Oscars Week — Writers and Directors


The Oscars take place on Sunday, and in the run up to the awards I'm taking a look at the races. Today the battle for director and the writing awards takes focus.

Best Director:
* Damien Chazelle, "La La Land"
* Kenneth Lonergan, "Manchester By the Sea"
* Barry Jenkins, "Moonlight"
* Mel Gibson, "Hacksaw Ridge"
* Dennis Villenueve, "Arrival"

About: This is a strong field, and you could make a case for all of them. In fact, most of them are nominated in other categories, and collectively they represent the best chances for films to win Best Picture. So who gets the trophy? I think the battle really comes down to three primary contenders: Jenkins, Lonergan, and Chazelle. Villenueve is a great director who delivered, perhaps, the most technically proficient film in the field, but I think he's a long shot. So, too, is Gibson, whose personal history will likely cost him some votes. Among the other three, all were nominated for writing and their three films are the front-runners in the Best Picture race. So who gets the edge? I think this goes to Chazelle, but I think the Academy will find a way to honor all three.

Best Original Screenplay:
* Damien Chazelle, "La La Land"
* Kenneth Lonergan, "Manchester By the Sea"
* Taylor Sheridan, "Hell or High Water"
* Mike Mills, "20th Century Women"
* Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou, "The Lobster"

About: Another strong field, but I think it comes down to Chazelle and Lonergan, both of whom delivered beautiful original films that are at or near the top of the heap in the Best Picture race. As I said, I have a sneaking suspicion the Academy may find a way to honor many people's effort. I think Chazelle wins Best Director, and I think the voters split the difference and give the Original Screenplay trophy to Lonergan. I wouldn't be surprised if either man won in this category, but right now I'm leaning toward Lonergan.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
* Barry Jenkins, Terrell Alvin McCraney, "Moonlight"
* Eric Heisserer, "Arrival"
* August Wilson, "Fences"
* Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi, "Hidden Figures"
* Luke Davies, "Lion"

About: All five of these nominees represent films nominated for Best Picture, which gives them all a chance. But the question is who comes out on top. There could be some sentimental push for Wilson, who would be winning posthumously. Also, Heisserer could generate some buzz for a film that was beautifully layered and different than many might have expected. But I think the clear front-runner here is Jenkins and McCraney for "Moonlight." It's a film that has a decent shot at wining Best Picture, and I think these writers will take the prize in the Adapted Screenplay competition.

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