Oscar Watch: Original screenplay

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It is a reflection on how risk-averse Hollywood has become that there are fewer serious contenders for the original screenplay Oscar this year than usual.

The good news is that most of the contenders are new faces.

The newcomers include Jenny Lumet ("Rachel Getting Married"), who may be the daughter of director Sidney Lumet but has never before had a film produced; Grant Nieporte, a young television scribe making his feature debut with "Seven Pounds"; and Dustin Lance Black ("Milk"), who took time off from his day job on "Big Love" to unearth original material on his subject, Harvey Milk.

J. Michael Straczynski did as much research for "Changeling" as Black did, but he also did the unusual thing of incorporating it into the actual text, with side-by-side pages showing the screenplay and the archival material.

Robert D. Siegel ("The Wrestler") is almost as new as Black: His only other credit is the satirical "The Onion Movie."

Another newcomer, writer-director Courtney Hunt may also contend for her filmmaking debut, "Frozen River."

Up against them is one of the greatest writers in Hollywood history, Woody Allen ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona"), and a team of Pixar vets -- Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter and Jim Reardon, the writers of "WALL-E."

Another established writer, Mike Leigh, could be in contention with "Happy-Go-Lucky," a script he created through his usual collaboration with his ensemble of actors.

Baz Luhrmann could be back with "Australia," joined by fellow writers Stuart Beattie, Ronald Harwood and Richard Flanagan.

Add to these Tom McCarthy's script for "The Visitor," which came together after he spent time investigating American detention centers.
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