Friday, December 8, 2023

What The WGA Awards Can Tell Us About Who Will Win The Screenplay Oscars

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) awards are just a few days away. Like all other cinema guild awards, they will be essential in predicting the eventual Oscar winners, in this case, Best Original and Best Adapted Screenplay. As expected in these races, awards prognosticators can boil down each race to two titles. For Best Original Screenplay, the current leaders are “The Banshees of Inisherin” and “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” a pair of films going head-to-head in multiple categories. For Best Adapted Screenplay, the competition is mainly between two films on either end of the nomination spectrum: “Women Talking,” which only has one other nomination for Best Picture, and “All Quiet on the Western Front,” which has garnered a total of nine nominations.

However, for various reasons, both “The Banshees of Inisherin” and “All Quiet on the Western Front” have been deemed ineligible by the WGA in their respective categories, allowing their strongest competition the opportunity to snag an award uninterrupted. As it stands, Martin McDonagh’s script for “The Banshees of Inisherin” will likely go home with an award on Oscar night, as the writing is the film’s star (besides Jenny, the donkey, of course), supported by a brilliant cast who deliver its dialogue with honesty and authenticity. At the time of this writing, it currently has the Golden Globe and BAFTA awards for Best Original screenplay in its back pocket. But whether or not it wins the Oscar depends heavily on “Everything Everywhere All At Once’s” success, or lack thereof, at the WGA awards. “Everything Everywhere All At Once” has won a Critics Choice Award for its script and needs to win the WGA to have a shot on Oscar night. If it does succeed, it could follow the trajectory of Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” which won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar after winning the CCA and WGA against, funnily enough, Martin McDonagh’s last feature “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri” which won the Golden Globe and BAFTA and was deemed ineligible by the WGA. Will history repeat itself yet again?

While unlikely to win, the four other WGA films nominated in this category should not be ignored completely. “The Menu,” written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy, was a successful box office hit and praised for its dark humor and comedic timing. “Nope,” written by WGA familiar Jordan Peele, showcases the Oscar-winning filmmaker’s original imagination with a story about storytelling with many layers to unpack. The subtleties of “The Fabelmans’s” screenplay have become more and more appreciated as time goes by, and one cannot doubt the industry power of director Stephen Spielberg and playwright Tony Kushner, who has been the screenwriter for four of Spielberg’s films, “Munich,” “Lincoln,” “West Side Story” and now, “The Fabelmans.” Todd Field’s “Tár” is arguably “Everything Everywhere All At Once’s” greatest competition at WGA, with a wickedly sharp script that forgoes convention, taking turns that the audience never sees coming while giving us one of Cate Blanchett’s most dynamic performances of her career with the iconic character Lydia Tár.

Like “The Banshees of Inisherin,” the BAFTA-winning “All Quiet on the Western Front,” directed by Edward Berger and based on the 1929 novel by Erich Maria Remarque, was also deemed ineligible at the WGA awards, leaving the door open for Sarah Polley’s “Women Talking” to win the award with nothing to worry about. Like “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” “All Quiet on the Western Front” is an Oscar nomination juggernaut led by the almighty Netflix, and their publicity has been in full force for the last several weeks as it’s their only shot at a Best Picture win this year. While it is likely to win several technical Oscars, its script may be overlooked in favor of one that is more obvious, such as that of “Women Talking,” which may benefit from its minimal number of nominations as Best Adapted Screenplay becomes the only place other than Best Picture to throw one’s appreciation behind for Sarah Polley’s heartbreaking film. In terms of precursors, both films are evenly matched. Neither film won the Golden Globe this year (“Women Talking” was the only one of the two nominated), while “Women Talking” won the Critics Choice Award and “All Quiet on the Western Front” won the BAFTA. If “Women Talking” does not win the WGA, its chances to win Best Adapted Screenplay on Oscar night will be in serious jeopardy. However, even if it does win, the final result of this race will still not be solidly predictable until the envelope is opened.

Among its fellow WGA nominees, “Women Talking” does appear to have a significant advantage as a film so heavily focused on dialogue and narration. It is unlikely that the award will go to such blockbusters as “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” or “Top Gun: Maverick,” which have received more attention for their technical achievements than their script (and therefore, have more opportunities to be awarded in other categories). Its biggest competition is “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” by writer-director Rian Johnson, which also has an Oscar nomination, and “She Said,” written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, a thematically similar story about the very industry it hopes to be rewarded by. “Women Talking” still feels ahead, but given its bumpy precursor run this year, how far ahead is it?

Surprises at the WGA are never out of the question. In 2018, the predictions of prognosticators were thrown out the window by Bo Burnham winning the Best Original Screenplay Award for the coming-of-age story “Eighth Grade,” and the eventual Oscar winner “BlacKkKlansman” was beaten by Marielle Heller’s “Can You Ever Forgive Me?.” Last year alone, we saw the Original Screenplay prize go to Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up” over presumed favorite “Licorice Pizza,” which indicated that Paul Thomas Anderson’s film was not as strong as people suspected. Surprises or not, the awards given by the WGA on March 5th will predict the eventual winners of the Oscars for Best Original and Best Adapted Screenplay one way or another.

Who do you think should win the WGA Awards for Best Original and Adapted Screenplay this weekend? Who do you think is going to win the Oscar for Best Original and Adapted Screenplay? Please let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account and check out our latest Oscar predictions here.

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Eve O’Dea
Eve O’Dea
M.A. student of film preservation. Contributor to In Session Film. Old Hollywood enthusiast.

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