Oscars 2020: WGA Nominations

The WGA nominations were announced today. And this is our main help in the Screenplay categories, with only BAFTA still to come (and the other primary help in the category).

Of note for the WGA, before I even look at what got nominated — they’re the one guild that routinely has major contenders (and even winners) not nominated because they require nominees to be guild members. So a lot of stuff is rendered ineligible this year. Which, for our purposes, includes: Ammonite, The Assistant, Emma, The Father, Mank, Minari, Nomadland, Onward, Pieces of a Woman and Soul.

So, just from that alone, I see five potential (and even probable) nominees not eligible here, which means you’re gonna get a lot of extra nominees that may not actually have a chance in the end, which is why stuff like BAFTA and BFCA is so important. Because usually the Screenplay categories only have about six or seven major contenders (maybe you get to eight in a strong year) and you can usually reason your way through most of it fairly easily. So it’ll be interesting to see what the WGA used to fill in those gaps and how any red herrings get thrown into the mix that people will get baited on.

So, knowing all that, here are your WGA nominations for this year:

Best Original Screenplay

Judas and the Black Mesisiah

Palm Springs

Promising Young Woman

Sound of Metal

The Trial of the Chicago 7

(Ineligible scripts here were: Ammonite, The Assistant, Mank, Minari, Onward and Soul.)

The bottom three are surefire Oscar contenders and likely nominees. Palm Springs was guaranteed a spot here due to the ineligible factor, even though it’s a fringe Oscar contender at best. But I knew it would get on here and honestly, I’m happy about that because it’s a great script. (It’s the Eighth Grade of this year. That got WGA and maybe even other precursors, but no BAFTA, and then got left off in favor of more ‘awards’-friendly films. I’d be thrilled if it got on, but I’ve seen this play out far too many times to get my hopes up for that.) Judas and the Black Messiah is an amazing choice and also a solid Oscar contender despite no real precursor love so far.

It’s interesting Da 5 Bloods didn’t make it despite being eligible. Otherwise I can’t think of anything else that was eligible and didn’t make it that felt like a better choice than these five. The other precursor-nominated script that got left off was Never Rarely Sometimes Always, which was nominated by BFCA. Though I’d consider that more of a surprise inclusion on a padded list than a snub here. This is a strong year for this category and if the ineligibles were allowed you could almost fill out a category of ten with stuff. But that is a script that I would never guess in a category of five without either a WGA or a BAFTA nomination.

In terms of precursors: Mank, Promising Young Woman and Chicago 7 were nominated by both the BFCA and the Globes, which gives the latter two the hat trick so far, with Mank ineligible here but otherwise feeling like it would’ve gotten on had it been able to. Minari and Sound of Metal both got BFCA nominations. Minari was likely ineligible for the Globe because of that weird foreign rule and then the Globe category is a single category, which is also why that’s largely unhelpful.

Also of note is that every script I mentioned so far (except for Onward) was shortlisted by BAFTA. Ammonite, The Assistant, Da 5 Bloods, Judas, Mank, Minari, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Promising Young Woman, Soul, Sound of Metal, Chicago 7. All BAFTA shortlisted. Along with The Forty-Year-Old Version, which so far has zero precursors. So any chance you had at being able to guess that seem to be largely out the window.

All of that tells me that right now, waiting for BAFTA to announce, your likely Original Screenplay category is this:

Mank

Minari

Promising Young Woman

Sound of Metal

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Alternate: Judas and the Black Messiah

Dark Horse: Soul

Surprise: Da 5 Bloods, Palm Springs

Shocker: Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Based on what I’ve seen thus far, I suspect your BAFTA category will be the above five, with possibly one film swapped out depending on what films they go for in the Best Film race. But I suspect Sound of Metal, Mank and Sorkin will get on easily. And Promising Young Woman is by a Brit, so that should boost that considerably there and make that an automatic, even over Sound of Metal. Minari is the one that I could see potentially being left off for, say, Da 5 Bloods if they decide to go for that film, or even Judas and the Black Messiah or even an Ammonite or something.

Soul is the one I’m keeping an eye on there as well. Because Pixar has been nominated for Screenplay eight times. The first was the first Toy Story, which is long enough ago that it doesn’t really matter. The other seven were Finding Nemo, Incredibles, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, Toy Story 3 and Inside Out. Now, for the first four of those — Finding Nemo was nominated at BAFTA but not BFCA, and the next three weren’t nominated anywhere beforehand. However, in Pixar’s three most recent nominations — Up, Toy Story 3 and Inside Out — all three got both BAFTA and BFCA support en route to a nomination. And they’re never eligible for WGA, which is why I’m keeping my eye on BAFTA. Now, they didn’t get BFCA, which tells me it’s not the most likely of scenarios, but if they do manage that BAFTA spot, then to me they immediately become the sixth film along with that category of five that I guessed. That of course fluctuates depending on whether or not Judas or Palm Springs end up on the BAFTA list, but assuming they don’t, then Soul becomes my #6 contender. But again, we need to see where BAFTA goes. But at the moment, this is shaping up as it usually does, with your main contenders and then a few alternates that could make it but seem unlikely based on what we’ve seen play out.

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Now for Adapted.

Worth noting before I get into this that Emma, The Father, Nomadland and Pieces of a Woman were all ineligible here. All four are BAFTA longlisted and the middle two I suspect are surefire nominees. So I’m curious to see what they ended up replacing them with.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

News of the World

One Night in Miami

The White Tiger

Oh, right. Borat. That makes a lot of sense. The first one was nominated at the Oscars, so I can see why that would happen. And The White Tiger is the other one. That’s interesting. Bahrani has never been nominated despite some very close calls with his films over the years. So that intrigues me. Especially since both Borat and White Tiger are BAFTA longlisted. So I’ll be interested to see how they fare there.

That said, The Father and Nomadland, the two main ineligibles, have been nominated by both the Globes and BFCA and I expect both to easily end up on the BAFTA list. And then Ma Rainey, News of the World and One Night in Miami all got on BFCA as well.

The only other BFCA nominee that was eligible here and did not make it was First Cow. Which I truly thought was the type of film that would get on here, which tells me a lot. Reichardt has never been nominated by the guild and honestly I figured she’d be one of those ineligibles I’d have to worry about. But knowing they could’ve voted for her and didn’t tells me I don’t really have to worry about that sneaking on as much. Wasn’t longlisted at BAFTA either which makes my life so much easier there.

The BAFTA longlist includes stuff like Babyteeth, The Dig, Hillbilly Elegy, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, The Invisible Man and The Mauritanian. Assuming none of those get on and gum up the works, I suspect that we should have a fairly easy time on our hands. Now, Pieces of a Woman and Emma, both ineligible here, are longlisted by BAFTA, but given the lack of nominations elsewhere, I’m only gonna worry about those in the event that BAFTA puts them on.

I suspect your most likely category is going to be the obvious one, which is:

The Father

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

News of the World

Nomadland

One Night in Miami

Alternate: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Dark Horse: The White Tiger

Surprise: Pieces of a Woman; First Cow

Shocker: Emma; I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Now, I’m not 100% sold on News of the World on there, and that’s why I want to see where BAFTA goes first. With the WGA support and the BFCA nomination, I feel better about it (and I’ll also feel better if it ends up on more solid footing in the Best Picture race after the PGA and such), but if BAFTA leaves it off, I will for sure question that. And even if it gets on, if, say, Borat or The White Tiger get on with it, then I’ll really be intrigued about what’s gonna happen with that. But right now, you have eight contenders that hit precursors, only seven of which hit anything of substance, and two of which feel like swaps for the two contenders that were ineligible there. So, unless BAFTA gives us something other than the list of five above, those five seem like your category without much fanfare.

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