Best Adapted Screenplay
This one is close and exciting.
Chris Terrio, Argo
Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
David Magee, Life of Pi
Tony Kushner, Lincoln
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Should win: This is the only major category in which the two favorites for Best Picture — Argo and Lincoln — are pitted against each other in a real race (in the Best Supporting Actor group, Tommy Lee Jones and Alan Arkin are both nominated, but Arkin is not considered a contender for Argo). After the nominations were announced last month, Tony Kushner was the favorite here, as was his labor of love, Lincoln, for Best Picture. He adapted Lincoln from the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals (though there has been a small amount of controversy about that sourcing, given the number of Lincoln biographies). As the Best Picture race has tilted dramatically toward Argo, though, Chris Terrio's screenplay, adapted from a Wired story, and Antonio J. Mendez's (whom Ben Affleck plays) autobiography, Master of Disguise, has surged among Oscar pundits. Unfortunately, David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook, from the novel by Matthew Quick, doesn't stand a chance. (That would be my personal pick.)
Will win: Argh! What a toss-up, even factoring in outside elements, such as Kushner and Goodwin being big-name authors, or that if Argo doesn't win here, that could possibly mean that it would win no major Oscars other than, presumably, Best Picture. Which would be weird. So, then, given how tight this race is, let's pick Chris Terrio for Argo: Affleck, its director and star, wasn't nominated in his respective categories, and Academy members might want to reward the movie with another major award.
Best Original Score
Though it's not a lock, this category should be pretty easy to pick.
Dario Marianelli, Anna Karenina
Alexandre Desplat, Argo
Mychael Danna, Life of Pi
John Williams, Lincoln
Thomas Newman, Skyfall
Should win: Every Academy Award is subjective, but Best Score might be more than most. Do you prefer the iconic John Williams compositions to (my favorite) Dario Marianelli's Russian-influenced Anna Karenina score? Or maybe you don't notice a film's music at all. This is all to say that I'm not sure "should win" applies here.
Will win: Best Original Score fun fact! My colleague Adam B. Vary pointed out that Thomas Newman, cousin of Randy, received his 11th nomination for Best Score for Skyfall and has never won. His losing streak should continue. Life of Pi is such an atmospheric movie — and one that will not do well in the major awards unless there's an upset in Best Director and Ang Lee wins — that there are a few categories it should dominate. And this is one of them: Bet on Mychael Danna for Life of Pi.