Doesn’t it seem like no matter what, the screenwriters never seem to get their ample due? Oscar handicappers, like ourselves, discuss and disect the Best Picture and acting categories to death, and year around nonetheless. But how often do we stop to spare a few words for the master scribes? After all, you wouldn’t have any movie to talk about without first the script. We’ll examine the intricacies of this year’s screenplay categories, starting with Best Original Screenplay. The nominees are:

Guillermo Ariaga, “Babel”
Iris Yamashita, “Letters From Iwo Jima”
Michael Arndt, “Little Miss Sunshine”
Guillermo del Toro, “Pan’s Labyrinth”
Peter Morgan, “The Queen”

This category breaks down fairly simply. The Academy always seems to go with the most creative, fresh, and often quirkiest script. Past winners include “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Fargo,” “The Usual Suspects,” and “Pulp Fiction.” It would therefore appear obvious that “Little Miss Sunshine” is next in line. Add on top of that the fact that “Sunshine” won the Writer’s Guild Award and BAFTA award and you’re more or less looking at a lock. “The Queen” did win the Golden Globe, but there isn’t much of a history with the Hollywood Foreign Press aligning with AMPAS in this category. The other nominees are just happy to get invitations to the Kodak Theater.

Our pick: Michael Arndt, “Little Miss Sunshine”

Moving on to the Adapted Screenplay category, this one might be a lot closer than most experts think. Consensus seems to be building around the one film nominated for Best Picture, but we have a few reasons to be skeptical, or at least cautious. Here are your nominees.

Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, Dan Mazer, “Borat”
Alfonso Cuaron, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, “Children of Men”
William Monahan, “The Departed”
Todd Field, Tom Perrotta, “Little Children”
Patrick Marber, “Notes on a Scandal”

Question No. 1 – Why the heck is “Borat” even nominated? Was there even a screenplay?

Question No. 2 – How does it take four people to write a screenplay for a movie that is in essence an improvised reality show?

Needless to say, “Borat” is out. So is “Children of Men.” Again, what is up with the sheer number of writers on these projects? I don’t care if the adaptation if for Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” it still shouldn’t take five writers!

Monahan of “The Departed” is the overwhelming favorite, it seems, and the recent WGA win only bolsters his chances. But we see a potential pitfall. “The Departed” is an adaptation of a popular Hong Kong film, not a book. This may not sit well with many potential voters, as there is somewhat of a bias against non-literary adaptations. We would be inclined to agree. What’s the challenge in adapting a movie from another movie? In addition, “Little Children” is quite simply an exceptional, underappreciated film that voters (if they ever get around to seeing) might wish to reward. And don’t count out Patrick Marber, who is well respected throughout the industry.

There has been a history of upsets in this category. “The Pianist” shocked “The Hours” back in 2003. “Gods and Monsters” was a surprise winner in the late 1990s and although it was a powerhouse picture, few experts thought “Return of the King” would outmuscle “Mystic River” in 2004. Could there be another colossal upset this year? We sense weakness with “The Departed,” but as of now, none of the other candidates appear big enough to take its place.

Our pick: William Monahan, “The Departed”