Chasing the Gold: Best Original Screenplay Nominees Analysis (2021 Oscars)
When going into the Best Original Screenplay category a few months ago, it seemed like there was a clear frontrunner that would sweep the season. However, things have changed quickly as a new nominee seems to be creeping up the ladder. Not only that, but the omission of David Fincher’s Mank only makes the race more interesting than initially expected. Let’s take a look at who is in the race and who might end up winning on the night.
Judas and the Black Messiah – It was unknown how Judas and the Black Messiah would do on nomination morning, after the late release date meaning it made little impact on the precursors. However, nominations for two actors, screenplay, cinematography, and picture shows the passion that lies behind this film. However, with a lack of wins to back it up and the film most likely getting its big award with Daniel Kaluuya, it would be a major upset if Judas was to take home to prize on the night.
Minari – Whilst it can never be fully clear with how A24 promotes their films during awards season, it seemed like Minari was going to be a strong contender for numerous nominations, in which it ended up with six. There does not seem to be an obvious place yet to reward the film with a win, but I am also struggling to see it winning Best Original Screenplay. Where the film shines is with the performances and the aesthetic around it, from the score to the cinematography. Unfortunately, I do not think the screenplay is “showy” enough to get its way to the win.
Promising Young Woman – In contrast to Minari, Promising Young Woman is certainly a film that has a showy screenplay. It was unknown how branch members would react to a film as tough as this, but the love for this film is clear. Not only did it get five major nominations including Director, Picture, Original Screenplay, Actress, and Editing, but it has been taking several major wins for Original Screenplay. Not only did Fennell win Original Screenplay for the Critics’ Choice Award, but she also won it for the WGA. Right now, she is in a strong position to take the win at the Oscars.
Sound of Metal – Leading up to the nominations, Oscar pundits were hesitant on whether Judas or Sound of Metal was getting the final spot. Instead, it was Mank that missed out whilst the other two films both got nominations. This is such a lovely nomination for a film that performed exceedingly well on nomination morning. However, for this film, it feels like the nominations are the wins. We can celebrate the representation of the deaf community being present, especially with the Paul Raci nomination. We can celebrate the success of Riz Ahmed across the board this season. However, I struggle to see it climbing its way to a win.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 – For a while, it felt like Aaron Sorkin was ready to win another Screenplay Oscar for The Trial of the Chicago 7. Having won the Best Screenplay category at the Golden Globe Awards and with the success of the film across the board, it was hard to see anyone else stepping forward as a competitor. However, it is clear now that the love for Sorkin and Trial is not as strong as expected. Not only has the film missed out on some major wins such as the WGA, but Sorkin missed out on a Best Director nomination. Quite simply, the narrative for the win is starting to fall, as are all of the other wins it was predicted to have.
Who Will Win?
If you had asked me this a few months ago, I would have said that Aaron Sorkin was walking away with his screenplay. However, it really looks like the voting bodies are connecting with Promising Young Woman. For the Original Screenplay category, voters tend to appreciate a level of difficulty that comes with the story and the themes, looking particularly at the past with winners such as Parasite and Get Out. And since her win at the WGA a couple of weeks back, the screenplay has become the odds-on favorite to win the award and come allow the film to not go home empty handed on Oscar night. With the dark themes and the tricky narrative, it could end up being the selling point to get Emerald Fennell her first Oscar and without having to take away Chloé Zhao’s Director Oscar.
Who Should Win?
For the exact same reasons that I listed above, Emerald Fennell should walk away with the Oscar. In the past decade, not a single woman has won either Screenplay category, and there is a strong chance that a woman can win both this year between Promising Young Woman and Nomadland. I certainly think it is time to reward women in writing, especially when a film as strong as Promising Young Woman is the film that is rewarded.