A bit odd none of us have tackled the screenplay categories yet, especially given that they're both highly competitive. I'd definitely be interested in hearing people's takes on both as we get down to the wire.
In this field, I imagine Inherent Vice is a no-hoper. Despite the fact that Paul Thomas Anderson is clearly the most due for an Oscar out of any of these writers, I see no way such an esoteric effort could ever win a major Oscar.
I'm not willing to count out The Theory of Everything -- it did win the BAFTA, and Redmayne's strength in the Best Actor category suggests voters are responding to the movie with far more enthusiasm than I did. But I still think it lacks the kind of narrative/dialogue flourishes that typically lead a script to win here.
For a moment, it looked like American Sniper's huge box office suggested voters might want to give it a major award, and this one seemed like the most likely. That could still happen; given that a Best Picture upset seems extremely unlikely, I could see this category as one where fans of the film rallied behind it to reward the kind of movie many in the Academy wish there were more of -- a drama for adults that became a phenomenal hit. But I also wonder if the left-wing attacks on the movie might leave some uncomfortable choosing it, much as Zero Dark Thirty suffered in this category in its year.
I'm waffling between predicting the remaining two movies, and I can't say I'm leaning in any one direction yet. The Imitation Game has all the marks of a frontrunner in this category -- it has a ton of nominations, it's been a surprisingly decent box office hit, this is likely the best place to honor a movie that has always seemed in the thick of the Best Picture conversation, it juggles three different narrative time frames, and it's got that catchphrase that drives a lot of us here crazy. I'm struggling, though, in trying to figure out how much people actually like it. It's never had any trouble getting major nominations all season long, it has the key Directing/Editing Oscar nominations (in fairly competitive fields), and it won the WGA. But...why is Cumberbatch such a Best Actor also-ran? How come it got torpedoed at the BAFTAs, with its home field advantage? And has the obnoxious "honor the man/honor the film" campaign really rubbed people the wrong way? I'm just not sure if it's a film voters feel the need to give a consolation prize to somewhere (i.e. here) or if it has just fallen short of generating the necessary enthusiasm in general.
Then there's Whiplash, the little movie that could, which hasn't necessarily stormed through the season either, aside from sweeping the Supporting Actor prizes. (I resisted predicting the Director nomination many thought would happen, and was happy to be proven right about that). But I have gotten the sense all season long that the people who like the movie just ADORE it, and I wonder if Theory of Everything may very well cut into the great British man bio votes of Imitation Game enough to allow Whiplash to squeak through with a win here. And even though I personally think the script is the weakest element of the movie, it has a lot of aspects (J.K. Simmons's tyrannical dialogue, the plot turn at the end that really leaves people jazzed -- no pun intended) that could very easily lead to recognition for its writing.
I think it's going to be really close -- we'll see within a few hours where I decide to land with my prediction.