Every year, the Writers Guild of America confounds Oscarologists when it rules a slew of screenplays ineligible for their kudos. Only scripts written under the guild’s guidelines or those of several international partners are allowed to vie for these kudos.
Voting for nominations began on Tuesday (Dec. 3) with the slate of cotenders to be announced on Jan. 3 and winners revealed during a Feb. 1 ceremony at the Marriott Hotel in Los Angeles.
While upwards of 250 films are in the running for Best Picture at the Oscars, only 54 of these had original scripts that can vie for WGA recognition while just 41 had adapted screenplays that can contend. (Compare those figures to last year when 68 original scripts and 44 adaptations contended.)
Although “12 Years a Slave” has the overwhelming lead for the Adapted Screenplay Oscar, don’t look for it among the WGA nominees. Likewise for sixth-ranked “Philomena,” “Blue is the Warmest Color” (#8) and “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” (#14).
While our five frontrunners for the Original Screenplay Oscar are eligible with the WGA, a number of other scripts are out of the running including: “Fruitvale Station” (ranked eighth on our chart); “Rush” (#11) and “The Past” (#16).
Last year, seven of the WGA nominees also reaped Oscar bids, including the adaptation of “Argo” which won both races. However, two of the eventual five Oscar nominees for Best Original Screenplay — the winner “Django Unchained” by non-guild member Quentin Tarantino and “Amour” from writer-director Michael Haneke — were deemed ineligible by the WGA. “Zero Dark Thirty” won that race at the WGA and did contend at the Oscars.
In 2011, only five of the 10 WGA nominees went on to contend at the Oscars. In 2010, six of the 10 WGA nominees went on to compete at the Oscars while only four managed to do this in 2009.
Three of 2011’s Oscar nominees for Best Original Screenplay — “The Artist,” “Margin Call” and “A Separation” — were ineligible with the WGA as was one of the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar contenders — “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”
Both of 2011’s WGA winners went on to repeat at the Oscars. “Midnight in Paris” won Woody Allen his fifth Original Screenplay award from the WGA while Alexander Payne claimed his third Adapted Screenplay prize for “The Descendants,” along with collaborators Nax Faxon and Jim Rash.
In 2010, Aaron Sorkin won Best Adapted Screenplay at both kudos for “The Social Network.” He edged out the adapters of “127 Hours” and “True Grit” for both awards. However, two of his Oscar rivals — “Toy Story 3” and “Winter’s Bone” — were ineligible to contend at the WGAs.
The eventual Oscar winner for Best Original Screenplay — “The King’s Speech” — was also ineligible for the WGA award as was another Oscar nominee — “Another Year.” Oscar contender Christopher Nolan won that prize for “Inception” edging out, among others, Oscar rivals “The Fighter” and “The Kids Are All Right.”
And in 2009, the four WGA contenders deemed Oscar worthy were: WGA winner “The Hurt Locker” which repeated at the Oscars and “A Serious Man” on the original front and eventual champ “Precious” and WGA winner “Up in the Air” on the adapted side. Two of the eventual five Oscar nominees for Best Original Screenplay — “Inglorious Basterds” and “Up” — were ineligible for WGA consideration. Likewise, three of the Best Adapted Screenplay contenders — “District 9,” “An Education” and “In the Loop” — were left out of the running by the WGA.
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