In the lead-up to the 86th annual Academy Awards on March 2, HitFix will be bringing you the lowdown on all 24 Oscar categories with multiple entries each day. Take a few notes and bone up on the competition as we give you the edge in your office Oscar pool!

The race for Best Adapted Screenplay has a little more intrigue than you might think on first blush. Sure, there's a heavyweight Best Picture contender in the mix, but another one with passionate support won the BAFTA Award in this category. As always, we can't look to the WGA for much help, given the usual list of ineligibilities, so we're off to our own devices. It's a solid line-up this year, four Best Picture nominees represented, while the fifth absolutely SHOULD have been a Best Picture nominee. At the end of the day, though, the smart bet may just be the obvious bet.

The nominees are…

"Before Midnight" (Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke)
I'd have to say this "Before Midnight" is far and away the best of the bunch here, but maddeningly, it's the least likely to win. Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke were nominated for their work on this franchise nine years ago in what turned out to be a bit of a surprise awards season trajectory for "Before Sunset." This year it all seemed fated, as "Before Midnight" is the richest of the three films, and recognition here is the perfect way to tip your hat to all three. I have this fantasy where Richard Linklater, one of the most vital voices in the history of American cinema, finds himself with an Oscar in his hand. I hope it happens one day. (Check out our interview with Linklater, Delpy and Hawke here.)

"Captain Phillips" (Billy Ray)
Again, the WGA Awards aren't the best barometer, but Billy Ray surprised more than a few by fending off "The Wolf of Wall Street" for this prize from the guild. Indeed, "Captain Phillips" has hung on throughout the season, always there for a surprise when people have counted it out. So it will absolutely find its share of support in this category, while Ray is a very well-respected writer in the industry to begin with. If you think about it, outside of Best Picture, this is the only place the Academy has been left with to honor it in a major category. That could concentrate some votes. Consider it a dark horse.

"Philomena" (Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope)
"Philomena" started the season by winning the screenplay prize at the Venice Film Festival and kept its trajectory going throughout. It was WGA-ineligible, but no bother, as it would pick up the BAFTA Award for adapted screenplay in due time. Meanwhile, Steve Coogan has probably never worked so hard on the publicity trail in his life (the wonders Harvey Weinstein can manage). The phase two push for the film has been considerable to say the least, making its way all the way to the Vatican. If there is a shocker in the mix (not that plenty of the signs wouldn't have been pointing in this direction), it may be Harvey landing this as his major prize on Oscar night.

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