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“12 Years a Slave,” “Nebraska” and “Belle” are the top feature finalists for the 40th annual Humanitas Prize awards, which recognize writers.

“Whiplash” (pictured) is among the indie films competing in the Sundance feature film category, along with “Camp X-Ray,” “Hellion” and “Love is Strange.”

Among TV dramas, the shows in the mix this year are “Homeland,” “The Killing,” “Parenthood” and “True Detective.” TV comedies are “How I Met Your Mother,” “The Middle” and “Modern Family.”

The Humanitas org will hand out $90,000 in prize money to recognize writers whose work shed light on social issues and the depth of human relations.

Sometimes, challenging the audience, and giving them something more than what they expect, or even at times more than they know what to do with, is a good thing,” said Humanitas prexy Ali LeRoi. “Satisfaction does not always make us better. Examining our dissatisfaction is the thing that makes us move and learn and grow. That’s a thing that’s rarely said, and less often rewarded.”

The awards will be held Jan. 16 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

Here is a complete list of finalists:

Feature Film Category

12 YEARS A SLAVE Written by: John Ridley

BELLE Written by: Misan Sagay

NEBRASKA Written by: Bob Nelson

Sundance Feature Film Category

CAMP X-RAY Written by: Peter Sattler
HELLION Written by: Kat Candler
LOVE IS STRANGE Written by: Ira Sachs & Mauricio Zacharias

WHIPLASH Written by: Damien Chazelle

Documentary Category

FINDING VIVIAN MAIER Directed by: John Maloof & Charlie Siskel

MERCHANTS OF DOUBT Directed by: Robert Kenner
THE CASE AGAINST 8 Written by: Ben Cotner & Ryan White

90 Minute Category

MARY AND MARTHA Written by: Richard Curtis (HBO)

RING OF FIRE Written by: Richard Friedenberg (Lifetime)

THE NORMAL HEART Written by: Larry Kramer (HBO)

60 Minute Category

HOMELAND “The Star” Written by: Alex Gansa & Meredith Stiehm (Showtime)

PARENTHOOD “The Pontiac” Written by: Jason Katims (NBC)
THE KILLING “Six Minutes” Written by: Veena Sud (AMC)
TRUE DETECTIVE “Form and Void” Written by: Nic Pizzolatto (HBO)

30 Minute Category

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER “Last Forever, Part 2” Written by: Carter Bays & Craig Thomas (CBS) MODERN FAMILY “Under Pressure” Written by: Elaine Ko (ABC)
THE MIDDLE “Halloween IV: The Ghost Story” Written by: Roy Brown (ABC)


Nora Sullivan, USC

Han-Yee Ling, UCLA

Jessica Blaire, UCLA


Emily Brochin, USC

Kendell Klein, AFI
Mike MacGillivray, LMU