By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com February 20, 2012 at 9:02AM
A week from now, the Oscars will be done and dusted for another year, and the movie conversation will drift away from prestige pictures to the "John Carter" and "Wrath of the Titans" of the world. And as of this weekend, the last of the major precursor awards have wrapped up. Did we see, as has been the overwhelming trend of the season, more success for the juggernaut that is "The Artist?"
Not so much, actually. While it's not to say that the silent hit won't win big at the Oscars next year, this weekend was all about Alexander Payne's "The Descendants." The George Clooney-topping comedy-drama might still be a best-picture longshot, but last night it managed to beat the competition, which included "Moneyball" and "Hugo," to win Best Adapted Screenplay at the Writer's Guild of America Awards, with Payne and co-writers Jim Rash and Nat Faxon honored. It marked the end of a good few days, with the screenplay also winning the USC Scripter Awards, which focuses on adaptations, as well as an ACE Eddie Award (presented by the editors' guild) for Best Drama.
The other big prize at the WGA, for Best Original Screenplay, was won by Woody Allen for "Midnight In Paris." While Allen is the presumptive front-runner in the category in the Oscars, it's complicated by the fact that Michel Hazanavicius' script was WGA-ineligible, so it could end up differently next Sunday night. Other writing prizes were won by Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega for documentary "Better This World," with Eric Roth taking the lifetime achievement-ish Laurel Award, and "The Help" director Tate Taylor taking the conscience-y Paul Selvin Award. "Modern Family," "Breaking Bad," "Homeland" "Too Big To Fail" and "Cinema Verite" all won TV awards. [Indiewire]
The Eddies meanwhile, split into three categories, with "The Artist" taking the comedy/musical prize, while the non-Oscar nominated "Rango" won for animation. The category is still wide-open, and we wouldn't expect "The Descendants" to convert at the Oscars, but between that and the two screenplay prizes, it does suggest a wide-ranging love for the film that could see it cause a few upsets next Sunday night. [In Contention]
Away from the Hollywood award season, meanwhile, the Berlin Film Festival wrapped up over the weekend, with the awards being given out on Saturday night, and as ever, the love was spread around. Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's "Caesar Must Die," a docu-drama about criminals performing a production of "Julius Caesar" in prison, was a surprise winner of the Golden Bear from Mike Leigh's jury, with Bence Fliegauf's "Just The Wind" taking the Jury Grand Prize. Christian Petzold won Best Director for critical favorite "Barbara," while Mikkel Boe Folsgaard and 15-year-old newcomer Rachel Mwanza were Best Actor and Actress respectively, for "A Royal Affair" and "War Witch" -- the former film also won Best Screenplay for co-writers Arcel & Rasmus Heisterberg.
Two other critical favorites, Miguel Gomes' "Tabu" and Ursula Meier's "Sister," had to settle for lesser awards; the first won the Alfred Bauer Prize, for innovation, while Meier's film got a Special Mention from the Jury. It doesn't seem at first glance that any will share the worldwide success of last year's Golden Bear victor "A Separation," but we have to applaud Berlin to continuing to march to the beat of their own drum. You can find a full list of winners over at Indiewire.