This category will likely be filled entirely with first-time Oscar nominees. With great substance and wit, playwright Peter Morgan imagined the British royal family’s reaction to Princess Diana’s death in The Queen, while Michael Arndt’s first produced script, Little Miss Sunshine, took audiences on an unforgettably quirky road trip. And in his third collaboration with director Alejandro González Iárritu (after Amores Perros and 21 Grams), Babel’s Guillermo Arriaga should make the list thanks to the film’s international relevance and intrigue.
Other possibles include United 93’s Paul Greengrass, though it’s likely to be seen as more of a directorial feat, and newcomer Zach Helm, whose mind-bending Stranger Than Fiction script was the subject of much prerelease hype. Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s understated Half Nelson may sneak in if enough voters see the tiny film. The race’s top veteran contender is The Good Shepherd’s Eric Roth (a past winner for Forrest Gump), but the film has been largely ignored so far. Perhaps two foreign-language entries may fill the last two slots: Guillermo del Toro’s fanciful Pan’s Labyrinth, and Iris Yamashita’s economical Letters From Iwo Jima, both of which transported us to faraway places but elicited familiar — and powerful — emotions.
For Your Consideration
In 2003, Pedro Almodóvar won this race for Talk to Her, about a male nurse obsessed with a comatose woman. A departed spirit also hovers over Volver, in which Penélope Cruz reluctantly welcomes back the ghost of her mother. Intricate and mysterious, the plot keeps leaping — and sticks the landing every time.