Write it Down Before You Forget – Writers Guild Nominations

I swear to God one day I’ll get better at budgeting my time. Lost in the shuffle of the last week of foraging for documentaries and foreign submissions, as well as mainstream fare potentially vying for the Oscars, I forgot that Tuesday was the unveiling of the nominations for the Writers Guild of America. The second of the four major trade unions to release their fields, like the Screen Actors Guild you’re very likely to see these nominees making the final cut with the Academy. Well, in two of the three categories, anyway. Documentary is always a bit of a crapshoot amongst all the guilds.

So, before next Sunday’s Golden Globes, let’s take a quick look at what the WGA has to say. This is the last batch of nominations for February, with the Annie Awards list coming on March 3, the Producers Guild on March 8, and the Directors Guild and BAFTA nominations on March 9. I’ll do a separate post for the Annies, then one grand post for the other three on the 9th. Then, just one week later, we’ll finally have the Academy’s nominations, at which point the Blitz will be ON!

Here are the film nominees from the Writers Guild of America! You can read the entire list of nominees across film, TV, radio, and promotions here.

Original Screenplay
Judas and the Black Messiah – Will Berson & Shaka King – HBO Max
Palm Springs – Andy Siara – Hulu
Promising Young Woman – Emerald Fennell – Theatres and VOD services
Sound of Metal – Darius Marder & Abraham Marder – Amazon
The Trial of the Chicago 7– Aaron Sorkin – Netflix

Adapted Screenplay
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm– Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman, and Lee Kern – Amazon
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Ruben Santiago-Hudson – Netflix
News of the World – Paul Greengrass and Luke Davies – Theatres and VOD services
One Night in Miami – Kemp Powers – Amazon
The White Tiger – Ramin Bahrani – Netflix

Documentary Screenplay
All In: The Fight for Democracy – Jack Youngelson – Amazon
The Dissident – Mark Monroe and Brian Fogel – Apple TV+
Herb Alpert Is… – John Scheinfeld – VOD services
Red Penguins – Gabe Polsky – VOD services
Totally Under Control – Alex Gibney – Hulu

So what can we make of all this? For the Documentary field, not much. Of the five nominees, All In is the only one on the Academy’s shortlist, so its inclusion here might bolster its chances for a final nomination from the Academy, but there’s not all that much crossover between the Writers Guild and the Academy’s Documentary Branch. Still, getting a nod here definitely can’t hurt its chances.

As for the two main categories, expect to see at least 80% of this list translate to the final Oscar nominees. The biggest surprise is that Chloé Zhao is left off for Adapted Screenplay. She’s nominated for Best Screenplay (regardless of origin) with the Globes, and she’s up for Best Director in both the Globes and Independent Spirit Awards (among many many other accolades) for Nomadland. Honestly, in a normal year, her trajectory suggested the token Screenplay Oscar consolation prize for not getting Best Director or the film winning Best Picture. I have a feeling her omission here will be overridden by the Academy, but in a weird way I’m kind of hoping it isn’t, because that means they’ll have to give her serious consideration for Best Director, instead of just jerking her around like they have with Greta Gerwig the last couple of years.

That said, with or without Chloé Zhao, Adapted Screenplay looks like a really competitive category this year. If we’re to take this list as a preview, then we are in for a stacked field. Borat on the whole has gotten much more praise and buzz this time around compared to the first film (which was only nominated for Original Screenplay), News of the World is basically guaranteed a Supporting Actress nomination but could get a boost here, Ma Rainey and One Night in Miami are both critical and audience darlings right now, and The White Tiger could turn into the darkest of dark horses, as this is the first mention I’ve seen of it for any major award apart from Adarsh Gourav’s Supporting Actor nomination from the Spirit Awards.

Then you have Original Screenplay, which I feel is just as competitive on quality, but it feels like there’s an air of inevitability forming around Aaron Sorkin. It’s been 10 years since he won for The Social Network, and he’s been nominated twice since then (Moneyball and Molly’s Game). As a film, The Trial of the Chicago 7 has all the earmarks of a film that gets a boatload of Oscars on reputation alone, and as I mentioned in the review, the script plays like Sorkin’s greatest hits stylistically, and writers really like Sorkin’s wit. I’ll be interested to see if Emerald Fennell can pull the upset, especially if Chloé Zhao gets left off the Adapted list in the end, but Chicago 7 really is a “writer’s film,” meaning it’s heavy on dialogue, swiftly edited, and full of clever one-liners, mostly delivered by Sacha Baron Cohen, who looks like a shoe-in for a Supporting Actor nomination at this point, if not the win. I just get the feeling that this one might be preordained, not that it wouldn’t be earned, mind you. It really is a tremendous script. I just don’t feel the suspense of the competition here as I do with Adapted.

Again, sorry for the delay in posting, but it was for a good cause, as in me watching stuff. We draw ever closer to the main event, so keep it locked here for updates.

Join the conversation in the comments below! Have you seen all these films? Which ones would you vote for? Why does the WGA love Alex Gibney so much? Let me know!

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