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Writers Guild Preview – A Riddle Wrapped in an Enigma

The Writers Guild will be held on Sunday and it is another one of those wacky years where films are put in various categories that aren’t like the Oscars.

Moonlight was in adapted at the Scripter – won.
Moonlight was in original at the BAFTA – lost to Manchester by the Sea.
Moonlight is in adapted at the Oscars.
Moonlight is in original at the Writers Guild.

Original Screenplay at the WGA:

Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan
La La land, Damien Chazelle
Loving, Jeff Nichols
Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan
Moonlight, Barry Jenkins

Adapted Screenplay at WGA:

Arrival, Eric Heisserer
Deadpool, Rhett Reese
Fences, August Wilson
Hidden Figures, Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi
Nocturnal Animals, Tom Ford

In the original category, it’s expected to be a three-way showdown with Moonlight, Manchester and La La Land in the hunt for the win. I’m going to predict Kenneth Lonergan takes it because of all of them – and they’re all really great – Manchester is like a novel it is so dense. It is a masterclass in screenwriting and every character’s background is there. This is a writer’s movie if it’s anything. I would think that the other nominee writers might really dig is Hell or High Water, which is also a writer’s and a director’s movie.

In the adapted category, I would be stunned if Eric Heisserer did not win there for Arrival. But if there is an upset there it could be for Hidden Figures which is picking up steam.

That’s how I see it going and, of course, things are flipped upside down when these same nominees head into the Oscar race (though it’s pretty rare for a WGA winner that is not nominated for the Oscars to win). Moonlight goes into Adapted, and Lion also goes into Adapted. Both of those are expected to compete strongly in that category. It’s hard to know how that one will shake out. The screenplay categories will be among the most unpredictable of the night.

Generally, La La Land would be the favorite to win but – other than the Golden Globes– musicals don’t tend to win in the writing category. So if La La Land wins at the WGA you will know that it will be heading into the Oscars that much stronger. Also, if Moonlight somehow beats Manchester then that, too, will indicate the film’s strength overall in the industry.