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.
DRAMA SERIES: Breaking Bad, Written by Sam Catlin, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Gennifer Hutchison, George Mastras, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett; AMC
DOCUMENTARY: 2012 Year in Review, 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
(*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