We respect that the Writers Guild of America awards are really important and prestigious and stuff, but what we really respect is that they make winning the office Oscar pool a heck of a lot easier.
"American Beauty" To whit: If you've got a chance to pick "American Beauty" for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar or "Election" for Best Adapted Screenplay, do it. Both films took top honors in their respective categories Sunday night at the 52nd Annual WGA awards, handed out at twin ceremonies in New York and Los Angeles.
The "Beauty" trophy went to scribe Alan Ball, the "Election" one to co-screenwriters Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor. All three men have the chance to repeat at the 72nd Annual Academy Awards on March 26 at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium.
"Election" In taking the best original screenplay prize, Ball defeated Paul Thomas Anderson ("Magonlia"), M. Night Shyamalan ("The Sixth Sense"), David O. Russell ("Three Kings") and Charlie Kaufman ("Being John Malkovich"). All but Russell are up for the Oscar. (Mike Leigh's "Topsy-Turvy" is the Academy's wild card.)
The "Election" team downed screenplays for "The Insider," "The Talented Mr. Ripley," "The Cider House Rules" and "October Sky." Again, all but one ("October Sky") are in competition come Oscar night. The only screenplay "Election" won't have gone head-to-head against is the one for "The Green Mile," the surprise Academy nominee.
The WGA Awards also honor TV. We'd tell you that HBO's "The Sopranos" and NBC's "Frasier" took top honors for drama and comedy series, respectively, but that wouldn't help you with your Oscar handicapping, now would it?
Maybe when the Emmys roll around, we'll send you a reminder.
In other award-show news from an award-show-filled weekend:
-- "ER" was named favorite TV drama and "Everybody Loves Raymond" favorite TV comedy at the 2nd Annual TV Guide Awards on Sunday in Los Angeles. Other key winners: Martin Sheen, tapped Favorite Actor in a New Series for NBC's "The West Wing" and Amy Brenneman, honored as Favorite Actress in a New Series for CBS' "Judging Amy." Overall, hardware in a whopping 25 categories -- from Favorite Soap ("Days of Our Lives," NBC) to bestest pet (Eddie the dog from "Frasier") -- were handed out. Awards were voted on by regular ol' TV Guide readers, explaining why The Guy From "Jag" (David James Elliott) beat out Emmy favorites such as Dennis Franz ("NYPD Blue") for Best Drama Actor.
-- Hip-hop trio TLC hopped to it with two wins -- for best R&B group and best R&B/soul album ("Fanmail") at the 14th Annual Soul Train Music Awards on Saturday in Los Angeles. Mary J. Blige also took multiple honors -- for best R&B/soul album by a female solo artist ("Mary") and the Sammy Davis. Jr. Award for the top female entertainer of the year. Old-timers Whitney Houston and the Guy Who Used to Be Called Prince were singled out as artists of the just-wrapped decade.
-- "Being John Malkovich" has been deigned the Best Stoner Movie of 1999 by the high-minded folks at High Times, a magazine (and Web site) devoted to all things, um, medicinal. Other winners of High Times' first-ever Stony Awards include: Michelle Williams, Kirsten Dunst and Dan Hedaya for Best Pot Scene for "Dick," and Sarah Polley, Katie Holmes and Nathan Bexton for Best Tripping Scene for "Go." ("Go" also took best movie and best director honors. Sounds like an endorsement.) Oscar favorite Kevin Spacey was named best actor for lighting up in "American Beauty." Winners presumably were determined per the polling of a smoke-filled room. A very smoke-filled room.