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Coen sibs, Allen back as WGA nominees

Joel and Ethan Coen, winners of last year's WGA Award for best adapted screenplay for "No Country for Old Men," were nominated in the original category Wednesday for their CIA comedy "Burn After Reading." Fellow WGA film nominees in the original category include Dustin Lance Black for "Milk," Woody Allen for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," Tom McCarthy for "The Visitor" and Robert Siegel for "The Wrestler."

Returning to the nomination party after a 12-year absence, Allen — the Meryl Streep of the WGAs — now has an astounding 19 screenplay nominations since 1966. He's won four times.

The nominees in the adapted screenplay category are "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," screenplay by Eric Roth, story by Roth and Robin Swicord, based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald; "The Dark Knight," screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, story by Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer, based on characters created by Bob Kane for DC Comics; "Doubt," screenplay by John Patrick Shanley, based on his play; "Frost/Nixon," screenplay by Peter Morgan, based on his play; and "Slumdog Millionaire," screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, based on the novel "Q&A" by Vikas Swarup.

For documentary screenplay, the nominees are "Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story," written by Stefan Forbes and Noland Walker; "Chicago 10," written by Brett Morgen; "Fuel," written by Johnny O'Hara; "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson," screenplay by Alex Gibney from the words of Hunter S. Thompson; and "Waltz With Bashir," written by Ari Folman.

One glaring shift from the 2007 crop, which included three female nominees, is the fact that only one woman was nominated: Swicord, who earned a story credit on "Benjamin Button." Jenny Lumet's "Rachel Getting Married" was a buzzed-about favorite that was ultimately overlooked by the guild.

The Nolans' "Dark Knight" nomination gives their comic book blockbuster further awards momentum moving toward the Oscars. On Tuesday, the Producers Guild of America nominated the film's producers for its producer of the year award, often a best picture Oscar bellwether.

The documentary screenplay award is only in its fifth year, and Gibney has won it twice already — for "Taxi to the Dark Side" in 2008 and "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" in 2006.

As far as its value as an Oscar predictor, the WGA winners in both categories have matched the Oscar winners the past four years, though sometimes the nominees have differed. This year's nominees could play even more loosely, as such screenplays as David Hare's Golden Globe-nominated "The Reader," Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York," Nick Schenk's "Gran Torino" and Andrew Stanton and Jim Reardon's "WALL-E" remain possible Academy choices. ("WALL-E" was not eligible for a WGA nod.)

Eligible feature films were released in the year 2008 and produced under the jurisdiction of WGA East and WGA West or affiliate guilds in Australia, Canada, the U.K., Ireland and New Zealand. There were 155 films eligible for original screenplay and 100 for adapted screenplay.

Last year's awards ceremony was delayed and ultimately downsized as a result of the guild's 100-day strike. The 2009 show is set for Feb. 7 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles and the Hudson Theatre at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in New York.(partialdiff)