Now WGA poops its own party

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The WGA West said Thursday that it is canceling its awards banquet, blindsiding the WGA East just hours after the guilds jointly announced feature film nominees for WGA Awards tilting heavily toward art pics.

Six of the 10 noms for WGA Awards in the categories of original and adapted screenplays involve films that were released by studio specialty divisions. Following a bevy of DGA Award noms similarly dominated by adult-oriented fare, it appears the town is headed for the year of the art pic — and of the strike-fractured awards season.

The WGAW issued a terse statement regarding its change of plans regarding an awards gala. It had been scheduled to stage a splashy — though non-televised — show at the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles on Feb. 9, with the WGAE to hold a simultaneous banquet at the Millennium Hotel's Hudson Theatre in New York.

"The Writers Guild of America, West will be announcing the 2008 Writers Guild Awards winners," the WGAW said. "There will be no Writers Guild of America, West show until the strike is over."

A WGAE spokeswoman said the New York-based guild — which is a separate operation from the WGAW, though the guilds negotiate jointly — had just learned of the WGAW plans.

"We are exploring our options, and we will let you know when we have made a decision," WGAE spokeswoman Sherry Goldman said.

Among the nominated writers and their films, three of the four exceptions involved projects that can hardly be described as overtly commercial. In the original screenplay category, Tony Gilroy was nominated for Warner Bros.' edgy thriller "Michael Clayton" and Nancy Oliver for the quirky and modestly budgeted comedy "Lars and the Real Girl," an MGM release of a Sidney Kimmel Entertainment production, while James Vanderbilt fetched a nom for adapting Paramount's serial-killer tale "Zodiac."

Judd Apatow also was nominated for his original screenplay for Universal's "Knocked Up," the closest thing to a popcorn movie in the mix of films figuring in the WGA noms announced Thursday. Completing noms in the original category were Diablo Cody for the Fox Searchlight comedy "Juno" and Tamara Jenkins for Searchlight's family drama "The Savages."

Others attracting noms in the adapted screenplay category included the writing team of Ethan Coen and Joel Coen for "No Country for Old Men," released by Miramax; Paul Thomas Anderson for "There Will Be Blood," released by Paramount Vantage; Ronald Harwood for "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" from Miramax; and Sean Penn for "Into the Wild" from Par Vantage.

The WGA also announced nominations for documentary screenplay.

Michael Moore's "Sicko," the top-grossing docu of 2007, was among the nominees along with Anthony Giacchino's "The Camden 28," Bill Guttentag, Dan Sturman and Elizabeth Bentley's "Nanking," Charles Ferguson's "No End in Sight," Richard Berge, Nicole Newnham and Bonni Cohen's "The Rape of Europa" and Alex Gibney's "Taxi to the Dark Side."

Six of the nominations in the original and adapted screenplay categories went to writer-directors. They include Gilroy, the Coens, Anderson and Penn, all of whom also were recently nominated for directing honors on their films by the DGA Awards (HR 1/9). In addition, "Diving Bell" which secured a DGA nom for Julian Schnabel, was represented with its WGA nom for Harwood.

Jenkins and Aptow round out the list of writer-directors who scored WGA noms.

Gilroy is a longtime film scribe and WGA member, with "Clayton" his first directing credit.

"I've been voting for myself for 20 years," he said after learning of the WGA nom. "So this means a tremendous amount to me."

On Wednesday, Gilroy joined a protest rally outside Viacom headquarters in New York's Times Square. There was "great energy" at the strike event, he said, but the ongoing writers strike won't keep WGA members and others from joining in an energetic celebration of honorees at the WGA Awards.

Hours later the celebration was canceled. But whereas the Hollywood Press Assn. turned its Golden Globes into a streamlined affair this year due to a boycott by actors in sympathy with the writers' strike, the WGAW cancellation went without explanation for the time being.

Harwood noted he also was nominated for a Golden Globe on "Diving Bell."

"I'm very disappointed and sad they had to cancel (the Globes gala), because the guild's fight is not with the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.," he said.

Harwood added that he won't be participating in a slimmed-down Globes program, because "it would be wrong to attend in the current circumstances."

Apatow said he was "very surprised and thrilled to hear the news" of his WGA nom.

"Hopefully, now I will get to meet at least one of the Coen brothers," he added.

A SAG Awards spokeswoman said that gala would go forward as planned, because the WGA already has granted it a waiver for its planned telecast of the extravaganza. A DGA insider said the nontelevised DGA Awards banquet also would go forward as planned, though a guild spokeswoman declined comment on the matter.

Meanwhile, the overlap in nominations between the DGA and WGA left several of this seasons prestige films in this year's awards hunt without a nomination from either group. Among the missing are ThinkFilm's "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," directed by Sidney Lumet and written by Kelly Masterson; Focus Features' "Atonement," helmed by Joe Wright and penned by Ian McEwan and Christopher Hampton; and Universal's "Charlie Wilson's War," directed by Mike Nichols and written by Aaron Sorkin.

WGA Award-eligible screenplays involved feature films released in 2007 and produced "under the jurisdiction of Writers Guild of America, East and West or affiliate guilds in Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland and New Zealand." There were 164 eligible original screenplays and 103 adapted screenplays, officials said.

Eligible docus featured an onscreen writing credit and were exhibited theatrically in Los Angeles or New York for one week in 2007. The credited writers of these docus were required to join the WGAW's Nonfiction Writers Caucus or WGAE Nonfiction Writers Caucus in order to be considered.

A complete list of nominees can be found at THR.com.
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