Great and unconventional screenplays won the Writers Guild of America (WGA) Awards this weekend: Moonlight, the story of a young man’s life told throughout three acts that encompass his youth and adolescence and adulthood, and Arrival, a heady and ambitious sci-fi film that challenges our assumptions about the way we communicate and, potentially, the universe.
Two great films that at least arguably deserve the WGA Awards honor, but from the perspective of the Oscars, the WGA Awards this year do very little to help predict the eventual Academy Award winners. That’s because Moonlight won the WGA Award for Best Original Screenplay, but the Academy Awards nominated the film in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. That places it in direct competition with Eric Heisserer’s script for Arrival, meaning that only one of them has a serious chance of winning (unless there’s a tie, which is ludicrously rare).
Moonlight is adapted from In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who receives a “Story By” credit in the film. For some reason the WGA and the Academy Awards decided the film belonged in different categories. (A similar dilemma struck Whiplash, the first feature film by La La Land writer/director Damien Chazelle, which was deemed an “original” screenplay by the WGA and an “adapted” screenplay by the Academy because Whiplash was preceded by a short film, even though the feature-length screenplay was written first.)
So it seems as though there may be two serious frontrunners for the Best Adapted Screenplay category, but Best Original Screenplay is going to be a scorcher this year. Hell or High Water and The Lobster are both nominated, and they’re both worthy and exciting screenplays, but it seems as though the award is likely to go to either La La Land or Manchester By The Sea.
Meanwhile, the WGA Award for Best Documentary Screenplay went to Command and Control, a film about nuclear weapons in America. The film deserves congratulations for its WGA Award win, as do Arrival and Moonlight, but again Oscar handicappers might be frustrated: Command and Control isn’t nominated for the Academy Awards at all.
It’s almost as though we shouldn’t be looking at awards like this and using them to predict another awards ceremony, as if the Oscars is the only one that counted. And by “almost” we mean “exactly.” But we know a lot of people love their annual Oscar wagers – so do we, obviously – and we want to give you as much ammunition as possible.
Where Oscar Winners Keep Their Oscars:
Top Photos: A24 / Paramount
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.