The Writers Guild nominations seemed to fall right in line with expectations, with one glaring exception. The noticeable absence of Oscar frontrunner The Artist in Original Screenplay was not a diss but simply because that film — written by its director, Michel Hazanavicius — was ineligible under the WGA’s award rules as it was not produced under a guild contract. Mike Mills’ Focus Features film Beginners was similarily ineligible in the Original Screenplay category along with titles like Shame and Margin Call, with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Drive among those in the Adapted Screenplay lineup.
The Writers Guild, unlike SAG, DGA or PGA, will only consider movies made under their auspices, which means often that likely Oscar nominees in the writing categories are often AWOL at the WGA, which believes these awards should be restricted to union-approved productions. Animated and foreign films also regularly fail to make the cut at WGA but often wind up on the Academy’s list, so the absence of Paramount’s Rango for instance shouldn’t be an indication of its ultimate chances with Oscar.
Certainly The Artist, even though it is a silent film, will likely be nominated by the Academy’s writers branch at the expense of one of the WGA’s strong list of nominees: 50/50, Bridesmaids, Midnight In Paris, Win Win and Young Adult. Terrence Malick’s Cannes winner The Tree of Life, missing from the WGA lineup along with the WGA-ineligible screenplay for the Iranian Oscar entry A Separation, would also appear to be strong contenders to replace one or two of the WGA choices when Academy Award nominations are announced January 24.
In the adaptation category that includes The Descendants, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Help, Hugo and Moneyball, potential Academy possibilities missing WGA script nods include War Horse, Drive, and George Clooney and Grant Heslov’s The Ides Of March. Also shut out were a pair of Warner Bros contenders – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and (not so surprisingly) the final Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 — neither of which showed up in other guild contests so far. Dustin Lance Black’s original script for Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar was also bypassed by the WGA membership.
The WGA announcement this morning brought continued good news for Universal’s unexpected awards-season darling Bridesmaids. In addition to Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo’s script in the Original Screenplay group, it also landed significant PGA and SAG nominations to add weight to its growing chances of landing a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Usually the pedigree of so many guild nods would indicate a strong chance in the Academy’s Best Pic lineup, but the guild bounty is likely to stop here, as Bridesmaids helmer Paul Feig would seem a long shot for a Directors Guild nomination.
Sony should be happy to see a nomination for Steven Zaillian’s adapted screenplay for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo as its back-to-back PGA and WGA nods this week have upped its Oscar chances. Until now, prospects have looked rather dim, with previous buzz centering primarily on star Rooney Mara. It was a good day for Zaillian, who will be competing against himself as his Moneyball (written with Aaron Sorkin) was also nominated.
The last of the major above-the-line guild nominations will be announced Monday morning, when the DGA weighs in with its all-important and telling list that should define this wide-open year even more.