Oscars 2021: Will Two Women Split the Writing Awards?

A year after both writing Oscars went to non-white writers, the Academy faces the possibility of another first time. Could both writing awards go to women? Yes, they can. Although recent movement for particular film has made one race a bit harder to call. Here are some thoughts and analysis of the nominees for Original and Adapted Screenplay.

Original Screenplay

Once upon a time, Original Screenplay seemed like Aaron Sorkin’s to lose. One of six nominations for The Trial of the Chicago 7, Sorkin brings to the race a strange mythology that one of the best political writers of the modern era is also a perpetual collector of writing awards. He won a handful of Emmys and three of his nine Golden Globe nominations. Out of 13 WGA nominations, he’s won 2. And he’s 1 for 3 in Oscar wins. A gifted and important writer, sure. But his name isn’t an automatic checkmark on ballots.

Judas and the Black Messiah and Minari bring great narratives with two very different stories. With Judas likely picking up a win for Best Supporting Actor, and Minari probably winning Best Supporting Actress, it’s not impossible for either to come out on top, but there is so much attention on the other three that one of these winning would mean the other three split more than anyone could have foreseen.

Which is to say that we definitely can’t count out Darius Marder and Abraham Marder for Sound of Metal. The support for that film extends far and Amazon has worked hard to keep it in everyone’s mind. With six Oscar nominations and wins along the way for Editing, Sound, acting, and occasionally director Darius Marder, it hasn’t been a screenplay winner. That is probably not going to change this weekend.

And so that brings us to Emerald Fennell, who is essentially running away with the prize after wins at BAFTA, CCA, the Spirit Awards, and the WGA. The only woman in the lineup is going to win for a movie that challenges patriarchy and convention.

Predicted to Win: Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
Could Win: Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7 

Adapted Screenplay

Amazon has two nominees in this year’s Adapted Screenplay lineup, with Borat Subsequent Moviefilm‘s eight writers and One Night in Miami‘s one. Borat did pull off the win at WGA, but without any competition from The Father or Nomadland, neither of which were eligible. With Kemp Powers also being around to champion his other nominated project, Soul, it’s possible that added attention helped voters pick him for the adaptation of his play, but is it enough?

Netflix managed to sneak into the lineup with Ramin Bahrani’s The White Tiger, a film that, unlike its central character, never quite lived up to its potential. With nominations from BAFTA and WGA, it wasn’t a completely surprising nomination, but Bahrani has taken this as far as it will go.

The Adapted Screenplay contest will come down to Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller’s The Father, an adaptation of the very successful stage play, and Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland, a fictional adaptation of Jessica Bruder’s 2017 non-fiction book, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century. Zhao won with CCA and Zeller and Hampton won BAFTA. With voters already poised to vote for Zhao in both Picture and Director, this looks like a similar situation to 2017 when Jordan Peele won for Get Out while Guillermo del Toro went on to win Picture and Director for The Shape of Water.

Predicted to Win: Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller, The Father
Could Win: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland

Who do you think will win the Oscars for Adapted and Original Screenplay?

Written by
Karen Peterson is the Awards Editor for We Live Entertainment. She previously worked as the Assistant Editor at Awards Circuit, now owned by Variety. Her work can also be found at Citizen Dame and at the Watch and Talk podcast. Her non-awards season hobbies include Angels baseball, taking pictures of other peoples' pets, and tweeting about The Bachelor franchise.

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