2018 Writers Guild Awards nominations: WGA is limited as guidepost to predicting Oscars

Don’t look for some of the leading Oscar contenders, including the original screenplays for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “Darkest Hour,” in the list of nominations for the 70th annual WGA Awards announced on Jan. 4. Only scripts written under the guild’s guidelines or those of several international partners are allowed to vie for these awards.

As such, these kudos are not the most reliable barometer of the eventual Oscar nominees. Indeed, in the past eight years only 49 of the WGA nominees have numbered among the 80 screenplays that reaped Academy Awards bids.

Last year’s WGA Awards nominees previewed only three of the Oscar contenders for Best Original Screenplay: “Hell or High Water,” “La La Land,”  “Manchester by the Sea.” The other two WGA nominees in this category — “Loving” and “Moonlight” — were deemed to be adaptations by the academy because they were inspired by a documentary and play respectively. “Moonlight” won with both the guild and the academy.

One of the other two Best Original Screenplay Oscar nominees –“20th Century Women” — was snubbed by the guild while the other —  “The Lobster” — was ineligible. For the latter, co-writers Efthymis Filippou and Yorgos Lanthimos won Best Screenplay from the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. for this deft satire but ran afoul of the restrictions imposed by the guild. Likewise, they were ineligible for consideration this year for the script of “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.”

And the 2016 WGA roster of adapted screenplay nominees also foresaw only three of the five Oscar nominees: WGA champ “Arrival,” “Fences” and “Hidden Figures.” “Lion” couldn’t contend at the WGA awards as the film ran afoul of the requirement that foreign production companies prove their eligibility via a cumbersome process and “Moonlight” contended over in the original screenplay race at the guild. The WGA rounded out the category with “Deadpool” and “Nocturnal Animals.”

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In 2015, “Spotlight” won Original Screenplay at the WGA before repeating at the Oscars. Of its WGA competition, only “Bridge of Spies” and “Straight Outta Compton” also contended at the Oscars with “Sicario” and “Trainwreck” replaced by the WGA-ineligible “Ex Machina” and “Inside Out.” Likewise, “The Big Short” won over the guild before prevailing with the academy in Adapted Screenplay. The other WGA nominees to make it to the Oscars were “Carol” and “The Martian” with “Steve Jobs” and “Trumbo” giving way to “Brooklyn” and “Room,” which had been ineligible with the guild.

Of 2014’s five WGA nominees for Original Screenplay, four went on to lose at the Oscars to “Birdman,” which was WGA-ineligible: “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.

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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 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.

In 2011, only five of the 10 WGA nominees went on to contend at the Oscars. Three of the Oscar nominees for Original Screenplay — “The Artist,” “Margin Call” and “A Separation” — were ruled ineligible by the WGA as was one of the 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 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 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.”

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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 Original Screenplay — “Inglorious Basterds” and “Up” — were ineligible for WGA consideration. Likewise, three of the Adapted Screenplay contenders — “District 9,” “An Education” and “In the Loop” — were left out of the running by the WGA.

With that caveat in mind, 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.

Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions in that category as well as the 23 others. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23. And join in the fierce debate over the 2018 Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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