Monday, August 13, 2018

Oscar Got It Wrong: Best Adapted Screenplay 2006

The Contenders:

Children of Men
The Departed (winner)
Little Children
Notes on a Scandal

What’s Missing

The collection of movies nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for 2006 is an odd mixed bag. I love some of these movies and question why others would be here except for the distinct possibility of the Academy trying to show that it had a little bit of street cred (narrator voice: it doesn’t). Bug is the sort of film that plays into my sensibilities but tends to be ignored by the Academy. While I wouldn’t likely nominate The Devil Wears Prada, I could see it being nominated in a lot of years. Away from Her feels much more like Oscar fare, and The Last King of Scotland is so much Oscar fare that I am genuinely surprised at its lack of a nomination, something equally true of Dreamgirls. The biggest surprise for me, though, is that Letters from Iwo Jima was ignored for this award.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I know that a lot of people really liked Borat, but I didn’t. I also don’t really know how much of a screenplay actually existed for this film. How much of it was spontaneous and ad libbed? The Disney Aladdin was disqualified for a nomination in this category because so much of what Robin Williams did was ad libbed. That being the case, why does this make the cut? The presence of this as an evident sop to the Academy trying to be hip wasn’t worth the exclusion of Letters from Iwo Jima or The Last King of Scotland.

4. I’m kind of torn on Little Children. I respected it a great deal when I watched it because of the performances (especially Jackie Earle Haley), but I disliked everything about the story and the characters. It’s an ugly story about ugly people and because of that, it’s the sort of film I tend not to watch a second time. I can’t say whether or not it’s a faithful adaptation of the source material. I can say that there’s nothing much here that I appreciate beyond those performances, which causes me to question its presence here.

3. I like The Departed pretty well as a film, so it’s not a terrible shock to me that it was nominated for this award. Given that this was the year where it was decided that Martin Scorsese should finally be rewarded after three decades of dedicated craftsmanship, it’s no shock that it won. But how much of that is the screenplay and how much is the performances and the direction? It’s a bit of both, I’m certain, but I also have to wonder just how hard it is to adapt a film into another film. It seems like a bit of a cheat.

2. Notes on a Scandal is not the sort of film that I normally tout here, but I stand by this being worthy of a great deal of acclaim. The best thing about it is that it is subtle. It’s a devastating story, one that benefits from the performance of the always-great Judi Dench. This is another movie where the story is an ugly one, but it works because of how slowly some of the most important parts of the story are revealed. It builds beautifully, making us think things about characters until it is revealed how wrong we are. It’s masterful storytelling.

My Choice

1. In truth, the nomination of Children of Men is about as close as most science fiction movies get to anything outside of the technical awards come Oscar time. Many people hear the words “science fiction” and think aliens and ray guns, but Children of Men’s dystopic near-future is a reminder that good science fiction can be everything a more traditional story is, and can also ask the sort of questions that traditional fiction either can’t or won’t. This is a tremendously good film and one that should be more acclaimed outside of film nerd circles. It’s my clear winner, although Letters from Iwo Jima would give it some serious competition.

Final Analysis


  1. I'm in the weird position of flat out loathing four of these five nominated films and really liking the fifth which is Children of Men. So in a way that would be my winner by default but it would be my pick regardless of whatever else had been nominated for the year.

    Sarah Polley was nominated for Away from Her but that fell into the 2007 nominees.

    I have three other adaptations that I would have much rather seen in the running-The Illusionist, The Prestige and Casino Royale. I don't think it would change my winner but the category would have been much more interesting.

    1. I should have checked The Illusionist, which is a film I really liked. I think there are massive problems with The Prestige and I've never understood its appeal to anyone. Casino Royale was a solid re-do for the James Bond franchise, something it desperately needed.

  2. I'm so with you on everything you said in this post. The lone exception being your thoughts on Notes on a Scandal, but that's only because I have not seen it. Children of Men is my personal #1 movie for this year, so a big yes to all the wins you can give it. Borat sucks. That is all.

    1. There's so much to love about Children of Men. It's such a movie nerd movie, though. I say that because every movie nerd or geek I know loves it, and everyone else I know has never heard of it.

  3. I think what screenwriter William Monahan did in updating Infernal Affairs into The Departed was a solid and creative piece of work. He kept in some of the best elements of the original film and changed around much of it to make it very American and very Scorcese. I vote for Oscar getting this one right.

    1. Fair enough. For me, whatever work he did might have been brilliant, but he started with a pretty big head start.