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‘Moonlight’ and ‘Arrival’ Score Big at 69th Annual Writers Guild Awards

David Bornfriend

It wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that I finally found time to catch Moonlight in theaters, so you’ll excuse me if the buzz around Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney’s film hasn’t quite worn off yet. Moonlight isn’t just a powerful story of one person’s struggle with his sexuality, it is also one of the most powerfully acted and beautifully shot films of the decade. In my professional opinion as a film critic, we should just throw awards at that movie until both filmmakers are forced to move into bigger houses just to store them all. That’s my professional opinion, mind you.

And last night, the Writers Guild of America pitched in by giving Moonlight its highest honor for fictional storytelling in film. The Hollywood Reporter has the full rundown, but you’re busy people and time is money, so let’s just get to the nominees and winners in the major categories:


Hell or High Water
La La Land 
Manchester by the Sea 


Hidden Figures
Nocturnal Animals


The Americans
Better Call Saul
Game of Thrones
Stranger Things


Silicon Valley
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

As befitting the breadth of scripted media available to audiences, the Writers Guild Awards are a decidedly deep affair, with additional award categories honoring the best video game scripts (Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End), radio news scripts (Chernobyl: 30 Years Later), and even on-air promotions for network television. Be sure to click through for the full list of categories and winners.

What the Writers Guild Awards do not do particularly well is predict the Oscars. According to a recent piece at Oscar prediction site Gold Derby, the history of WGA nominations and future Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay is a pretty mixed bag. Sometimes the films nominated for an Oscar do not even meet the more stringent requirements of the Writers Guild of America, which can lead to the Oscars awarding films that were not even eligible for a WGA award. According to a 2015 piece in Variety, for example, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman script did not meet the WGA producing requirements despite going on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. As such, armchair prognosticators use the WGA at their own peril.

Will Moonlight keep up its momentum at next weekend’s Academy Awards? Maybe, maybe not, but the cast and crew of Moonlight should know by now that they’ve made one of the most important movies of 2016, little golden man statues be darned.

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