Moonlight won Best Original Screenplay at the Writers Guild Awards Sunday night, positioning it well for the Oscars.
Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney won the award for Best Original Screenplay for their Moonlight screenplay on Sunday, beating out the likes of La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, Hell or High Water and Loving.
However, it will be competing in the Best Adapted Screenplay category at the Oscars, due to the Academy ruling that because the film derives from McCraney's un-produced play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, it is an adaptation instead of an original work. Either way, it now has a great shot of winning the Best Adapted Screenplay category at the Oscars, even with the WGA winner for Adapted Screenplay, Arrival, in this category, too.
Does this signal even broader support for Moonlight, though? It's no secret that the industry adores La La Land, and the Golden Globes gave it Best Screenplay, so the fact that Moonlight was able to beat it at WGA might mean something. Of course, the writing in La La Land is arguably one of its least showy aspects, so it cannot be too much of a surprise, but Moonlight's victory should at least indicate a lot of love within the industry to make it a potential upset winner of Best Picture.
The film hurt the most by Moonlight's win, however, is probably Manchester by the Sea. Kenneth Lonergan's screenplay is the most verbose and writerly of the three major frontrunners, so its inability to win at WGA suggests there isn't as much passion for it. Thankfully with Moonlight in Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars it has a strong shot at winning Original Screenplay, but the movie has so few wins for industry awards that even that is in question.
Moonlight may not be as big and flashy as La La Land to take it down for Best Picture, but sometimes an underdog can sneak in and surprise everyone. And with eight nominations in total, including two actors, directing and writing, why can't that underdog be Moonlight?
The Oscars will air live from coast to coast Sunday, Feb. 26 at 8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT on ABC.