The somewhat tainted Writers Guild of America nominees were announced today. With at least nine disqualified screenplays - 4 or 5 of which happen to be major Oscar contenders - the WGA allowed a few films to be put into the conversation while swatting down a few more noble, interesting and challenging efforts in order to make room for one of the worst comedic screenplays of 2009.
With Inglourious Basterds and Up out of the picture in the Original Screenplay category, we expected and were delivered nominations for (500) Days of Summer (by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber), The Hurt Locker (by Mark Boal) and A Serious Man (by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen). Of all the impressive things the supporters of Avatar claim about the billion-dollar blockbuster, the last thing that rolls off their tongues is James Cameron's screenplay. Well now they can play the nomination card on us all as this WGA nod is at least one thing it has in common with Titanic. Our long weekend nightmare is over though in fearing whether Nancy Meyers would be rewarded with her second WGA nod (her first was Private Benjamin) for It's Complicated. Instead, the WGA managed to do even worse in nominating Jon Lucas & Scott Moore for their unbelievably popular hit, The Hangover. The esteemed Writer's Guild do realize that they have just christened the writers responsible for Four Christmases, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Full of It (anyone remember that one?) and the Martin Lawrence kids basketball film, Rebound, with a nomination right? Dave Eggers contributed to two screenplays in 2009 (Away We Go & Where The Wild Things Are) and you nominated one of the worst comedies of the year. Yes, I am aware it made $285 million. It still should have gone straight to video.
Moving on to the Adapted Screenplays where things should have been a bit more interesting with an additional seven scripts off the ballot - including the animated (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Coraline), the British (An Education, In The Loop) and the Weinstein (A Single Man, The Road). District 9 was also tossed out, but that made room for every other sci-fi fanboy's dream to come true - a nomination for Star Trek and the guys (Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman) who wrote the Transformers films. Way to go, WGA! The Adapted race turned out to be not nearly as exciting as one might have hoped. The pre-destined Up In The Air (by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner) and Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire (by Geoffrey Fletcher) made the cut. Where they couldn't find room for Nancy Meyers they did for Nora Ephron with Julie & Julia, adapting two books into a half-interesting movie. Finally Scott Cooper's Crazy Heart followed up on its USC Scripter nomination. No Wild Things. No Informant. No Bright Star. But a big yes to The Hangover.
Documentary script nominations went to: Against the Tide (by Richard Trank), Capitalism: A Love Story (by Michael Moore), The Cove (by Mark Monroe), Earth Days (by Robert Stone), Good Hair (by Chris Rock & Jeff Stilson and Lance Crouther and Chuck Sklar) and Soundtrack for a Revolution (by Bill Guttentag & Dan Sturman)
Snide musings aside, what does this all mean for the nominees? The Adapted nominees are 37-for-50 since 1999 in getting an Oscar nomination, but that 74% will likely be challenged when An Education, Fantastic Mr. Fox and District 9 are taken off the bench. Original nominees, on the other hand, are only 31-for-50 (62%) in that timespan and will likely fall into place when Inglourious Basterds and Up likely replace Avatar and The Hangover on the final list. No, that's not another shot at the film. Just reality. Deal with it.
These nominees complete the Guild Trilogy between the Producers, Directors and Writers and for a filmmaker, studio or anyone hoping for a shot at Gold, this is one you want to embrace. 30 of the last 34 films this past decade that received nominations from all three Guilds have been nominated for Best Picture. The four that came up short include Being John Malkovich (1999), Almost Famous (2000), The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) and The Dark Knight (2008). The four that fall into that realm in 2009 are Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Precious and Up In The Air. Despair not those who failed to get even just one as there have also been four films this last decade that got a Best Picture nod without their help, starting with In The Bedroom in 2001 and one for the past three years - Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), Atonement (2007) and The Reader (2008). So maybe there IS still some hope for Where The Wild Things Are. Although the Oscars may just screw it there too and nominate Nine, which also received no Guild nominations.