Academy Award Preview — Directing and Writing

The Academy Awards are on Sunday, so it's time to preview the races. Today's post looks at the battle for Best Director and the two writing awards.

Best Director:
Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, "Birdman"
Richard Linklater, "Boyhood"
Bennett Miller, "Foxcatcher"
Wes Anderson, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Morten Tyldum, "The Imitation Game"

* Early in the process, this category seemed more notable for who it left out — Ava DuVernay, for "Selma," and Clint Eastwood, for "American Sniper," were the snubs many wanted to talk about. Now, the race has seemingly settled on two candidates — Inarritu and Linklater. These men have split many major awards, and both their movies are considered strong contenders for Best Picture. So the question is, will the Academy split the Best Picture and Best Director awards as it has in the past? And can a dark horse — like, say, Wes Anderson — break into the mix and spoil Oscar pools everywhere. The answer to both questions feels like a yes, but I still think "Boyhood" is most likely to win Best Picture and Inarritu will win the directing award.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Jason Hall, "American Sniper"
Graham Moore, "The Imitation Game"
Paul Thomas Anderson, "Inherent Vice"
Anthony McCarten, "The Theory of Everything"
Damien Chazelle, "Whiplash"

* There isn't a clear front-runner in this category. Anderson is a favorite among a certain segment of the Academy, but "Inherent Vice" didn't draw the recognition and acclaim many thought it would. In fact, it was pretty much shut out at the Academy Awards, making Anderson a long-shot here. This race could come down to a pair of Best Picture nominees that the Academy members might want to honor — "The Theory of Everything" and "Whiplash." Neither is likely to win Best Picture, but both have good shots here. Some conventional thinking has been that McCarten is the front-runner, but I think the Academy may want to honor a brilliant young filmmaker, Chazelle, who also directed "Whiplash" but didn't earn a nomination in that category. "Whiplash" was a more unique, more compelling film, and I think Chazelle could get the win here.

Best Original Screenplay:
Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, Nicholas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Arando Bo, "Birdman"
Richard Linklater, "Boyhood"
Max Frye and Dan Futterman, "Foxcatcher"
Wes Anderson, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Dan Gilroy, "Nightcrawler"

* This category is a little tougher, and a lot more stacked. There are some strong Best Picture contenders in here, and that can often be the rising tide that lifts all boats. It's logical to conclude that "Birdman" and "Boyhood" are possible favorites here, and a win for either wouldn't be a surprise. Gilroy delivered a fascinating script with "Nightcrawler," but I think he's a real long shot. So, too, is the team behind "Foxcatcher." But I think this might be the place were the Academy honor Anderson and his unique cinematic vision. While "The Grand Budapest Hotel" isn't a front-runner for Best Picture, and Anderson is more of a Dark Horse for director, I think he is fast becoming the favorite to take home the screenplay honors.


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