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Best Original Screenplay

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Writers nominate writers. Keep that voting rule in mind, and it’s easy to understand why Kenneth Lonergan’s YOU CAN COUNT ON ME is at the head of this year’s Best Original Screenplay race. Lonergan’s insightful dialogue and generous storytelling have been wowing audiences since the film debuted at Sundance a year ago. Playwright David Mamet’s filmmaking satire STATE AND MAIN has gotten strong reviews, and Hollywood loves a good dose of industry self-hatred (Mamet was nominated for working just this vein with 1997’s Wag the Dog). Cameron Crowe’s ’70s-music nostalgia trip, ALMOST FAMOUS, should also score a nomination in the same category that gave Crowe a nod for 1996’s Jerry Maguire. And overall affection for ERIN BROCKOVICH should allow Susannah Grant’s script to sail through.

But let’s not mince words: The category is weak this year, and most of the wannabes come with baggage. GLADIATOR bears too many rewriting scars, CAST AWAY has what the industry calls ”third-act problems,” and UNBREAKABLE had too many people on the hate-it side of the love-it-or-hate-it seesaw (ditto for NURSE BETTY and DANCER IN THE DARK). CHICKEN RUN will have to overcome anti-animation snobbery, THE CONTENDER was too coarse, and SUNSHINE has been too long out of the sun. That leaves two scripts duking it out for the last slot — Lee Hall’s BILLY ELLIOT and David Self’s Cuban missile crisis drama THIRTEEN DAYS. We’re betting on the Kennedys by a nose.

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for your consideration

Sure, it was improvised, but what about Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy’s script for BEST IN SHOW? Scene by scene, line by line, bark by bark, we challenge the Academy to find a funnier movie this year.

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