At its annual awards show, one of the final bellwethers before the Academy Awards, the Writers Guild of America honored Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” a quirky fable about a feud over a widow's fortune, and Morten Tyldum's “The Imitation Game,” the story of British mathematician Alan Turing, who helped crack the Nazi Enigma code to end World War II.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” – which has been nominated for nine Oscars, including best picture – picked up the award for original screenplay, beating out “Boyhood,” “Foxcatcher,” “Nightcrawler” and “Whiplash."
Taking the stage at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, Anderson highlighted the history of the locale in his typically droll and eccentric acceptance speech.
“I’m very pleased to be here on this soil of Century City, which formerly, as you know, was the backlot of one of the great cinema studios and now is home to this wonderful Hyatt and a large community of entertainment attorneys,” said the writer-director, who last month collected the Golden Globe Award in the comedy and musical category for the film.
With the Academy Awards looming on Feb. 22, Oscar watchers are parsing every successive awards show for clues of how voters may be leaning. But the Writers Guild results may not indicate as much as in previous years. One of the clear best picture front-runners, Alejandro González-Iñárritu’s “Birdman,” was deemed ineligible for a WGA nomination because it wasn't made under the guild's Basic Agreement, as were contenders "The Theory of Everything" and "Selma."
In the adapted screenplay category, “The Imitation Game” beat out “American Sniper,” “Gone Girl,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Wild.”
Graham Moore's script for "The Imitation Game” has also been nominated for an adapted screenplay Oscar, one of eight nominations for the film, including best picture. The other films in Oscar contention for adapted screenplay are “American Sniper,” “Inherent Vice,” “The Theory of Everything” and “Whiplash.” ("Whiplash" is considered an adapted screenplay under the academy's rules because writer-director Damien Chazelle made a short film from the script prior to the feature.)
Accepting the award, Moore said the true honor belonged to Turing.
“He was probably the greatest genius of his generation, and I’m a screenwriter from Chicago, so it’s very strange to be standing on this stage now when he should be,” Moore said. “It’s on the shoulders of his genius that we made this film and that we’re so proud to stand.”
Though the awards are most closely watched by Oscar prognosticators, television writers were also honored Saturday night.
HBO’s acclaimed crime anthology series “True Detective” picked up the award for best new series, beating out Showtime’s "The Affair,” Cinemax’s “The Knick,” HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” and Amazon Prime’s “Transparent.”
“We’re about halfway through filming season two,” "True Detective" creator Nic Pizzolatto said. “I hope you like it – it could be the end of me.”
Comedian Louis CK’s FX show “Louie” took the award for comedy series over “Silicon Valley,” “Transparent,” Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” and HBO’s “Veep.”
Lest any of the writers in attendance forget their place in the greater Hollywood firmament amid all the celebration, the show’s host, Lisa Kudrow, cracked about the lack of star power in the crowd (though, for the record, Ben Affleck was on hand to receive a prize for his humanitarian work.)
“Nobody here is famous,” Kudrow said, deadpan. “Seriously, I'm looking out at you guys and I don’t recognize anybody.”