'Juno,' 'No Country' take writing honors

Times Staff Writers

Nothing preempts Hollywood's awards season -- not even a crippling writers strike.

On the same day the West Coast and East Coast branches of the Writers Guild of America gathered to discuss an end to the three-month work stoppage, the union took a break to announce the winners of its top writing awards. The West Coast had canceled its traditional awards season ceremony -- complete with red carpet and celebrities -- because of the strike, but the East Coast branch held an informal gathering in New York City on Saturday.

The critics' darling "Juno" won for best original screenplay, and the gritty contemporary Western "No Country for Old Men" took top honors for best adapted screenplay.

It continues to be a Cinderella year for Diablo Cody, the 29-year-old former stripper who penned "Juno," a coming-of-age film about a pregnant teen. And Joel and Ethan Coen continue to look like front-runners for the Oscar with their "No Country" screenplay, based on Cormac McCarthy's acclaimed novel. The brothers have already won a Golden Globe as well as the Director's Guild of America award for their work.

Receiving the WGA's top prize doesn't necessarily translate into Oscar gold. But the winners in these categories over the last two years -- "The Departed," "Little Miss Sunshine," "Brokeback Mountain" and "Crash" -- all went on to earn Academy Awards.

The Oscars will be held Feb. 24 -- although it remains to be seen whether that ceremony will be scaled back: Typically, a fleet of writers spends weeks, if not months, preparing the show; but with Hollywood's scribes having been on strike, not a word has been written for it.

This year's Writers Guild event was decidedly looser than past ceremonies and peppered with references to the likely strike settlement. "WGA on Strike" signs filled the ornate lobby of the Hudson Theatre in Times Square, and writers gathered by the open bars, comparing notes about the membership meeting earlier in the day when they finally heard the details about the tentative deal.

"Congratulations to us all," exclaimed one woman, raising her wineglass.

As the night wore on, the mood became positively ebullient, as presenters Seth Meyers, Richard Belzer and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog did a series of side-splitting monologues about the strike.

The awards themselves almost seemed an afterthought; winners went up and hurriedly collected their statues, then returned to the audience, where some writers were sitting cross-legged on the floor.

"I think tonight meant a couple of things," said Michael Winship, president of WGA East. "It meant a demonstration of solidarity and unity. And without any planning, happening when it did, it gave everyone an enormous opportunity to blow off a little steam, relax a little bit and look forward to what we hope will be a good contract."


Some of the other WGA winners announced Saturday night:

Documentary screenplay: "Taxi to the Dark Side."

Dramatic series: "The Wire."

Comedy series: "30 Rock."

Animation: "The Simpsons: Kill Gil Volumes 1&2."

New series: "Mad Men."

Long form original: "Pandemic."

Long form adaptation: "The Company: A Story of the CIA."

Episodic drama: "The Sopranos: The Second Coming" by Terence Winter.

Episodic comedy: "The Office: The Job" by Paul Lieberstein and Michael Schur.

Daytime serials: "The Young and the Restless."

Children's episodic and specials: "Look Who's Not Talking (Flight 29 Down)."

Comedy/variety series: "The Colbert Report."


For a full list of winners go to TheEnvelope.com.

susan.king@latimes.com matea.gold@latimes.com

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