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4. Best Original Screenplay: "A Separation"
This year's Best Original Screenplay race is looking like a dead heat between the Best Picture frontrunner and the sentimental favorite: "The Artist" has the BAFTA, "Midnight in Paris" has the Globe, while the ineligibility-plagued WGA Award didn't clarify anything. Through all of this, however, by far the most richly and searchingly written of the five nominees is looking on from the sidelines. Asghar Farhadi's "A Separation" is a remarkable feat of dramaturgical balance and structure, layering perspective upon perspective to construct a near-Hitchcockian enigma from a seemingly mundane domestic infraction. Rewarded by the London, Los Angeles and National Society of Film Critics, Farhadi's script looks likely to come up against many voters' subtitle allergy. Pedro Almodóvar overcame that obstacle nine years ago, but over less beloved opposition. Still, we can hope. --Guy Lodge