Names in the news, Feb. 21

Posted Feb. 20, 2012, at 4:56 p.m.

Cementing their position as front-runners for screenwriting Oscars, the three writers of “The Descendants” and Woody Allen for “Midnight in Paris” took the adapted and original screenplay awards, respectively, Sunday night from the Writers Guild of America. In television, “Modern Family,” “Homeland” and “Breaking Bad” all came away with two awards each, thanks to a tie in one category. “Breaking Bad” won for drama series while “Homeland” won for new series, and the two tied in the episodic drama category, given for a single episode. “Modern Family” was awarded top comedy and episodic comedy. “We are very scared that people are sick of us,” said “Modern Family” showrunner Steve Levitan. Alexander Payne, “The Descendants” director and co-writer (with Nat Faxon and Jim Rash) thanked novelist Kaui Hart Hemmings, who wrote the book of the same name. “Thanks for letting us into your world. We had a very good time.” As Allen’s name was announced, co-host Joel McHale said of the notoriously private writer-director, “I can’t believe he’s not here.” Opening the show at the Hollywood Palladium with McHale, Zooey Deschanel welcomed the attendees to “nerd prom.” “Male writers, you are all hot because of your minds — and your plaid shirts,” Deschanel added to much laughter from an audience that included director Brad Bird, Tom Selleck and Patton Oswalt. “The Help” stars Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer presented Tate Taylor, the film’s screenwriter-director, with the Paul Selvin Award, which honors the script that best embodies the spirit of the civil and constitutional rights and liberties that protect free speech. Director David Fincher presented the Laurel Award for career achievement to screenwriter Eric Roth, with whom he worked on “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” via video. Roth’s credits also include “Forrest Gump,” “The Insider” and “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.”

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