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The Writers Guild of America on Wednesday announced the nominees for its annual WGA Awards. Most of the usual suspects were nominated — La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, Hell or High Water and Loving, along with Arrival, Fences, Hidden Figures and Nocturnal Animals. But not all of them were nominated in the category in which you’d expect. And rather than competing against films like Hacksaw Ridge, Silence, Lion or The Lobster, they instead found themselves in the company of the comic book adaptation Deadpool, about as much of a popcorn movie as one could imagine.
What, you may wonder, is going on here?
Let’s first stipulate that the WGA Awards are always a bit idiosyncratic — and that means they are not necessarily helpful when it comes to Oscar prognostication. That’s because — unlike the DGA, PGA or SAG-AFTRA, to cite the other prominent guilds that host awards shows — the WGA refuses to consider work that is not written under the WGA contract (hence Quentin Tarantino‘s regular absence from their honors) or, in the case of films shot outside the U.S., under a contract with an affiliated guild abroad. This year, that meant that Lion and The Lobster, as well as Toni Erdmann and Julieta, among others, were ineligible.
Going into this year’s WGA noms, there also was a second complicating factor that meant the WGA noms wouldn’t necessarily point to how the Academy’s writers branch, which will begin voting Thursday, will decide its nominations. The WGA considered Moonlight and Loving to be original screenplays, whereas the executive committee of the Academy’s writers branch ruled they must be considered as adapted screenplays, for reasons recently discussed on this blog.
In the end, the WGA did nominate Moonlight and Loving for best original screenplay, alongside La La Land and Manchester by the Sea (which shared the original screenplay prize at the Critics’ Choice Awards) and Hell or High Water. The fact that they weren’t competing in the adapted category clearly benefited Deadpool, which will compete against Arrival, Fences (posthumous recognition for August Wilson, who died in 2005), Hidden Figures and Nocturnal Animals. Deadpool‘s inclusion wasn’t a complete surprise, though, since the guild also has seen fit to nominate other superhero movies in the category as well, such as 2008’s The Dark Knight and 2015’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
Factoring in the WGA’s finicky rules, the only real omissions of any note were the adapted screenplays Silence (Martin Scorsese and Jay Cocks, who will pick up the National Board of Review’s prize in that category later tonight), Hacksaw Ridge (from Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight) and Sully (Todd Komarnicki); and the original screenplays Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross), 20th Century Women (Mike Mills), Paterson (Jim Jarmusch) and Jackie (Today show producer Noah Oppenheim).
I’m told the campaigns behind Silence and Hacksaw, for whatever reason, did not mail screeners to WGA voters, which certainly couldn’t have helped their cause — but then again, neither did the campaign for Deadpool, so go figure!
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