Writers Guild Of America Announces 2010 Awards Nominees; How Did Avatar Make The Cut?

We're just about done with the guild nominations now that the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has dropped its list of nominations for outstanding achievement in writing for the screen. While the list mostly conforms to expectations, there are a couple of surprises. Not least among them is that James Cameron has been given a nod for his Avatar screenplay, widely considered to be the weakest aspect of the film.

In the original screenplay category, three expected films (The Hurt Locker, (500) Days of Summer and A Serious Man) are side by side with two surprises. The Hangover is the first surprise, but I like seeing a straight-up comedy get a nod. That's not a total break from pattern for the WGA. But seeing Avatar in Best Original Screenplay is an irritating shock, as even the most ardent James Cameron fan will often acknowledge that his scripts are the man's weakest creative outlet. Even with the list of films that aren't qualified for WGA awards, you'd think the guild could have recognized something other than Avatar in this category. Bright Star, anyone?

(A significant batch of great films are ineligible for WGA awards for various reasons: An Education, District 9, Inglourious Basterds, In the Loop, Up, Fantastic Mr. Fox, A Single Man, and a few more. The reasons included that the writers aren't WGA members, aren't covered by the WGA's Minimum Basic Agreement to sidestep membership, or that the films are animated and made by non-signatory companies. Exemption hell, basically.)

On the adapted screenplay side, there are also some expected nominees, like Precious, Julie & Julia and Up in the Air. Crazy Heart isn't a total left-field surprise, but Star Trek's presence is wild. That's another situation where I'd say the casting and editing had a lot more to do with the film's success than the script. It doesn't raise quite the ire Avatar does, because even with Trek's weak points, there's something to be said for how it managed (and in many cases sidestepped) years of previous Trek continuity. Still, why not The Informant!?

I'm glad to see The Cove and (oddly) Good Hair getting documentary nods; so long as anything but the pandering, irritating and plain terrible Capitalism takes the award I'll be happy.

The WGA Awards will be handed out in simultaneous ceremonies in New York and Los Angeles on Saturday, February 20, 2010.

Here's the full list of nominations:


(500) Days of Summer, Written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber; Fox Searchlight

Avatar, Written by James Cameron; 20th Century Fox

The Hangover, Written by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore; Warner Bros.

The Hurt Locker, Written by Mark Boal; Summit Entertainment

A Serious Man, Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen; Focus Features


Crazy Heart, Screenplay by Scott Cooper; Based on the novel by Thomas Cobb; Fox Searchlight

Julie & Julia, Screenplay by Nora Ephron; Based on the books Julie & Julia by Julie Powell and My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme; Sony Pictures

Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire, Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher; Based on the novel Push by Sapphire; Lionsgate

Star Trek, Written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman; Based upon Star Trek, Created by Gene Roddenberry; Paramount Pictures

Up in the Air, Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner; Based upon the novel by Walter Kirn; Paramount Pictures


Against the Tide, Screenplay by Richard Trank; Moriah Films

Capitalism: A Love Story, Written by Michael Moore; Overture Films

The Cove, Written by Mark Monroe; Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions

Earth Days, Written by Robert Stone; Zeitgeist Films

Good Hair, Written by Chris Rock & Jeff Stilson and Lance Crouther and Chuck Sklar; Roadside Attractions

Soundtrack for a Revolution, Written by Bill Guttentag & Dan Sturman; Freedom Song Productions and Louverture Films