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Courtney Hunt ‘Frozen River’

Oscar: Original screenplay

Why she’ll win: The Academy likes to reward decidedly more independent-spirited writers when it comes to this category — “Juno” and “Little Miss Sunshine” took it home in recent years. And the fact that Hunt made her directorial-writing debut with the film may make her the underdog to beat.

Maybe not: Well, but “Juno” and “Little Miss Sunshine” were quirky comedies, while this is a grim, heartbreaking drama.

Critical quote: “The writer and director, Courtney Hunt, knows how to tell a story on film, and how to shoot her actors so they look as if they’re always in midthought, desperately trying to calculate their next moves. All in all, ‘Frozen River’ is gripping stuff,” says David Edelstein of New York Magazine.