With a cluster of frontrunners and a wide-open field of potential Oscar entrants, the 2017 Writers Guild nominations provide more intelligence about where the Oscars could be heading.
The trio at the head of the pack continue to be “La La Land,” “Manchester by the Sea,” and “Moonlight.” Getting a much-needed late-inning boost are modern western “Hell or High Water” and biracial romance “Loving.” Both are critics’ faves that opened earlier in the year.
However, the WGA and the Academy differ on their categories this year. The WGA says “Moonlight” and “Loving” are original screenplays; for the Oscars, they would compete as adapted. That means that Noah Oppenheim’s “Jackie,” and scripts by writer-director Mike Mills (“20th Century Women”) and two non-signatory films that aren’t WGA-eligible, “The Lobster” and “Toni Erdmann,” might have a shot at landing an Oscar nod.
Conversely, that means some of the WGA’s Adapted Screenplay nominees won’t make it to the Oscars, as at least one slot will inevitably go to “Moonlight.” Focus Features’ “Nocturnal Animals” ($10 million domestic) and “Loving” ($7.5 million) are both treading water at the box office, while “Fences” and “Hidden Figures” are gaining traction from opening well during the holidays; these WGA nods could be a harbinger of more nominations to come. “Arrival” is considered an Oscar frontrunner.
The year’s leading comedy awards contender, “Deadpool,” is up for two Golden Globes, and could follow raunchy Oscar nominee “Bridesmaids” to an Oscar nomination. But that film is an anomaly, as the Academy writers tend to go for classier comedy fare from Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, or Pixar. Animated films are WGA-ineligible, so Oscar contenders “Finding Dory” and “Zootopia” couldn’t be included here.
Two Oscar hopefuls that also did not make the WGA cut: Weinstein Co.’s “Lion” (which was ineligible) and late-arriving Martin Scorsese drama “Silence.”
The three documentary nominations include the surprise of “Author: The JT LeRoy Story,” which did not make the Oscar shortlist, while stylish thriller-docs “Zero Days” and “Command and Control” did. Left out by the WGA were the Oscar shortlisted “13th,” “Cameraperson,” “Fire at Sea,” “I Am Not Your Negro,” and “Weiner.” Also snubbed (and on the shortlist) were PGA nominees “The Eagle Huntress,” “Life, Animated,” “O.J.: Made in America,” and “Tower.”
Winners will be honored at the 2017 Writers Guild Awards on Sunday, February 19, 2017, at ceremonies in Los Angeles and New York City.
“Hell or High Water,” Written by Taylor Sheridan; CBS Films
“La La Land,” Written by Damien Chazelle; Lionsgate
“Loving,” Written by Jeff Nichols; Focus Features
“Manchester by the Sea,” Written by Kenneth Lonergan; Amazon Studios/Roadside Attractions
“Moonlight,” Written by Barry Jenkins, Story by Tarell McCraney; A24
“Arrival,” Screenplay by Eric Heisserer; Based on the Story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang; Paramount Pictures
“Deadpool,” Written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick; Based on the X-Men Comic Books; Twentieth Century Fox Film
“Fences,” Screenplay by August Wilson; Based on his Play; Paramount Pictures
“Hidden Figures,” Screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi; Based on the Book by Margot Lee Shetterly; Twentieth Century Fox Film
“Nocturnal Animals,” Screenplay by Tom Ford; Based on the Novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright; Focus Features
“Author: The JT LeRoy Story,” Written by Jeff Feuerzeig; Amazon Studios
“Command and Control,” Telescript by Robert Kenner and Eric Schlosser, Story by Brian Pearle and Kim Roberts; Based on the book Command and Control by Eric Schlosser; American Experience Films
“Zero Days,” Written by Alex Gibney; Magnolia Pictures