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By Lisa Baertlein
LOS ANGELES, Feb 17 (Reuters) - U.S. film and television writers gave their top two movie awards on Sunday to "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Argo" in the final Hollywood guild awards show before next week's Oscars.
Writer Mark Boal won the Writers Guild of America award for Best Original Screenplay for "Zero Dark Thirty," which chronicles the intense U.S. manhunt and daring raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Asked backstage what message he hoped to send to audiences with the film, Boal said: "I think (director Kathryn Bigelow) said it best when she said she wanted to shine a light on a dark decade. I don't know that I could put it any better than that."
"Argo," about the Hollywood-assisted rescue of American hostages in Iran during the 1979 revolution, earned writer Chris Terrio WGA's trophy for Best Adapted Screenplay.
"I've never actually won a call-your-name award before," an overwhelmed Terrio said backstage at the awards.
The WGA awards gave the winning films a last boost in the race for the Oscars, the world's top film honors, because many guild members also belong to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that hands out the Oscars on Feb. 24.
The guild gave a special nod to "Lincoln," honoring screen writer Tony Kushner with a special award recognizing work that embodies the spirit of civil rights and liberties. "Lincoln," a drama about President Abraham Lincoln's fight to abolish slavery, was up against "Argo" for WGA's Best Adapted Screenplay.
"Argo" and "Lincoln" are considered front-runners for this year's Best Picture Oscar, although "Argo" recently has taken a slight edge after also nabbing the top prize from both the director and producer guilds, which each have strong records of predicting Oscar winners.
"Searching for Sugar Man" writer-director Malik Bendjelloul nabbed the WGA award for documentary screenwriting.
"Breaking Bad" won for Best TV Drama Series and the writers of "Louie" claimed the prize for TV Comedy Series. "Girls" was named for Best New TV Series.
(Reporting By Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Eric Beech)