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Writers Guild Award Analysis: It’s Still ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Manchester’ At the Oscars

"Moonlight" beat "Manchester by the Sea" for Best Original Screenplay, but Barry Jenkins and Kenneth Lonergan both remain the ones to beat in their categories.

Barry Jenkins, Kenneth Lonergan and Damien Chazelle

Photo by Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock

The Writers Guild Awards and the Academy writing nominees always don’t line up; many films are ineligible. This year, those included Oscar-writing nominees “Lion” and “The Lobster.”

This year, the WGA and the Academy differed dramatically. While the WGA deemed “Moonlight” and “Loving” as Original Screenplays, the Academy considered both as Adapted; only “Moonlight” landed a nomination.

At the WGA, as at the BAFTAs, Barry Jenkins’ script for “Moonlight” competed for the Original Screenplay Award against both Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea” and Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land.” Unlike the BAFTAs, Jenkins emerged the winner over Lonergan, a sign of strength for “Moonlight,” which is nominated for eight Oscars.

READ MORE: Yes, Damien Chazelle’s ‘La La Land’ Really Will Win Director and Picture Oscars — Here’s Why

However, in the Oscars’ Original Screenplay contest, lauded playwright and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Lonergan (“You Can Count On Me,” “Gangs of New York”) should still have the advantage over 32-year-old Chazelle, who did earn a writing Oscar nomination for “Whiplash.” But losing to Jenkins means that it’s not a sure thing. It’s still a close contest.

While Oscar voters will tick plenty of “La La Land” boxes on their ballots through the Hollywood musical’s 14 categories, it’s still rare for an original musical to land a screenplay win. (Alan Jay Lerner’s “An American in Paris” and Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” are exceptions.)

That’s why Lonergan should win the Original Oscar race.

As for the Adapted category handily won by Eric Heisserer at the WGAs for “Arrival,” at the Oscars he’ll be competing against Jenkins for “Moonlight.” Both films are nominated for eight Oscars, including Picture and Director. But “Moonlight” won Best Adapted Screenplay at the USC Scripter Awards. For the last six years, that win has repeated at the Oscars.

As for “Hidden Figures,” for those hoping for a Best Picture Oscar win, the drama should have won the WGA’s Adapted Screenplay for that scenario to play out on Sunday night.

List of winners here and below.

“Moonlight” Golden Globe 2017 Best Drama

“Moonlight”

A24

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Moonlight, Screenplay by Barry Jenkins, Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney; A24

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Arrival, Screenplay by Eric Heisserer; Based on the Story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang; Paramount Pictures

DOCUMENTARY SCREENPLAY

Command and Control, Telescript by Robert Kenner & Eric Schlosser, Story by Brian Pearle and Kim Roberts; Based on the book Command and Control by Eric Schlosser; American Experience Films

TELEVISION AND NEW MEDIA NOMINEES
DRAMA SERIES

The Americans, Written by Peter Ackerman, Tanya Barfield, Joshua Brand, Joel Fields, Stephen Schiff, Joe Weisberg, Tracey Scott Wilson; FX

COMEDY SERIES

Atlanta, Written by Donald Glover, Stephen Glover, Jamal Olori, Stefani Robinson, Paul Simms; FX

NEW SERIES

Atlanta, Written by Donald Glover, Stephen Glover, Jamal Olori, Stefani Robinson, Paul Simms; FX

ORIGINAL LONG FORM

Confirmation, Written by Susannah Grant; HBO

ADAPTED LONG FORM

The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, Written by Scott Alexander, Joe Robert Cole, D.V. DeVincentis, Maya Forbes, Larry Karaszewski, Wally Wolodarsky, Based on the book The Run of His Life by Jeffrey Toobin; FX

ORIGINAL SHORT FORM NEW MEDIA

“The Party” (The Commute), Written by Linsey Stewart & Dane Clark; youtube.com

ADAPTED SHORT FORM NEW MEDIA

“Part 4” (Fear the Walking Dead: Passage), Written by Lauren Signorino & Mike Zunic; amc.com

ANIMATION

“Stop the Presses” (BoJack Horseman), Written by Joe Lawson; Netflix

EPISODIC DRAMA

“The Trip” (This Is Us), Written by Vera Herbert; NBC

EPISODIC COMEDY

“Kimmy Goes on a Playdate!” (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Written by Robert Carlock; Netflix

COMEDY / VARIETY TALK SERIES

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Writers: Kevin Avery, Tim Carvell, Josh Gondelman, Dan Gurewitch, Geoff Haggerty, Jeff Maurer, John Oliver, Scott Sherman, Will Tracy, Jill Twiss, Juli Weiner; HBO

COMEDY / VARIETY SKETCH SERIES

Saturday Night Live, Head Writers: Rob Klein, Bryan Tucker Writers: James Anderson, Fred Armisen, Jeremy Beiler, Chris Belair, Megan Callahan, Michael Che, Mikey Day, Jim Downey, Tina Fey, Fran Gillespie, Sudi Green, Tim Herlihy, Steve Higgins, Colin Jost, Zach Kanin, Chris Kelly, Erik Kenward, Paul Masella, Dave McCary, Dennis McNicholas, Seth Meyers, Lorne Michaels, Josh Patten, Paula Pell, Katie Rich, Tim Robinson, Sarah Schneider, Pete Schultz, Streeter Seidell, Dave Sirus, Emily Spivey, Andrew Steele, Will Stephen, Kent Sublette; NBC

COMEDY / VARIETY SPECIALS

Triumph The Primary Election Special 2016, Written by Andy Breckman, Josh Comers, Raj Desai, David Feldman, R J Fried, Jarrett Grode, Ben Joseph, Matthew Kirsch, Michael Koman, Mike Lawrence, Brian Reich, Craig Rowin, Robert Smigel, Zach Smilovitz, David Taylor, Andrew Weinberg; Additional Materials by Ray James, Jesse Joyce, Jason Reich, Alex Scordelis; Hulu

QUIZ AND AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION

Hollywood Game Night, Head Writer: Grant Taylor; Writers: Michael Agbabian, Alex Chauvin, Ann Slichter, Dwight D. Smith; NBC

DAYTIME DRAMA

General Hospital, Writers: Shelly Altman, Anna Theresa Cascio, Andrea Archer Compton, Suzanne Flynn, Janet Iacobuzio, Elizabeth Korte, Daniel James O’Connor, Jean Passanante, Dave Rupel, Katherine Schock, Scott Sickles, Chris Van Etten, Christopher Whitesell; ABC

CHILDREN’S EPISODIC

“Mel vs. The Night Mare of Normal Street” (Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street), Written by Laurie Parres; Amazon Studios

CHILDREN’S LONG FORM

Once Upon a Sesame Street Christmas, Written by Geri Cole & Ken Scarborough; HBO

DOCUMENTARY SCRIPT – CURRENT EVENTS – TIE

“The Choice 2016” (Frontline); Written by Michael Kirk & Mike Wiser; PBS (TIE)

“Inside Assad’s Syria” (Frontline), Written by Martin Smith; PBS (TIE)

DOCUMENTARY SCRIPT – OTHER THAN CURRENT EVENTS

“Jackie Robinson, Part One,” Written by David McMahon & Sarah Burns; PBS

TV NEWS SCRIPT – REGULARLY SCHEDULED, BULLETIN, OR BREAKING REPORT

“Muhammad Ali: Remembering A Legend” (48 Hours), Written by Jerry Cipriano, John Craig Wilson; CBS News

TV NEWS SCRIPT – ANALYSIS, FEATURE, OR COMMENTARY

“CBS Sunday Morning Almanac” June 12, 2016 (CBS Sunday Morning), Written by Thomas A. Harris; CBS
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