Oscar nominations cliffhanger: Which WGA Awards contenders will be recognized by writers branch?

Screenwriters are often overlooked for their contribution to their films. With film being a director’s medium and the actors and actresses who star being tremendously more famous and popular, writers are  the unsung heroes of some of the best movies of the year. It’s much the same this year – so let’s take a moment to commemorate these scribes.

Now that that’s out of the way – the real question is, which screenwriters will get in at Tuesday’s Oscar nominations? There are many variables here, maybe more than usual, with both the Adapted and Original categories in a state of flux. Add to that the fact that the writers branch always surprises us with a quirky nomination or omission. Last year, for instance, Aaron Sorkin’s PERFECT “Steve Jobs” script failed to earn a nomination, while Quentin Tarantino’s genius “The Hateful Eight” work was also ignored. Instead, “Ex Machine,” “The Martian” and “Straight Outta Compton” were nominated. The latter two had contended at the WGA, but  “Steve Jobs” had as well. So does a WGA nomination actually make any difference?

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Before we examine this, it’s important to note that many films are ineligible to contend for the WGA Awards because the guild refuses to consider work that is not written under the WGA contract or  by a WGA member or, in the case of international productions, by an affiliated guild.

This restriction rules out quite a few of the main contenders for the screenplay Oscars, including all of Tarantino’s work. It also means that some rather idiosyncratic choices can pop up on the WGA ballot. While it is nice to recognize writers who might not have got a look in otherwise, that doesn’t exactly help us when it comes to predicting the Oscars. This year, films such as “The Lobster” and “Lion” (both predicted to be nominated according to our Oscar experts) were ineligible with the WGA. Meanwhile, “Deadpool,” “Loving” and “Nocturnal Animals” are all outside the top five predicted Original Screenplay nominees in our odds chart but did pick up guild nominations. Funny old thing, the WGA’s.

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History of Academy Award winning films

With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at the last five years and see how many WGA nominees also earned Oscar nominations.

WGA nominees that also reaped Oscar bids.

Not exactly the most insightful of charts, with the phrase ‘hit and miss’ coming to mind. As the WGA Awards are not a good Oscar tea leaf,  it’s better to decipher which films will be nominated in the writing categories come January 24th, in other ways. Which of the films have been most popular across all awards ceremonies, for example?

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Well, “Manchester by the Sea,” “La La Land” and “Hell or High Water” were all nominated by the WGA, the Golden Globes and BAFTA – all for original (or simply “Best Screenplay” at the Globes), so those three films can definitely be considered locks for a nomination. “La La Land” won the Globe but “Manchester by the Sea” is our current frontrunner, so it looks like a fight between them for the Oscar win. Aside from that, in the original category? It’s anyone’s game, really. “Loving” grabbed a WGA nomination, “I, Daniel Blake” nabbed a BAFTA nomination, but both are well outside our top five predicted nominees. It looks to be between “The Lobster,” “Jackie” and “Captain Fantastic” for the final two spots, with  “20th Century Women” also in contention.

Moonlight” is an interesting case, as it was nominated as an Original Screenplay at WGA and BAFTA, but was ruled to be Adapted by the academy. Nevertheless, it’s also picked up nominations at WGA, BAFTA and at the Globes and is our current favorite to win Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars, so that’s one lock. Another  is “Arrival,” which earned both WGA and BAFTA nominations and is in second-placed on our Best Adapted Screenplay odds chart.

Again, it’s an open field after those two, with three more places  up for grabs. “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Lion” both have BAFTA-nominated screenplays, particularly Luke Davies for the fourth-ranked “Lion.” “Deadpool” and “Fences” were both nominated at WGA so they too have a good chance – although it’s unlikely “Deadpool” will get in, whereas “Fences” sits third in our odds chart and is adapted from a Pulitzer-winning play. And “Hidden Figures” earned both WGA and BAFTA nominations and is ranked fifth.

And while Tom Ford was nominated by the Golden Globes, WGA and BAFTA for his script for “Nocturnal Animals,” he sits in sixth place. I’ve placed this one in my personal predictions but it seems many believe it will miss out.

Predict the Oscar nominations now; change them till January 24

Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films are faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before nominations are announced on January 24 at 5:00 am PT/8:00 am ET. Be sure to read our contest rules. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.

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