The red carpet arrivals begin. One by one, familiar faces – actors – and not so familiar faces – writers – walk by an elaborate backdrop. Cameras flash ceaselessly while television reporters desperately try to get one usable shot of the nominees.
At the Writers Guild Awards, the writers are the real stars.
“A red carpet for writers, excuse me? No designer is going to give a writer clothes,” said comedy writer, director and actress Elaine May as she received the Laurel Award for screenwriting achievement at this year’s Writers Guild Awards (WGA) on Saturday, Feb. 13.
The WGA are given in a variety of categories for outstanding achievement writing in mediums including film, television and new media. But the two categories that bear any significance for Academy Awards predictions are best original screenplay and best adapted screenplay.
Over the years, there has almost never been an Oscar winner for best original screenplay or best adapted screenplay that had not won the WGA first, but only if it had been nominated for the WGA to begin with. Conversely, the Oscar for best original screenplay and best adapted screenplay almost always go to either the one a movie that won at the WGA or a movie that didn’t get nominated at the WGA.
In the last 10 years, “Birdman” (2014), “Django Unchained” (2012) and “The King’s Speech” (2010) were the only Oscar winners for best original screenplay who didn’t win WGA first, because they weren’t even nominated. Many notable screenplays (like “Room,” “Brookly,” etc.) that get an Oscar green light do not meet all the stringent requirements to get a WGA nomination.
The same trend can be observed in the best adapted screenplay category with only a handful of exceptions, the most recent one being “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” from 2003, which won the Oscar, but didn’t win the WGA despite being nominated.
This year’s Oscar nominees for best original screenplay are “Bridge of Spies,” ” Ex Machina,” “Inside Out,” “Spotlight” and “Straight Outta Compton.” The contestants at the WGA were “Bridge of Spies,” ” Sicario,” ” Spotlight,” “Straight Outta Compton” and “Trainwreck.”
The winner at the WGA was “Spotlight,” which is also nominated for the Oscars. That being said, “Ex Machina” and “Inside Out” didn’t receive WGA nominations, so if the trend holds up, any of these three could win the Oscar. The likely winner, however, will probably be “Spotlight,” which is the only film of the three to also get a best picture and best director nod at the Oscars.
For best adapted screenplay, the Oscar nominations are “The Big Short,” “Brooklyn,” “Carol,” “The Martian” and “Room.” “The Big Short” won at the WGA, beating “Carol,” “The Martian,” “Steve Jobs” and “Trumbo.”
The probable Oscar winner in this category could be “The Big Short,” “Room” or “Brooklyn,” as these three conform to the trend. All three are also nominated in the best picture category, but “The Big Short” is clearly the front-runner.
The nominees may vary, but the WGA winners seem to be the Oscar favorites this year. My bet is that the trend will continue; Charles Randolph and Adam McKay will win for “The Big Short” in the best adapted screenplay category and Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy for “Spotlight” in the best original screenplay category. We’ll just have to wait till Sunday, Feb. 28, to find out.
– Sadia Khalid