WGA Awards Screenplay Nominations Advance Oscar Contenders ‘Licorice Pizza’ and ‘Don’t Look Up’

The WGA eliminates a long list of titles, from "Belfast" to "The Power of the Dog." Oscar voting starts today.
"Don't Look Up"
"Don't Look Up"

Before we get to parsing the list of Writers Guild nominations, let’s look at those who were ineligible. This year’s list is massive, from UK entries Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast” (Focus Features), Rebecca Hall’s “Passing” (Netflix), and Joe Wright’s “Cyrano” (MGM/UA) to Netflix contenders from Jane Campion (”The Power of the Dog”) and Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Lost Daughter”). Among last year’s ineligibles were 2021 Oscar nominees “Nomadland” and “Minari.”

The WGA maintains jurisdiction over whether scripts are produced under a Writer’s Guild contract, and who finally gets credit on a screenplay. (They do not cover most animated films, like this year’s Netflix Oscar contender, “The Mitchells vs. the Machines.”) The guild insists on withholding non-signatories from being part of the WGA Awards.

A WGA nomination isn’t essential for Oscar nomination. Exceptions include American indie “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” Iranian Oscar-winner “A Separation” (whose director Asghar Farhadi was ineligible for “A Hero” this year,) Oscar-winning British films “Les Miserables,” and “The Favourite,” and all Pixar animated contenders, from “Up” to “Incredibles 2.” European films “The Artist” and “The King’s Speech” both won Best Picture without the benefit of a WGA nomination.

Pedro Almodóvar, whose “Parallel Mothers” is in contention this year, has a writing Oscar (“Talk to Her,”); so does Quentin Tarantino (“Django Unchained” and “Pulp Fiction”). Neither is a WGA member. The Academy’s writers branch could add an international auteur like Ryusuke Hamaguchi (critics’ fave “Drive My Car”) to their Adapted Screenplay nominations list.

While Searchlight is happy about nominations for Guillermo del Toro thriller “Nightmare Alley” and Wes Anderson comedy “The French Dispatch,” neither  scored with the PGA and are by no means guaranteed screenplay slots on Oscar nominations morning. Steady as they go are SAG Ensemble nominees “King Richard” (Warner Bros.) and “CODA” (AppleTV+) as well as “Dune” (Warner Bros.), “Licorice Pizza” (MGM-UA), and “West Side Story” (Disney), which all landed PGA nominations.

None of the WGA documentary feature nominees were shortlisted for the Oscar.

The WGA nominees are less predictive than an indication of what’s losing and gaining heat, from the missing SAG Ensemble nominee “House of Gucci” (MGM/UA) and the late-breaking “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (AppleTV+/A24), neither of which gained a PGA slot, to surging PGA nominees such as Aaron Sorkin’s “Being the Ricardos” (Amazon) and Netflix’s “Don’t Look Up” and “Tick, Tick… Boom.” They get a boost at just the right time: Oscar voting begins today and ends February 1, ahead of the nominations announcement February 8.

The WGA winners will be honored at a 2022 Writers Guild Awards virtual ceremony on Sunday, March 20.

LICORICE PIZZA, from left: Cooper Hoffman, Alana Haim, 2021. ph: Melinda Sue Gordon /© MGM / Courtesy Everett Collection
LICORICE PIZZA, from left: Cooper Hoffman, Alana Haim, 2021. ph: Melinda Sue Gordon /© MGM / Courtesy Everett Collection©MGM/Courtesy Everett Collection


“Being the Ricardos,” Written by Aaron Sorkin; Amazon Studios

“Don’t Look Up,” Screenplay by Adam McKay, Story by Adam McKay & David Sirota; Netflix

“The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun,” Screenplay by Wes Anderson, Story by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola & Hugo Guinness & Jason Schwartzman; Searchlight Pictures

“King Richard,” Written by Zach Baylin; Warner Bros. Pictures

“Licorice Pizza,” Written by Paul Thomas Anderson; United Artists


“CODA,” Screenplay by Siân Heder, Based on the Original Motion Picture La Famille Belier Directed by Eric Lartigau, Written by Victoria Bedos, Stanislas Carree de Malberg, Eric Lartigau and Thomas Bidegain; Apple

“Dune,” Screenplay by Jon Spaihts and Denis Villeneuve and Eric Roth, Based on the novel Dune Written by Frank Herbert; Warner Bros. Pictures

“Nightmare Alley,” Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro & Kim Morgan, Based on the Novel by William Lindsay Gresham; Searchlight Pictures

“Tick, Tick, Boom,” Screenplay by Steven Levenson, Based on the play by Jonathan Larson; Netflix

“West Side Story,” Screenplay by Tony Kushner, Based on the Stage Play, Book by Arthur Laurents, Music by Leonard Bernstein, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Play Conceived, Directed and Choreographed by Jerome Robbins; 20th Century Studios


“Being Cousteau,” Written by Mark Monroe & Pax Wasserman; National Geographic

“Exposing Muybridge,” Written by Marc Shaffer; Inside Out Media

“Like a Rolling Stone: The Life & Times of Ben Fong-Torres,” Written by Suzanne Joe Kai; StudioLA.TV


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