In concurrent ceremonies on the East and West Coast, The Writers Guild of America (WGA) announced the winners of their annual awards for screen, television and other media on Saturday, February 1. As has been the case this awards season, there were a number of surprises, especially in the movie categories – not so much in the television ones.
Billy Ray’s adapted screenplay for Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips, based on the book “A Captain’s Duty,” written by the actual Richard Phillips, won one of three screen awards, while Spike Jonze’s screenplay for his film Her took the award for an original screenplay. Sarah Polley took home a WGA Award for her screenplay for the pseudo-documentary Sarah Polley Stories We Tell.
Although Alex Gibney’s We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks was also nominated in the documentary category, Gibney and his writing on the film was instead honored with the very first Paul Selvin Award to go to a documentary. (You can read more about that award here.)
As far as the television categories, it was pretty much business as usual with AMC’s “Breaking Bad” being honored for dramatic series, HBO’s “Veep” receiving the honors for comedy series, while the Netflix drama “House of Cards” received a WGA Award for writing on a new series.
Now we get to the moment of truth, analyzing the winners in the film categories and how that might affect the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ vote in their own screenplay categories.
One thing that needs to be considered is that the WGA have fairly stringent policies about which films and screenplays get nominated, based on whether it was written under WGA rules. This means that a few screenplays nominated for the Oscars were not eligible for the WGA awards and were omitted entirely, most notably in the adapted category where 12 Years a Slave and Philomena weren’t considered eligible. For months, John Ridley’s screenplay for the former has been considered a favorite on Oscar night.
Now let’s talk about the winners. A few months back, many felt David O. Russell’s American Hustle was the favorite in the original screenplay category–its his second Oscar nomination in a row for his writing–but Jonze’s screenplay for Her has now won the Golden Globe, the Critics Choice Award and the WGA Award in the category.
So does Russell have a chance at winning his first Oscar still? In fact, he does. Why? Because the entire Academy will vote in the Original Screenplay category and that will include the actors division, who make up the largest part of the Academy. They’ve already proven their love for the movie by nominating the movie in all four acting categories, and when you consider that a lot of the Academy is older and maybe not so tech-savvy to appreciate Her–remember all the problems with online voting last year?–they could go with American Hustle just to give Russell credit for all he’s written up until this point.
Captain Phillips‘s win over Terrence Winter’s screenplay for The Wolf of Wall Street is a little more flummoxing, but with the support the Academy has given to Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, it makes more sense that that’s still the favorite on Oscar night despite Billy Ray’s win at the WGAs.
Anyway, all of these precursor awards are leading up to what could be a very interesting Oscar night on Sunday, March 2.
You can read the full list of WGA Awards winners in all of the categories below:
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Her, Written by Spike Jonze; Warner Bros.
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Captain Phillips, Screenplay by Billy Ray; Based on the book A Captains Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty; Columbia Pictures
DOCUMENTARY SCREENPLAY: Stories We Tell, Written by Sarah Polley; Roadside Attractions
DRAMA SERIES: Breaking Bad, Written by Sam Catlin, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Gennifer Hutchison, George Mastras, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett; AMC
COMEDY SERIES: Veep, Written by Simon Blackwell, Roger Drew, Sean Gray, Armando Iannucci, Ian Martin, Georgia Pritchett, David Quantick, Tony Roche, Will Smith; HBO
NEW SERIES: House of Cards, Written by Kate Barnow, Rick Cleveland, Sam Forman, Gina Gionfriddo, Keith Huff, Sarah Treem, Beau Willimon; Netflix
EPISODIC DRAMA: Confessions (Breaking Bad), Written by Gennifer Hutchison; AMC
EPISODIC COMEDY: Hogcock! (30 Rock), Written by Jack Burditt & Robert Carlock; NBC
LONG FORM ADAPTED: Muhammad Alis Greatest Fight, Written by Shawn Slovo, Based on the book by Howard Bingham and Max Wallace; HBO
SHORT FORM NEW MEDIA ORIGINAL: Episode 4: The Collected Sylvia (Sylvia Plath: Girl Detective), Written by Mike Simses
ANIMATION: A Test Before Trying (The Simpsons), Written by Joel H. Cohen; Fox
COMEDY / VARIETY (INCLUDING TALK) SERIES: The Colbert Report, Writers: Stephen Colbert, Tom Purcell, Michael Brumm, Nate Charny, Rich Dahm, Paul Dinello, Eric Drysdale, Rob Dubbin, Glenn Eichler, Gabe Gronli, Dan Guterman, Barry Julien, Jay Katsir, Frank Lesser, Opus Moreschi, Bobby Mort, Meredith Scardino, Max Werner; Comedy Central
COMEDY / VARIETY MUSIC, AWARDS, TRIBUTES SPECIALS: Blake Sheltons Not So Family Christmas, Head Writers: Jay Martel, Ian Roberts; Writers: Alex Rubens, Charlie Sanders; NBC
QUIZ AND AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION: Jeopardy!, Written by John Duarte, Harry Friedman, Mark Gaberman, Debbie Griffin, Michele Loud, Robert McClenaghan, Jim Rhine, Steve D. Tamerius, Billy Wisse; ABC
DAYTIME DRAMA: Days of Our Lives, Written by Lorraine Broderick, David Cherrill, Carolyn Culliton, Richard Culliton, Rick Draughon, Christopher Dunn, Janet Iacobuzio, David A. Levinson, Ryan Quan, Dave Ryan, Melissa Salmons, Christopher J. Whitesell; NBC
CHILDRENS EPISODIC & SPECIALS: influANTces (A.N.T. Farm), Written by Vincent Brown; Disney Channel
DOCUMENTARY CURRENT EVENTS: Egypt in Crisis (Frontline), Written by Marcela Gaviria & Martin Smith; PBS
DOCUMENTARY OTHER THAN CURRENT EVENTS: (tie) The Abolitionists (American Experience), Written by Rob Rapley; PBS and Silicon Valley (American Experience), Telescript by Randall MacLowry and Michelle Ferrari; Story by Randall MacLowry; PBS
NEWS REGULARLY SCHEDULED, BULLETIN, OR BREAKING REPORT: Tragedy at Newtown Special Edition (ABC World News with Diane Sawyer), Written by Lisa Ferri and Matt Negrin; ABC
NEWS ANALYSIS, FEATURE, OR COMMENTARY: Lethal Medicine (60 Minutes), Written by Michael Rey, Oriana Zill de Granados, Michael Radutzky; CBS
DOCUMENTARY: “2012 Year in Review, Written by Gail Lee; CBS Radio News
NEWS REGULARLY SCHEDULED OR BREAKING REPORT: Afternoon Drive, Written by Bill Spadaro; CBS Radio/1010 WINS
NEWS ANALYSIS, FEATURE OR COMMENTARY: Remembrances, Written by Gail Lee; CBS Radio News
PROMOTIONAL WRITING AND GRAPHIC ANIMATION
ON-AIR PROMOTION (TELEVISION, NEW MEDIA OR RADIO: The Crazy Ones Building a Better Comedy, Written by Erial Tompkins; CBS
TELEVISION GRAPHIC ART AND ANIMATION: CBS News Animations: Brain Injury, Pills, Bionic Leg, Midland Parade, Concordia Salvage; Animation by David Rosen; CBS News
(*Editor Note: There were no nominees in Long Form Original, Short Form New Media Adapted, or Childrens Long Form or Special awards categories this year.)
VIDEOGAME: The Last of Us, Written by Neil Druckmann; Sony Computer Entertainment