Best Original Screenplay, 2003
(Click on the linked film titles for reviews of the corresponding films.)

Denys Arcand
The Barbarian Invasions


Cannes cheered, and Arcandites wept with joy, but none of that matters here.

By far the lowest-grossing movie of all the major nominees, and given over to abstruse ruminations on socialism, chauvinism, and death. In French.
Steven Knight
Dirty Pretty Things

The UK cheered, and Frears fans smacked their lips, but none of that matters here.
The film was never the crossover hit that Miramax surely wanted. Whatever spotlight this film ever attracted on American shores has been dim for many months.
Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, and David Reynolds
Finding Nemo

America cheered, and many countries in the world have followed suit. It's Pixar's world, really, the rest of us merely live in it.
Of course, with all that cash pouring in, nobody feels the need to further compensate the most thriving studio in town. Or rather, they do, but only in the Animated Film category that was deliberately christened to take care of occasions like this.
Jim, Naomi, and Kirsten Sheridan
In America

Fox Searchlight has shown such aplomb in advertising this film, I wouldn't be stunned if studio delegates personally visited each Academy voter to tell them the heartwarming story of how fêted British director Jim Sheridan wrote this poignant script with his own lovely daughters. And then, the film is a heartwarming tale all its own.
But no one cheered! In America had all the trappings of a bonafide audience hit except for one: the audiences. Without a larger core of devotées, the Sheridans are no match for that other movie about global dislocation...
Sofia Coppola
Lost in Translation

Do these even need rehearsing? A cherished film bound to be overshadowed for Best Picture has a wide-open lead here. Sofia Coppola, destined to lose Best Director but possessing a talent and a gender that Oscar will rush to celebrate, can still take a home a prize. And in the grand tradition of The Piano, Fargo, and last year's Talk to Her, independent vision is a tremendous plus. Durn it, I can't think of a one.

WHO WILL WIN: Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation
With no minuses in its column and barely a plus in anyone else's, this is probably the surest bet of the evening.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Jim, Naomi, and Kirsten Sheridan, In America
The Sheridans' tale of cultural migration radiates the joy and melancholy of urban life, not the winsome indulgence of wealth-protected vacationers. It's not a better movie because the characters are poorer, but the Sheridans have to work a little harder to make their characters seductive to us, and they succeed with flying colors.

...AND WHO OUGHTA BEEN INVITED: Monster's script is fully the equal of Charlize Theron's stunning performance. Few people will endorse this opinion now, but I'm not budging on this point. If Brechtian dialectics and serial murder got people uncomfortable, one could well have had that nice, inviting School of Rock on hand to reward.

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