comes to the Adapted and Original Screenplay contests. That would be The Lone Screenplay Nominee.

What’s that you ask? For the last 20 award ceremonies, at least one movie has been nominated in its screenplay race and in no other additional category. That’s a rather startling statistic, but it’s true. You have to go all the way to 2000 to find a year in which the ten nominated films in those two derbies didn’t get a nod elsewhere.

Here’s the list from 2001-2020 of pictures that got The Lone Screenplay nomination (abbreviation are AS for Adapted and OS for Original):

2001 – Ghost World (AS), The Royal Tenenbaums (OS)

2002 – About a Boy (AS), My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Y Tu Mama Tambien (OS)

2003 – American Splendor (AS), Dirty Pretty Things (OS)

2004 – Before Sunset (AS)

2005 – Match Point, The Squid and the Whale (OS)

2006 – Borat (AS)

2007 – Lars and the Real Girl (OS)

2008 – Happy-Go-Lucky, In Bruges (OS)

2009 – In the Loop (AS)

2010 – Another Year (OS)

2011 – The Ides of March (AS), Margin Call (OS)

2012 – Moonrise Kingdom (OS)

2013 – Before Midnight (AS)

2014 – Nightcrawler (OS)

2015 – Straight Outta Compton (OS)

2016 – 20th Century Women, The Lobster (OS)

2017 – The Disaster Artist, Logan, Molly’s Game (AS), The Big Sick (OS)

2018 – First Reformed (OS)

2019 – Knives Out (OS)

2020 – The White Tiger (AS)

Clearly the writing branch of the Academy enjoy singling out a pic or two that doesn’t get any love elsewhere. And it’s a tradition that I haven’t really factored into my predictions for 2021’s hopefuls. That changes today.

My latest round of predictions from last week were the following for Adapted Screenplay and Original Screenplay:

Adapted – CODA, Dune, The Lost Daughter, The Power of the Dog, West Side Story

Original – Being the Ricardos, Belfast, Don’t Look Up, King Richard, Licorice Pizza

Here’s the problem – all ten of those pictures are highly likely to find nominations elsewhere.

So… what’s vulnerable and what are the movies that could fit the Lone Screenplay Nominee mold when the announcement is made on February 8?

Glad you asked. In Adapted, Dune could absolutely miss. The voters in the screenplay race could decide that it’ll get plenty of tech nods (it will) as well as Picture and Director mentions (highly probable). Its screenplay nod could  wait until its sequel.

So what are the contenders in Adapted that may not get nods elsewhere? There’s The Last Duel, which could get points for its unique script that tells its medieval tale from three differing perspectives. It appears to have little chance at Picture or even Jodie Comer’s acclaimed performance in lead actress.

There’s also Passing, but that’s assuming Ruth Negga misses out in Supporting Actress (and I’ve got her in). Other possibilities are Nightmare Alley (though it should at least be recognized for Production Design) and Tick, Tick… Boom! (which could be in line for Picture but especially for Andrew Garfield in lead actor). The Lost Daughter could be the one. However, I have a hard time seeing Olivia Colman not getting in for Best Actress.

Moving to Original Screenplay, my five current nominees all seem destined to achieve mentions elsewhere. I look at King Richard and Being the Ricardos as potentially being two that could miss the screenplay cut.

There are three pictures with original scripts that could fill the slots and be The Lone Nominee and they are:

    • C’Mon C’Mon. And there’s history here. Mike Mills was the writer/director for the aforementioned 20th Century Women from 2016. With Joaquin Phoenix as a long shot for Best Actor inclusion, this is the type of nominee that the writers might celebrate.
    • Mass. It looked like a potential BP nominee for some time but it has fallen (it’s not even in my top 15). Ann Dowd could score a Supporting Actress nomination, but I currently have her ranked 7th. It’s a pic that’s all dialogue between four actors and that could strike the voters fancies.
    • Parallel Mothers. The Pedro Almodovar pic was not Spain’s selection for International Feature Film and is therefore not eligible. Penelope Cruz is a possibility for Actress, but I have her outside the top five.

When I update my estimates for all categories this weekend, expect to see one of these titles (either in Adapted or Original or maybe both) selected. History says it’s the right call. Stay tuned!

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