Moving on to the Writers Guild of America, let’s take a look at the first category:
Best Original Screenplay
American Hustle, Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
Blue Jasmine, Written by Woody Allen
Dallas Buyers Club, Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack
Her, Written by Spike Jonze
Nebraska, Written by Bob Nelson
With the most important nominees of the category included (i.e. they haven’t been excluded by the WGA’s silly rules), there is a good chance that the winner here will point us right to the Oscar winner as it’s done several times in the past. Taking a look back at the awards season, we have a clear-cut favorite out of this category with Spike Jonze’s incredible Her, which has taken 20 screenplay awards, including wins at the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards. This is another category that seems pretty cut and dry, and it would be rather shocking if any of these other nominees were to take it.
However, that hasn’t stopped a multitude of people from predicting that American Hustle will be the victor. In fact, it looks to be as though the guesses are split about 50-50 between the two. Besides the fact that Hustle only managed to take four screenplay awards of its own, there’s also the problem of the screenplay not being one of the film’s strongest elements, as I’ve already pointed out before. As to why the Writers Guild would choose something like this over Jonze’s outstanding writing in Her is a mystery. It’s more than likely that the guesses for Hustle are just random speculation given the film’s ten Oscar nominations and don’t really have anything to do with the screenplay itself. As I’ve said, Her is the clear favorite and will more than likely be taking the award and the eventual Oscar.
Turning now to their other big category:
Best Adapted Screenplay
August: Osage County, Screenplay by Tracy Letts; Based on his play
Before Midnight, Written by Richard Linklater & Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke; Based on characters created by Richard Linklater & Kim Krizan
Captain Phillips, Screenplay by Billy Ray; Based on the book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty
Lone Survivor, Written by Peter Berg; Based on the book by Marcus Lutrell with Patrick Robinson
The Wolf of Wall Street, Screenplay by Terence Winter; Based on the book by Jordan Belfort
First off, we need to do a round of elimination to help us narrow down the potential winner. To be frank, Lone Survivor and August: Osage County have less than a 0% chance of winning this, and let’s be honest, they’re only here because 12 Years a Slave (the favorite to take the Adapted Screenplay Oscar) and Philomena were deemed “ineligible” due to the WGA’s silly rules. Adapted screenplays were rather slim pickings this year, so there simply wasn’t much else to fill those slots with, leading to a desperate attempt to settle on five nominees, even if two of them had to be the screenplays of bad movies.
This leaves us with three, but in those three we see Captain Phillips, a film that has baffled me with the number of screenplay nominations it has managed to get. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good film, but it’s another one where the screenplay is certainly not one of its stronger elements. Add on to that the fact that it hasn’t managed to win a single screenplay award and you can pretty much eliminate it as a potential winner.
Now we’re down to the two that actually have a chance of winning this thing: Before Midnight and The Wolf of Wall Street. This is another category where the guesses seemed to be split right down the middle, but I would have to guess that the WGA is going to let the better writing prevail, leading them to Before Midnight. This is a film that does so little, and yet it manages to do so much because of strong performances and a great screenplay. The second half in particular had me glued to the screen as it gets down to business in examining the relationship between Jesse and Celine, a couple we have gotten to know over the course of three films. For the rare feat of delivering a dramatic romance that had me enthralled, it earned a spot on my Top Ten list of 2013, but will it have impressed the WGA as much?
The other likely candidate is The Wolf of Wall Street, a film I enjoyed, but wasn’t blown away by. I was impressed with DiCaprio’s wonderful, Oscar-nominated performance and Scorsese’s fantastic, Oscar-nominated direction, but not so much with the screenplay by Terence Winter (also Oscar-nominated). That’s not saying it was poorly written, just that the writing was not one of the film’s better parts.
It’s hard to say that there has been a “clear” favorite between these two, but looking at the numbers from awards season, we find Before Midnight with six screenplay wins (including the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics) and The Wolf of Wall Street with three (including the National Board of Review). Another thing you have to keep in mind is that we don’t have much comparative data because most groups have chosen 12 Years a Slave as their Best Adapted Screenplay, so when it comes to which of these two has been liked more, there’s not much to go on.
You could call it a gut instinct, but I think they’re going to go with the one that has more of an emotional punch, in addition to better writing, so Before Midnight should easily come out on top. That being said, the winner of this category is not even going to matter come Oscar time. Unless an upset of miraculous proportions occurs, you can fully expect to see John Ridley take an easy victory on Oscar night for 12 Years a Slave.
As a kind of final thought, I just want to say that these are merely the most likely winners. None of these predictions are a sure-thing, which makes it all the more interesting. All of them have a contender nipping at their heals (Cuaron has McQueen, Jonze has Russell and Singer, and Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy have Winter). Whoever wins, it’ll be a tense and exciting journey. The Directors Guild of America will reveal their winners this Saturday evening, while the Writers Guild of America will announce their own next Saturday, February 1st, so be sure to join us on those respective nights for a live list of the winners as their announced.
As always, feel free to join in the discussion by letting us know who you think will win in the comments.