Home Celebrity “Captain Phillips,” “Her” Take Writers Guild Awards, Send Oscars into Open Race

The Writers Guild of America awarded two movies for their screenplays last night and sent the Oscars into an open race. Or open space. “Her” picked up a statue for Spike Jonze’s original screenplay. Billy Ray got his for adapting “Captain Phillips.” The second award was a bit of a surprise, beating David O. Russell’s “American Hustle.” Some movies, like “Gravity”and “12 Years a Slave,” were ineligible under WGA guidelines.

The Oscar race is now in for a month long scramble as every major movie has won something. There is no clear leader among all of 2013’s terrific releases. I’d say “12 Years a Slave” has the inside track. But “Gravity” has picked up director and cinematographer awards in the last week. Alfonso Cuaron is the likely Best Director.

The WGA awards took place simultaneously in New York and Los Angeles, although in different time zones. For some reason, the Guild refuses to just simulcast the whole thing so both cities can see what’s going on. So the proceedings are done in the dark. Participants are asked not to Tweet what’s going in their ceremonies, but everyone did it anyway.

Still, the New York ceremony at the Edison Ballroom, formerly the Supper Club, was a lot of laughs. Every time someone won who was in L.A. and not in the ballroom, there was good natured hissing and booing. Plenty of New York based nominees were in the house, however, including Terence Winter (Wolf of Wall Street) and Ethan Hawke (After Midnight). Presenters included Kate Mulgrew, Terry George, Archie Panjabi, Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, Raul Esparza, “The Butler” writer Danny Strong and “House of Cards” scripter Beau Willimon.

I had a nice time with married actors Emily Mortimer and Alessandro Nivola. The latter was there to accept if David O. Russell won. The three of us met Ron Carlivati, head writer of “General Hospital,” who turned out to be a lot of fun. Sony Pictures Classics’ Michael Barker hung out with Hawke, and chit chatted with former Focus Features chief James Schamus, who received a special tribute.

No shows: Lawrence O’Donnell, Fred Armisen, and Frank Rich. Colin Quinn made for the best host of one of these things I’ve seen in a long long time. The Gotham Awards should hire him immediately for next year. A couple of his quips: “I remember when a toboggan ride in Times Square meant something else” and “How funny on the Captain Phillips DVD to have a warning about piracy…”

“Hotel Rwanda” director Terry George maybe stole the show. He started announcing nominees for one award with a fake out: “Ann Coulter for The Shit I Write Every Day.” The place went wild with lively booing and stomping. George looked at the heavy WGA award statue and said: “I always thought it should be two hands pulling clumps of hair out of a head!”

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