The awards season’s narrative has been the “year of the women,” as female filmmakers, screenwriters and artisans have been making strong cases for nominations at the Oscars in categories like best picture and director. The Writers Guild of America Awards, however, might have missed the memo, only nominating four women over two films: Emerald Fennell for “Promising Young Woman” and Jena Friedman, Erica Rivinoja and Nina Pedrad, three co-writers from “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.”
In the three categories for original, adapted and documentary feature, 31 total screenwriters were nominated, four of which are women, and three come from the same feature film.
Many high-profile contenders were not eligible for recognition, including “Nomadland” (Chloé Zhao) and “Pieces of a Woman” (Kata Wéber), along with independent darlings like “The Assistant” (Kitty Green), “Farewell Amor” (Ekwa Msangi) and “Herself” (Clare Dunne). Despite this fact, there were still many to choose from.
Nina Pedrad, sister of “Saturday Night Live” alum Nasim Pedrad, is the only woman of color among the nominees, as she was born in Iran. If nominated for an Oscar, she would be just the fourth Asian ever nominated in adapted screenplay — following Hossein Amini (“The Wings of the Dove”) and Wang Hui-ling and Kuo Jung Tsai (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) — and the first Iranian woman. If “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is nominated at the Oscars, its nine screenwriters would be the most nominated for a film in history, following 1995’s “Toy Story,” which had seven.
Surprise nominee Ramin Bahrani, who wrote and directed Netflix’s “The White Tiger,” is also of Iranian descent and could also join the same company as Pedrad.
Despite outstanding reviews and a win at the Gotham Awards for best screenplay, Radha Blank’s masterful “The Forty-Year-Old Version,” which she wrote, directed and starred in, didn’t make the cut, even with the power of Netflix. Vertical Entertainment’s “Miss Juneteenth” from Channing Godfrey Peoples is also a Gotham Awards winner for best actress Nicole Beharie, but the independent film couldn’t sneak into the mix.
The legacy of Academy Award and WGA winner Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”) couldn’t help her over the finish line for the delightful “On the Rocks” starring Rashida Jones and Bill Murray. The bow at the Sundance Film Festival couldn’t help Robin Wright’s directorial debut, “Land” from Focus Features, and its co-writers Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam.
Focus Features’ “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” from writer and director Eliza Hittman was snubbed despite garnering the third-highest critical precursor awards this year for her original script, most notably from the New York Film Critics Circle and National Society of Film Critics.
Another big NYFCC winner, A24’s “First Cow” from co-writer and director Kelly Reichardt, was left off the adapted screenplay listing, despite having the third-most wins for adapted works this season. She wasn’t the only one given the shaft, as Eleanor Catton’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel “Emma” failed to make the lineup, along with other considerable longshots like Sarah Gibbons’ “Shirley,” Suzan-Lori Parks’ “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” and Angela Otstot and Jessica Goldberg’s “Cherry.”
Despite making the longlist for the BAFTA Award nominations, set to be announced on March 9, A24’s “Saint Maud” from Rose Glass couldn’t find favor with the group. Amazon Studios couldn’t get enough momentum for “I’m Your Woman” and its co-writer and director Julia Hart and Jordan Horowitz.
There are some notable inclusions in the nominations. Shaka King, Keith Lucas and Kenneth Lucas nabbed mentions for “Judas and the Black Messiah.” If it translates to Academy attention, it will mark the fifth time Black screenwriters are nominated in original screenplay. It would also be the first time that multiple Black writers are selected for the same film in the category.
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who penned the adaptation of August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” would be the 13th Black screenwriter ever nominated in the category at the Oscars.
The Writers Guild Awards will be held on Sunday, March 21, 2021.
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