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 awards, now in their 66th year. Nominations were announced Friday (Jan. 3) with winners to be revealed in a bicoastal ceremony on Feb. 1.
Although “12 Years a Slave” has the overwhelming lead for the Adapted Screenplay Oscar, don’t look for it among the five WGA nominees. Likewise for fifth-ranked “Philomena.” Our other three top Oscar contenders — “Before Midnight,” “Captain Phillips” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” — earned WGA bids as did our sixth and seventh place scripts (“August: Osage County” and “Lone Survivor“).
While all five of our frontrunners for the Original Screenplay Oscar were eligible with the WGA, only the top four — “American Hustle,” “Blue Jasmine,” “Her” and “Nebraska” — reaped bids. The fifth place Oscar contender — “Inside Llewyn Davis” by two-time past WGA champs (and six-time nominees) the Coen brothers — was snubbed by the WGA in favor of “Dallas Buyers Club” which ranks ninth on our Oscar chart.
How many of these WGA nominees will also contend at the Academy Awards? Which of them will still reap bids under the preferential system used by the academy — which benefits those contenders with passionate support — rather than the popular voting of the WGA which nominates the top five overall vote getters regardless of where they rank on the ballots.
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 was among the five Oscar contenders.
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 ruled ineligible by 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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