Writers Guild Awards limited as guidepost to Oscars

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. (See the full list of nominees here.)

Last year’s Best Original Screenplay Oscar winner, “Birdman,” was disqualifed at the WGA as was Adapted Screenplay nominee “The Theory of Everything.” This year, several leading Oscar contenders are out of the running for these precursor prizes, now in their 68th year. 

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Of our five frontrunners for the Original Screenplay Oscar, two don’t number among the WGA honorees: second-ranked “Inside Out” because Pixar, like most animation companies, is not a guild signatory and third place “The Hateful Eight” as writer/director Quentin Tarantino won’t join the WGA. 

Other original scripts deemed ineligible included the international hit “Ex Machina” and indie productions “I’ll See You in My Dreams” and “99 Homes.”

Among our five top contenders for the Adapted Screenplay Oscar, second place “Room” wasn’t eligible as Emma Donoghue, who adapted her bestselling novel, is not a member of the guild. Neither was “Brooklyn,” which we have in fifth place. That ran afoul of the requirement that foreign production companies prove their eligibility via a cumbersome process. 

Other adapted screenplays nixed by the guild include the animated “Anomalisa,”  international fare “45 Years” and “The Danish Girl” as well as indie darling “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.”

How many of this year’s 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. 

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Of last year’s five WGA nominees for original screenplay, four went on to contend at the Oscars against “Birdman”:  “Boyhood,” “Foxcatcher,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Nightcrawler.” WGA nominee “Whiplash” was bumped to the adapted race by the academy because it was based, in part, on a short film by writer/director Damien Chazelle

The Oscar winner for adapted screenplay, “The Imitation Game,” won at the WGA first against Oscar rival “American Sniper” and three scripts that were snubbed by the academy: “Gone Girl” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and “Wild.”

In 2013, all five of the WGA picks for Original Screenplay repeated at the Oscars, with “Her” winning both awards. The other nominees were: “American Hustle,” “Blue Jasmine,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Nebraska.” Only three of the WGA nominees for Adapted Screenplay — winner “Captain Phillips” as well as “Before Midnight” and “Wolf of Wall Street” — reaped Oscar bids; neither eventual Oscar champ “12 Years a Slave” nor “Philomena” were eligible for the guild prize. 

In 2012, 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 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. 

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In 2011, only five of the 10 WGA nominees went on to contend at the Oscars. Three of the 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, 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. 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.”

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.

Click here to see ups and downs of Oscar races over entire awards season

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