What Writers Guild Awards do (and don’t) mean for Oscars

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 can vie for these prizes. This year, that meant just 95 of the 289 films eligible for the Best Picture Oscar could contend here. 

12 Years a Slave” — which has the overwhelming lead for the Adapted Screenplay Oscar — was banned at Saturday’s 66th edition of the WGA Awards as was rival Oscar nominee “Philomena.”

One of the other three Oscar contenders — “Captain Phillips” —  won the WGA award over Oscar-nominated “Before Midnight,” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” — as well as “August: Osage County” and “Lone Survivor.”  

All five Original Screenplay Oscar nominees were up for the WGA prize: “Her” edged out “American Hustle” as well as “Blue Jasmine,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Nebraska.”

RELATED: WGA winners: ‘Captain Phillips,’ ‘Her,’ ‘Stories We Tell’ …

The WGA was the last of the four major guilds to weigh in and Saturday’s winners don’t give us much guidance as to the hotly contested Best Picture race at the Oscars. With “Gravity” being snubbed here and “12 Years a Slave” ineligible, the only frontrunner for the top Oscar in contention with the WGA was “American Hustle.” That it lost to “Her” could hurt as it may reveal a lack of support from one of the bigger branches of the academy. However, as of now, “American Hustle” still has the lead in the race for Original Screenplay at the Oscars: 16 of our Experts are predicting it to prevail over “Her,” which has the support of the other seven. 

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. Both of that year’s 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. However, 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.” 

In 2010, six of the 10 WGA nominees went on to compete at the Oscars. 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. And 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 the WGA prize for “Inception” edging out, among others, Oscar rivals “The Fighter” and “The Kids Are All Right.”

And in 2009, only four WGA contenders deemed Oscar worthy: 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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