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Writers Guild Awards Go for 'Captain Phillips' and 'Her'

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood February 2, 2014 at 12:49AM

Given all the films that aren't eligible, the Writers Guild Awards gives a boost to other movies in the Oscar race. Saturday night Spike Jonze took home original screenplay for "Her"--ironically, thanking the rival he beat, "American Hustle"'s David O. Russell, for helping him with his script-- and Billy Ray won for "Captain Phillips."
Writers Guild Awards

Given all the films that aren't eligible, the Writers Guild Awards gives a boost to other contenders in the Oscar race. Saturday night Spike Jonze took home original screenplay for "Her"--ironically, thanking the rival he beat, "American Hustle"'s David O. Russell, for helping him with his script-- and Billy Ray won for "Captain Phillips." Both awards were announced at a parallel ceremony in New York well ahead of their unveiling in Los Angeles, as attendees checked their smartphones for breaking news. Why can't the two award shows sync up with some kind of satellite feed to avoid this kind of disjunction? 

"All right!" said Jonze as he accepted his award. "In a way, this is an award for pain that writers know." Billy Ray said that his wish is that the writers in the room enjoy the luck he had with his collaborators on "Captain Phillips." Sarah Polley, who was robbed of an Oscar nomination for "Stories We Tell," won the documentary award. Writer/director/producer Alex Gibney had to settle for being the first docmaker to win the Paul Selvin award for a film that honors constitutional and civil liberties, "We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks." Gibney defended Chelsea Manning--and writers who are spied on. "Leaks are essential to democracy," said Gibney. "Manning leaked and has been tortured and sentenced to 35 years in prison...and deserves pardon."

On the television side, comedy series went to to HBO's "Veep." "Breaking Bad" won Drama Series, per usual. Vince Gilligan reminded the room that television is a collaborative medium--and that the last season of the show also won the PGA, DGA and SAG Awards. The best new series went to Netflix's "House of Cards." "The Colbert Report" won variety series. The Paddy Chayefsky Laurel TV award went to veteran Garry Marshall, "who owned ABC's comedy block for 10 years," pointed out Henry Winkler, who knows from "Laverne & Shirley" and "Happy Days." Animation TV writing went to "The Simpsons," episodic drama goes to "Breaking Bad." Episodic comedy went to "30 Rock." 

"Tell someone you haven't yet that you love them," said Sam Simon, diagnosed with terminal cancer a year ago, accepting his humanitarian award. 

Mel Brooks got a standing ovation for introducing wheelchair-bound five-time Oscar nominee Paul Mazursky, earning the Laurel Award for Screenwriting: "I come not to bury Paul as an actor but to praise him as a writer."

"I started as night club comic and never wanted to be writer," Mazursky said. "I was born in Brooklyn in 1930." He said that he wept when he learned he was getting this award, voted on by other winners. "Let me tell you about critics," he said. "We think they're all full of shit. But when 'Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice' opened the New York Film Festival, I knew it would be a hit." After Vincent Canby panned it in The New York Times, the next morning at the Sherry Netherlands with his wife--"we're still married after 61 years"--Mazursky got a call from Pauline Kael at 7:30 am: "I wanted to tell you Canby is a schmuck."

Full list of winners below.

This article is related to: Writers Guild of America, Writers Guild Awards, Her, Captain Phillips, Awards, Awards, Awards Season Roundup

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.