Oscars 2010: The race for Best Original Screenplay
The Hurt Locker, by Mark Boal
Inglourious Basterds, by Quentin Tarantino
The Messenger, by Allesandro Camon and Oren Moverman
A Serious Man, by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Up, screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter; story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy
Now this category should ideally be a no-brainer, considering that the Academy is likely to shaft Quentin Tarantino yet again and keep him from the big prize, and so his Inglourious Basterds is likely to win the Best Original Screenplay to make up for his losing out on Best Director and Best Picture, just like it happened with 1994's Pulp Fiction.
But the category's not done and dusted just yet, what with one screenwriter going undercover, one highly acclaimed animated film, and those two brothers who are capable of any surprise.
Let's take a look at the five nominees for Best Original Screenplay.
Image: Scenes from The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, The Messenger, A Serious Man and Up
The Hurt Locker by Mark Boal
Director Kathryn Bigelow had been impressed with freelance journalist Mark Boal for quite some time now, after she adapted an article he wrote for Playboy into a TV series, called The Inside.
For the new film, Boal went undercover and was 'embedded' into an American bomb squad during the Iraq War. His idea as a screenwriter was to bring to life the experience of the soldiers, and this is something the movie seems to have impressively accomplished.
The film's events are fictional, but the Academy is likely to look favourably on Boal's guerrila screenwriting technique. Still, if this film beats Tarantino's, expect the Hurt Locker to win none of the other big awards all night.
Image: The Hurt Locker trailer
Inglourious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino
Arguably the single most distinctive voice in modern American cinema, Quentin Tarantino spent over a decade working on this anti-war war film.
It is a mammoth script, one that decides audaciously to rewrite history, for such is the power of art, the power of cinema. It is a holocaust film that makes up for years of the genre having turned into a cliche, and one unlike anything ever seen before.
The world expects Tarantino to pick up this award, his cinema-defying film tragically too far out on a limb to win Best Director or Best Picture.
And while there is a tiny probability this film might criminally not win Best Original Screenplay, it certainly remains the Most Original Screenplay.
Image: Inglourious Basterds trailer
The Messenger by Allesandro Camon and Oren Moverman
Former journalist and Israeli screenwriter Oren Moverman wrote the script of The Messenger with Allesandro Camon, and original plans were to give the script to another director, with names like the late Sidney Pollack and Ben Affleck attached to direct at some point.
Finally the producers pushed the helming responsibilities on to Moverman, and the results have been very highly acclaimed.
The film has good reviews all around, but the war film of the season is The Hurt Locker. The Messenger's nominations for Moverman's script and Woody Harrelson's supporting role seem to be reward enough from the Academy this year.
Image: A scene from The Messenger
A Serious Man by Joel and Ethan Coen
A take on the Biblical story of Job, set around an ordinary man hunting for balance, A Serious Man is a dramatic comedy that might be the unfunniest film of the year, a sobering look at life and understanding.
The film is typically Coen, a whimsical set of characters meandering through futility, and it's as bleak as the brothers' darkest work.
It might be too bleak for the Academy, however. This is being looked on as a year to celebrate cinema, and A Serious Man is a dark script that doesn't hold any surprises for Coen-lovers.
It's perfectly enjoyable, but not them at the top of their game -- of course, the Tarantino-hatin' part of the Jury might still vote for it out of spite.
Image: A Serious Man trailer
Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter
Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy
Docter had been working on the script of Up since 2004, the idea of a flying house born out of wanting to escape from irritating life.
Spencer Tracy and Walter Matthau -- "sweet old men," according to Docter -- were the models for elderly leading man Carl Fredricksen, while antagonist and dashing adventurer Charles Muntz was created to resemble Kirk Douglas.
The film, about an old romantic who flies his house away to fulfil longago promises, is a lovely, genuinely sentimental script, and has been highly acclaimed.
This is the category's dark horse. Up has gotten a Best Picture nomination already, and the Academy is clearly looking at showing that animated cinema deserves more than just a Best Animated Film award.
In that case, Up might not get Best Picture but there is a slim chance they get this instead, a grown up award but not the biggest one just yet.
Image: Up trailer