EXCLUSIVE: Heavyweight Oscar contenders Quentin Tarantino and Pedro Almodóvar are among those who will not be going to the WGA Awards this year. And get your knives out, FilmTwitter, because one of the high-profile female directors ignored by the Golden Globes’ directing category, Lulu Wang for The Farewell, won’t have her screenplay invited either. And not so fast, Netflix: The WGA has a different idea of what The Two Popes is than you do.
The WGA sent members (I am one) the 2020 preliminary screenplay ballot this week. A total of 64 original scripts and 44 adapted screenplays are on it, meaning members can pick their five nominees in both categories only from the names on this list.
The Writers Guild, whose awards are a key stop during the season, operates its annual kudos show in a different way than others (including the DGA and SAG) by excluding from consideration any theatrical motion picture that was not written under the WGA minimum basic agreement (MBA) or “under a bona fide collective bargaining agreement” of the affiliate guilds in Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, India, France, Israel, Quebec and Germany. Additionally, all scripts that qualify under those guidelines must also be formally submitted to the WGA for consideration, and must have played at least a one-week engagement in the Los Angeles area.
Every year there always seems to be a number of Oscar contenders not allowed to compete at the WGA for one of the reasons described above, and this year is no different. Topping the list of Original Screenplays considered Oscar possibilities not on the WGA’s prelim ballot are Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory and The Peanut Butter Falcon from writers Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, Also on the list is a quartet of films released by A24 including writer-director Wang’s highly acclaimed The Farewell, The Last Black Man In San Francisco (Jimmie Fails, Rob Richert, Joe Talbot), Waves (Trey Edward Shults) and Midsommar (Ari Aster).
On the Adaptation side, scripts not on the WGA rundown include Judy by Tom Edge, Downton Abbey by Julian Fellowes; and because animated films are never eligible in these categories, Toy Story 4 and every other ‘toon. Most of the above mentioned Original and Adapted screenplays are being campaigned, and many of the scripts have even been sent to voters.
On another front, Netflix and Anthony McCarten had submitted The Two Popes as an adaptation; it was nominated by Critics’ Choice this week in its adaptation category. The streamer is saying it was based on a play McCarten wrote called The Pope, but the WGA, which has final jurisdiction where each script is placed, disagreed and put it instead in the Original category. The Academy confirms that for the Oscars, it will compete in the Adapted category. The same goes for BAFTA.
There is certainly precedent for this: In 2016, Moonlight was deemed original by the WGA but adapted by the Motion Picture Academy. It won both. Netflix tells us its was informed this morning of the WGA decision but plans to stick to their plan of urging voters in other contests including the Oscars to consider Two Popes adapted, not original. Earlier in the season, Netflix and McCarten were uncertain of which category to put the film in but ultimately settled on that. And STX Entertainment’s Hustlers , which writer/director Lorene Scafaria fictionalized but based on a New York Magazine article, was entered into the WGA contest as a adaptation but , like Two Popes was reclassified by the Guild as an Original instead.
As for Tarantino, he always goes his own way and not the guild’s, and though he has won two Original Screenplay Oscars (for Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained) as well as a nomination for Inglorious Basterds, none of his nine films have ever been nominated by the WGA. Tarantino has never joined the guild, though he’s been a member of the DGA since 2011 and has been nominated for their Best Director award twice before. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has already won the NYFCC Screenplay award and been nominated in the category by both the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice.
Similarly. Almodóvar has also won an Original Screenplay Oscar but has never been in the WGA’s awards whirl. By the way, Tarantino actually does have one WGA nomination to his credit for the “Grave Danger” episode Part 1 and 2 of CSI that he directed in 2005 and was among the four listed writers.
After the uproar over the omission of woman in the Golden Globes’ Best Director race, including the prominently mentioned name of The Farewell writer-director Wang, expect more disappointment for her role as screenwriter. Wang in fact was nominated for Best Original Screenplay this week for the Critics’ Choice Awards and is a strong possibility for an Oscar nom. She didn’t make the WGA preliminary cut, so don’t look for her at the ceremony February 1.
So who is on the lists? Have no fear, there are more than enough good films to fill out my ballot, from 1917, LIttle Women and Marriage Story to The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Ford v Ferrari and Richard Jewell and on and on. And if you are so inclined you can even vote for the likes of Stuber, Rambo: Last Blood and Crawl. The latter alligators-on-the-loose-in-a-hurricane movie that Tarantino himself told me at the Governors Awards was actually his favorite this year.
Among those movies also on the prelim list is Apple’s The Banker, which is in fact ineligible since the streamer pulled the film from its planned December 6 release after some controversy, unrelated to the movie itself, derailed those plans. It had been submitted before all that happened.
Ballots to choose the final five nominees in both Original and Adaptation categories are due back to the WGA at noon PT on January 2. Nominations will be announced January 6.