At its annual awards show — one of the final bellwethers of what has been an unusually unpredictable awards season — the Writers Guild of America threw a couple of final curveballs, honoring a pair of indies that have generally gotten less attention in the Oscar horse race than their bigger, flashier competitors: the coming-of-age film “Eighth Grade” and the dramedy “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
“Eighth Grade” — which was entirely overlooked by academy voters but is up for four prizes at the upcoming Film Independent Spirit Awards, including best feature — picked up the award for original screenplay, beating out best picture Oscar nominees “Green Book,” “Roma” and “Vice” as well as the horror hit “A Quiet Place.” The last film to win the guild’s prize for original screenplay without being up for the Oscar was Michael Moore’s 2002 documentary “Bowling for Columbine.”
Taking the stage at The Beverly Hilton Hotel to accept the award, “Eighth Grade” writer-director Bo Burnham — who picked up the prize for best first-time feature film director at the Directors Guild Awards earlier this month — seemed genuinely stunned that his small-scale debut feature had emerged victorious over such a strong field, saying he hadn’t prepared a speech.
In the adapted screenplay category, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” — the story of literary forger Lee Israel — won out over “BlacKkKlansman,” “Black Panther,” “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “A Star Is Born.”
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