High Profile screenplays missing in the WGA nominations

It was the turn of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) to announce its nominees this morning. The results were based on voting by the guild’s 12000 members.

Five candidates filed the original screenplay category: David O. Russell and Eric Singer for American Hustle, Woody Allen for Blue Jasmine, Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack for Dallas Buyers Club, Spike Jonze for Her and Bob Nelson for Nebraska.

And five more candidates will be competing in the adapted screenplay competition: Tracy Letts for August: Osage County, Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke for Before Midnight, Billy Ray for Captain Phillips, Peter Berg for Lone Survivor, and Terence Winter for The Wolf of Wall Street.

Many of the above contenders have already been mentioned or honored in previous competitions, and will probably be listed in the upcoming Oscar nominations in Jan 16. However, some worthy scripts were glaringly absent in today’s nominations, not for lack of merit, but because of the strict rules of the WGA, which stipulate that a script has to be produced under the WGA jurisdiction or under the collective bargaining agreement in Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the UK in order to be eligible for the award. Among the high profile victims of this rule are John Ridley (12 Years A Slave), Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope (Philomena), Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) and Peter Morgan  (Rush).

Eligibility didn’t save other notable screenplays from being overlooked, such as Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lee Daniel’s The Butler, Saving Mr. Banks and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

In spite of its uncompromising rule, the WGA awards has an impressive record of overlapping with the Academy’s. In the past 19 winners, WGA and Oscar matched 12 times in the original-screenplay competition, and 14 times in adapted. Last year, Chris Terrio won both for Argo in the adapted  screenplay category, but Quentin Tarantino took the Oscar for best original screenplay for Django Unchained, which was ineligible for WGA. The WGA original screenplay prize was bestowed on Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty.

The winners will be announced Feb. 1 at simultaneous ceremonies in Los Angeles and New York.

Woody Allen wins at the WGA awards

Woody Allen wins at the WGA awards

Woody Allen wins at the WGA awards

For the fifth time, Woody Allen has won the Writers Guild of America’s award for the best original screenplay; this time for Midnight in Paris. He has previously won the trophy for Annie Hall, Broadway Danny Rose, Hannah and Her Sisters and Crimes and Misdemeanors.

The best adapted screenplay award went to Alexander Payne, Jim Rash and Nat Faxon for penning The Descendants, which is based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemming. It was Payne’s third WGA award, having won it previously for Election and Sideways.

The WGA awards are often seen as a good indicator of the Oscars, to be held next Sunday, because many of its voters are members of the Academy. However, there could be an upset this year, because a major Oscar contender, The Artist, was ineligible for the WGA awards. The black-and-white silent film, which has triumphed at the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs and the Producers Guild Award, was written by a French writer, who is not a WGA member.

The TV winners of the evening included Homeland for best new TV series, Modern Family for best comedy TV series, Breaking Bad for best drama TV series, Too Big to Fail for best long form adapted and Cinema Verite for best long form original.