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Writers Guild Honors ‘Avatar,’ ‘Hurt Locker’

With far fewer eligible films than the Oscar screenplay categories, the WGA opts for favorites and a few surprises

The Writers Guild of America has included "Avatar," "The Hurt Locker," "Crazy Heart," "Up in the Air" and "Precious" on the list of nominees for its feature film awards, the WGA announced on Monday.

Besides "The Hurt Locker," nominees in the original screenplay category were "(500) Days of Summer," "Avatar," "A Serious Man" and "The Hangover." 

The adapted screenplay category consists of "Crazy Heart," "Julie & Julia," "Precious," "Star Trek" and "Up in the Air."

The biggest surprise among the nominees may be the inclusion of “Avatar,” the James Cameron blockbuster whose major weakness, in the eyes of many, is his script. But the Writers Guild’s 10,000 members disagreed, giving the film the same nomination it gave to Cameron’s “Titanic,” which won 11 Oscars but did not receive a screenplay nomination.

The box office hits “The Hangover” and “Star Trek” also were singled out by the WGA, which passed over such acclaimed smaller films as “The Messenger,” “Bright Star” and “The Last Station.”

Rob Marshall’s musical “Nine” and Clint Eastwood’s “Invictus,” two highly awaited films that have met with mixed reviews (or, in the case of the former, largely negative ones), also were passed over.

Many of the year’s most high-profile scripts and likeliest Oscar contenders, including “Inglourious Basterds,” “An Education,” “A Single Man” and “Up,” are not eligible for the WGA Awards because they were not written under the terms of the guild’s Minimum Basic Agreement. This makes this year’s nominations less helpful than usual in forecasting the films that will be nominated for Oscars on February 2.

Only 83 scripts — 47 original and 36 adapted — qualified under stricter rules that also required, for the first time, official submissions. More than twice that many films have qualified for the WGA Awards in recent years. In this year’s Academy Awards screenplay categories, 259 films are eligible. 

The Writers Guild of America Awards will be handed out in simultaneous ceremonies on February 20 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles and the Hudson Theater at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in New York City.

Television, radio and promotional writing and graphic animation nominations were previously announced.

The nominations:

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

"(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

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

"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

DOCUMENTARY SCREENPLAY

"Against the Tide," wcreenplay 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

Feature films eligible for a Writers Guild Award were exhibited theatrically for at least one week in Los Angeles in 2009 and were written under the WGA’s Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) or under a bona fide collective bargaining agreement of the Australian Writers Guild, Writers Guild of Canada, Writers Guild of Great Britain, Irish Playwrights & Screenwriters Guild or the New Zealand Writers Guild.

Documentaries eligible for a Writers Guild Award featured an on-screen writing credit and were exhibited theatrically in Los Angeles or New York for one week in 2009. While credited documentary writers were required to join the WGAW’s Nonfiction Writers Caucus or WGAE Nonfiction Writers Caucus to be considered, scripts need not have been written under WGA jurisdiction to be considered.

For more information about the 2010 Writers Guild Awards submission process, guidelines, and official entry forms, please visit www.wga.org or www.wgaeast.org.

The Writers Guild of America , East (WGAE), and Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW), are labor unions representing writers in motion pictures, television, cable, new media, and broadcast news. The guilds negotiate and administer contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of their members; conduct programs, seminars, and events on issues of interest to writers; and present writers’ views to various bodies of government. For more information on the Writers Guild of America, East, visit www.wgaeast.org. For more information on the Writers Guild of America, West, visit www.wga.org.