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Backstory: WGA backs Mark Boal’s ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and Tony Kushner’s ‘Lincoln,’ ignores Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained’ and Tom Stoppard’s ‘Anna Karenina’

Thelma Adams
The Reel Breakdown
January 4, 2013

Another guild has spoken! Following yesterday's Producers Guild of America announcements, today the Writers Guild of America (WGA) chose five screenplays in the race for best original: "Flight," John Gatins; "Looper," Rian Johnson; "The Master," Paul Thomas Anderson; "Moonrise Kingdom," Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola; and "Zero Dark Thirty," Mark Boal.

On the adapted screenplay side, the WGA selected "Argo," Chris Terrio; "Life of Pi," David Magee; "Lincoln," Tony Kushner; "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," Stephen Chbosky; and "Silver Linings Playbook," David O. Russell.

[Related: Backstory: Will the PGA nominations predict the best picture Oscar nominees?]

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) Screen selections are iffier predictors of the Oscar than any other major guild awards. Why? Arcane WGA rules exclude scripts not penned by WGA members and those written for productions that did not comply with the guild's Minimum Basic Agreement. As for foreign films, scripts must be penned with the consent of one of five affiliated international guilds, disqualifying popular foreign language contenders "Amour" and "The Intouchables" this year. It's all very inside baseball.

The ineligibility of notable scripts like "Django Unchained" and "Les Miserables" continues to make the writing competition a head scratcher. Among the scripts excluded from the 44 in the adapted category are "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Anna Karenina," and "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." Among the 68 originals, eliminate "The Impossible," "Middle of Nowhere," "Take This Waltz," and "Seven Psychopaths."

What's left? The WGA's adapted screenplay nominees "Argo," "Lincoln," and "Silver Linings Playbook" will predictably earn Oscar nominations. But will "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" withstand the competition from WGA ineligibles "Les Miserables" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild"?

Similarly, ink in "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Moonrise Kingdom" for best original screenplay, come the Oscar nominations next Thursday, January 10. But "Flight," "Looper," and "The Master" will duke it out against formidable competition from "Amour" and "Django Unchained."

In 2010, Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" received an Oscar nomination without any WGA love, only to be defeated by David Seider's "The King's Speech," which was also WGA ineligible. Last year, Michel Hazanavicius's Oscar-nominated original screenplay for "The Artist" also flunked the WGA eligibility test.

The 2013 Writers Guild of America awards will be presented in simultaneous ceremonies on Sunday, February 17, in New York and Los Angeles.

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