Anyone looking to get some clarity on the Oscar screenplay races won’t get much help from the Writers Guild of America nominations, which are announced tomorrow. The WGA often excludes prominent titles due to various rules – last year, adapted screenplay Oscar winner “12 Years a Slave” was deemed ineligible. This year, titles including “Birdman,” “The Theory of Everything” and “Selma” are among those that did not fit the WGA rules and are thus not under consideration. Which begs the question, are you really rewarding the “best” screenplay, or the best screenplay that conforms to your rules? Even the Directors Guild is willing to nominate people who aren’t members.
Also complicating matters is the fact that “Whiplash” was just deemed an adapted screenplay by the Academy since a short film came first, but the WGA placed it in original. There is precedent for this; albeit in the reverse: The 2005 film “Syriana” was deemed an adapted screenplay by the WGA yet placed in original at the Oscars. Below, our predictions in the original and adapted screenplay categories.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Frontrunner “Boyhood” is considered a lock, with Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” proving a force to be reckoned with. If the guild nominated his last, weaker script for “Moonrise Kingdom,” it would be hard to ignore “Hotel,” which is one of only five films to have received nominations from all the guilds that have announced so far. Surprise hit “Nightcrawler” looks to continue its streak here. The dark comedy has proven to be a real player in competitive races, and there is a lot of love in particular for Dan Gilroy’s script. “Whiplash” is also garnering a lot of praise and, with its PGA nomination yesterday, is looking stronger and stronger. Though it will move to the adapted category for the Oscars, look for a WGA ineligible script (“Birdman,” “Selma” or “Mr. Turner”) to make a play for its spot.
“The Imitation Game”
A difficult one to call, and the exclusion of “The Theory of Everything” makes it an even more wide open race. “The Imitation Game” and “Gone Girl” are sitting pretty, with the other three spots in question. “American Sniper” has generally been praised more for its acting and direction but is proving popular with the guilds and audiences, which should push it into the running. “Wild” is based on a beloved book adapted by a beloved writer, Nick Hornby. And though reaction to “Inherent Vice” is mixed at best, you have to admire Paul Thomas Anderson for tackling Thomas Pynchon. “Unbroken” could surprise here – critical reception is muted, but the script is from four respected writers, including Joel and Ethan Coen. And “Into the Woods” is proving a successful adaptation of a stage musical by that book’s same writer, James Lapine.