WGA Awards: Why 'The Post' and (Some) Other Overlooked Films Should Worry

THR's awards columnist explains how the Writers Guild of America's eligibility requirement shaped its nominations.
Courtesy of Niko Tavernise/Twentieth Century Fox
'The Post'

The nominations announced Thursday for the 70th Writers Guild of America Awards were as interesting for the scripts that were overlooked as for those that made the cut. The Post, Darkest Hour and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri were among a number of major Oscar-contending screenplays that were not nominated. But the writers associated with some have more reason for concern than others, since some have what might be called "excused absences," while others do not.

The WGA Awards (unlike the other major guilds' awards such as the PGA Awards, DGA Awards and SAG Awards) only consider films that were made under the guild's oversight — or, in the case of films made abroad, under collective bargaining agreements with one of the foreign writers' guilds. That ends up excluding many films made outside of America, and even a few made that were made in the U.S. — Quentin Tarantino, for instance, has won two screenplay Oscars, but has never been nominated for a WGA Award because he has opted not to join the organization.

Those guidelines have meant that scripts like 2013's 12 Years a Slave, 2014's Birdman, 2015's Brooklyn and Room and 2016's Lion were not even nominated for a WGA Award — although each later rebounded with a screenplay Oscar nom, and 12 Years a Slave and Birdman even won.

With regard to this year's original screenplay category, the Minimum Basic Agreement rule undoubtedly explains the absence of Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards script — in my view, the favorite to win the best original screenplay Oscar — and may have cost Anthony McCarten's Darkest Hour script a nom, too. It also eliminated from contention several slightly longer shots, like Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou's The Killing of a Sacred Deer script and William Nicholson's Breathe script, from being considered for it. (McDonagh, McCarten and Lanthimos previously have had scripts that were WGA-ineligible, but still went on to screenwriting Oscar noms — 2008's In Bruges and 2015's The Theory of Everything and The Lobster, respectively.)

The rule doesn't explain the exclusion of The Post, however, since it was eligible for WGA consideration. I've long regarded it as on-the-bubble for an Oscar nom, figuring that Three Billboards, Lady BirdGet Out, The Big Sick and The Shape of Water would have a slight edge over it.

With Three Billboard ineligible for WGA honors, noms did go to Greta Gerwing's Lady Bird, Jordan Peele's Get Out, Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani's The Big Sick and Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor's The Shape of Water. And then Steven Rogers' I, Tonya snagged the fifth slot, which is a major boon to that late-bloomer and a troublesome sign for Liz Hannah and Spotlight Oscar winner Josh Singer's script for The Post.

As for the adapted screenplay category, high-profile scripts that were ineligible for WGA recognition included Matt Greenhalgh's Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool and Lee Hall's Victoria & Abdul. Films that were eligible, but did not secure a nom, included David Scarpa's All the Money in the World, Stephen Chbosky's Wonder, Brian Selznick's Wonderstruck and Jason Fuchs, Allan Heinberg and Zack Snyder's Wonder Woman scripts, which many expected to land a WGA nom.

Instead, the WGA noms for adapted screenplay went to James Ivory's Call Me by Your Name, which has to be considered the Oscar frontrunner, as well as Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber's The Disaster Artist, Aaron Sorkin's Molly's Game, Virgil Williams and Dee ReesMudbound, and, in something of a surprise, Scott FrankJames Mangold and Michael Green'Logan, the acclaimed final installment of the Wolverine franchise, which now must be taken more seriously as an Oscar possibility.

One other note: The WGA, unlike the Academy, does not consider animated films for its original or adapted screenplay awards, which is why Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich's original Coco script never had a chance.