This year, a number of tyros look to contend in the screenplay categories

The A List
TROPHIES THE SKINNY PROSPECTS
Woody Allen "Match Point"
13 Oscar noms and two wins (as scribe, "Annie Hall" and "Hannah and Her Sisters.") Allen back in "Crimes and Misdemeanor" mode as tennis star tries to get away with murder. Return to form for the Woodman coincides with 70th birthday and best personal press he’s had in a decade.
Julian Fellowes "Seperate Lies "
Oscar winner for "Gosford Park." Hit-and-run accident exposes secrets and lies in a marriage. Came and went fast; fine reviews didn’t translate into biz or buzz. Needs a robust campaign and big homevid want-to-see.
Stephen Gaghan "Syriana"
Oscar winner for "Traffic." The good (CIA whistle-blower Clooney), the bad (U.S. goverernment and oil companies) and the ugly (Mideast terrorists). Strong reviews for this ripped-from-the-headlines political thriller, but all comment on how hard it is to follow the story.
Akiva Goldsman "Cinderella Man "
Oscar winner for "A Beautiful Mind." Jim Braddock, true-life Rocky, goes from chump to champ. Pic’s vid debut will have to be really spectacular to dispel strong whiff of spring B.O. disappointment.
Paul Haggis (Bobby Moresco) "Crash"
Oscar nom for "Million Dollar Baby." L.A. plays itself, and an all-star cast plays Angelinos colliding all over town in race-charged conflicts. Hits Academy members where they live (literally).
Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens "King Kong"
Two noms, one win ("Return of the King"); Jackson and Walsh also nominated for "Heavenly Creatures" Return of the Kong: Felowship of "The Rings" dusts off 1933 classic. Trio doesn’t monkey around with the original, but they won everything two years ago, and voters might be out of the hobbit.
Tony Kushner "Munich"
Pulitzer Prize and two Tonys for "Angels in America." Catching and punishing the killers of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic games. Terrorism, executions, intrigue and vengeance: Happy Holidays from Universal/DreamWorks.
Steve Martin "Shopgirl"
Longtime Oscar host; two Emmy noms, one win for "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour." A lonely millionaire escorts a salesgirl into a dazzling stratum of L.A. society. The Acadamy loves stories of middle-aged angst. And it loves Steve.
Larry McMurty (Diane Ossana, co-author), "Brokeback Mountain"
Oscar nominee ("The Last Picture Show"); Pulitzer Prize for novel "Lonesome Dove." Two young cowpokes marry women while retaining a lifelong passion for each other. Dismissive comments about "the gay cowboy movie" are receding; now it’s "the love story that everybody is raving about."
Robin Swicord "Memoirs of a Geisha"
Adapted WGA nom ("Little Women"). How to succeed in the teahouse without really trying; based on huge bestseller. Plenty of story, straight out of the book. Elaborately designed and costumed romance is more of an eyeful than an earful.

The New List
PORTFOLIO >THE SKINNY PROSPECTS
Guillermo Arriaga "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada"
Won screenplay at Cannes this year. won lots of acclaim for "Amores perros" and "21 Grams." Peckinpah would’ve killed to make this quirky Western about burying a best friend and punishing his killer. Audiences dig the grave plot.
Noah Baumbach "The Squid and the Whale"
Won screenplay (and director) at Sundance this year. Previously repped by "Kicking and Screaming" and "Mr. Jealousy." A literary couple endures a bitter divorce and struggles with the affections of their kids. Gee, I wonder whether the members of the Writers Branch can relate to that.
Mike Binder "The Upside of Anger"
One-time standup comic has written six previously produced features and HBO series "The Mind of the Married Man." Abondoned wife, concerned daughters, new beau. "Didn’t that film come out last year?"
Jeffrey Caine "The Constant Gardener"
Veteran Brit TV writer won Irish Film and Television Academy Award for "Rory O’Shea Was Here." Brit diplomat in Africa sees drug company baddies behind the murder of his activist wife. Blooming, with perfectly timed homevid release and increased interest in timely subject matter.
George Clooney & Grant Heslov "Good Night, and Good Luck"
Tow actors teaming to write their first feature (remeber Matt and Ben?); won screenplay at Venice. Ed Murrow takes on Joe McCarthy, score knockout, as does the movie. Audiences are cheering. Why wouldn’t the Academy?
Gill Dennis & James Mangold "Walk the Line"
Six previous features for writer-director Mongold, teamed up here with Dennis, TV and film writer (and Mangold’s old AFI professor). Legendary performer, haunted by childhood death of brother, stuggles with ladies and ‘ludes (and he’s not Ray Charles). Super performances and great music will help the script Cash in.
Dan Futterman "Capote"
Young TV actor ("Judging Amy," "Will & Grace") scores with first screenplay. Tru story, the making of "In Cold Blood." Script impresses critics and audiences with its maturity and shape. Capote gets some good zingers to say, too.
Deborah Moggach "Pride & Prejudice"
Novelist and miniseries scribe for U.K. TV, including "Love in a Cold Climate" and (winner of Writer Guild of G.B. kudo) "Goggle Eyes." 65 years after Garson and Olivier, Elizabeth and Darcy return to the bigscreen. Egad! Everyone loves this elegant distillation of beloved classic.
Michael Seitzman "North Country"
Two previous features including "Here on Earth" (1998). True-life landmark sexual harassment case, with composite characters and larger-than-life finale. Didn’t rack up "Norma Rae" or "Silkwood" grosses, so mining drama might get the shaft.
Josh Olson "A History of Violence"
Writer-director of "Infested" (one of Empire Magazine’s 25 Best Straight-to-Vid Movies Ever Made) works in many pop genres. Luncheonettes owner by day, stone-cold killer by night. Graphic novels have a history of being overlooked.
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