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rare female film critic | by maryann johanson

2006 best-ofs: best original screenplay, best adapted screenplay

You’ve heard the one about the actress so dumb she slept with the screenwriter? It’s no joke, though: screenwriters get far less respect than they deserve, and these films in particular this year remind us how potent their words can be and how the structures of their stories can reveal new insight into tales we thought we knew.
Best Original Screenplay

1. Stranger Than Fiction: It’s not just a wildly inventive and intensely wise story in itself, but explores our relationship to stories as tellers, listeners, and participants in them.

2. The Queen: Finding a surprising deeper meaning in what seemed like a moment of aberration, this is a profoundly powerful look at a time when paradigms shifted and all the rules changed.

3. Bobby: Manages to make its varied and sprawling cast of characters both warmly genuine and iconically symbolic at once, allowing us a glimpse at both the emotional and the intellectual appeal of a towering cultural memory.

4. Little Miss Sunshine: It skips blithely from raw emotional pain to outrageous oh-no-they-didn’t satire, and makes you realize, once more, that tears and laughter really do originate from the same deep-seated place.

5. Brick: Not many films can invent their own jargon and make it sound fresh, organic, and grounded in authenticity all at once — this is a master class in itself in writing film dialogue.

Best Adapted Screenplay

1. Children of Men: Spare and lean, the script refuses to overexplicate what was, in the novel, a very internal conflict, letting external sociopolitical anxieties reveal personal ones.

2. The Departed: The Hong Kong original was reimagined from the ground up, and done so well you’d never guess this wasn’t a Boston story born and bred.

3. Thank You for Smoking: Transferring prose satire to a visual medium can be tough, but this film achieves it through the snarky elan of its charismatic antihero … and his slick verbal sleazing.

4. Fast Food Nation: A nonfiction book is transformed into a fictional narrative in which the characters beautifully embody the imperative themes of the reality they represent.

5. V for Vendetta: It replaced the dated cultural chaos of the source graphic novel with up-to-the-nanosecond modernity but demonstrated that the unease both generate are similarly terrifying.

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