Two days ago the Producers Guild of America released their 2011 nominees and any surprises regarding their selections came from what didn't make the cut. The opposite can be said of today's Writers Guild of America nominees, which are at once predictable and too safe for their own good. Let's just cut straight to the nominees:
50/50, Written by Will Reiser; Summit Entertainment
Bridesmaids, Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig; Universal Studios
Midnight in Paris, Written by Woody Allen; Sony Pictures Classics
Win Win, Screenplay by Tom McCarthy; Story by Tom McCarthy & Joe Tiboni; Fox Searchlight
Young Adult, Written by Diablo Cody; Paramount Pictures
The Descendants, Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash; Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemming; Fox Searchlight
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Screenplay by Steven Zaillian; Based on the novel by Stieg Larsson, originally published by Norstedts; Columbia Pictures
The Help, Screenplay by Tate Taylor; Based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett; DreamWorks Pictures
Hugo, Screenplay by John Logan; Based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick; Paramount Pictures
Moneyball, Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin; Story by Stan Chervin; Based on the book by Michael Lewis; Columbia Pictures
Better This World, Written by Katie Galloway & Kelly Duane de la Vega; Loteria Films
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, Written by Marshall Curry and Matthew Hamachek; Oscilloscope Pictures
Nostalgia for the Light, Written by Patricio Guzmán; Icarus Films
Pina, Screenplay by Wim Wenders; Sundance Selects
Position Among the Stars, Script by Hetty Naaijkens-Retel Helmrich, Leonard Retel Helmrich; HBO Films
Senna, Written by Manish Pandey; Producers Distribution Agency
There aren't really any great offenses in the Original Screenplay category. Even if you're not a fan of Young Adult, it's easy to see why the WGA stands behind a writer as devisive as Diablo Cody. Plus she has an Oscar history, so she's a safe endorsement. And the rest of the films are all quite deserving of the accolade, particularly Tom McCarthy's wonderful but underseen Win Win. Though, admittedly, it would have been nice to see some truly original picks make the cut (here's looking at you, Rango, Take Shelter and Attack the Block).
Things get a little less reliable when it comes to the Adapted Screenplay category, though. Who finds Steven Zaillian's script for The Girl wtih the Dragon Tattoo to be a truly accomplished piece of screenwriting? His job on the movie was essentially to translate Swedish to English. There's nothing about the final product that solves any of the clunky narrative problems found in either the original book or screenplay. A similar lack of ambition also plagues the Zaillian co-scripted Moneyball. Sure, it's a perfectly enjoyable film and does a fine job of adapting Michael Lewis' book about the finance-heavy state of baseball, but, again, it's not a striking script in the same league as, say, Hossein Amini's work on Drive.
And if you're wondering why some of the year's most buzzed about films - titles like The Artist, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Shame, Margin Call, and Carnage - aren't on this list, it's because they didn't meet the WGA's membership criteria.
So what say you? Are these the finest screenplays 2011 had to offer? Do you think they'll go on to Oscar glory?