The Oscars: a majestic celebration of the magic of cinema, or frivolous, self-congratulatory pageantry? The answer to that question will be revealed…elsewhere. While some Oscar bashing may be warranted, ‘round here we talk about book-y stuff, so book-y stuff I shall discuss.
It’s an incontrovertible fact that book renditions of stories are superior to their movie counterparts. This, however, has not stopped, and will never stop, screenwriters from adapting books into movies, hoping their work will find a place among the infinitesimal ranks of films that equal or surpass the quality of the written work they’re copping. Though the talkies may often fall short of the bar set by the wordies, the moviegoing public doesn’t seem to mind, nor should it. After all, there’s primo material to be plucked from books, and in the best instances, the result is cinematic excellence, even if it’s usually a bit more Pepsi than Coke (or Dr. Pepper, for those with Texas taste buds).
By my count, at this year’s Academy Awards, at least eight of the nominated films were adapted from books. Of those eight, four were nominated for best picture, the granddaddy of Oscar prizes. For your edification, I’ll provide a quick rundown of which Academy-recognized films originated on the page:
Movie: 12 Years a Slave
Book: 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
Notes: I’d like to see this Best Picture winner and read Northup’s book. Of the ones I actually saw, Lupita Nyongo’s speech was the best of the night, though I’m told Jared Leto and Matthew “Wooderson” McConaughey were also very good.
Movie: Captain Phillips
Book: A Captain’s Duty by Richard Phillips
Notes: I knew the movie is based on a true story, but didn’t know it’s based on a book until today. If I ever read it, I’ll hear Tom Hanks’ voice in my head the whole time.
Movie: The Wolf of Wall Street
Book: The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort
Notes: I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I don’t know if Leo deserved the Oscar over McConaughey, but I do hope he wins one someday. My heart goes on, Jack.
Book: Philomena: A Mother, Her Son, and a Fifty-Year Search by Martin Sixsmith
Notes: I was told good things about the movie last night by a member of the library’s book club, so my curiosity is piqued.
Movie: The Book Thief
Book: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Notes: I loved the book, but have read that the movie is a bit too lightweight in its treatment of the story. I’ll have to see it to judge for myself.
Movie: Lone Survivor
Book: Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 by Marcus Luttrell
Notes: If there’s ever for some reason a movie about my life, I can guarantee I won’t be played by anyone nearly as cool as Marky Mark. I guess Topher Grace might make the most sense, if he could bring back the haircut and physique from his “That ‘70s Show” days.
Movie: The Great Gatsby
Book: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Notes: I read the book in high school and feel like I didn’t appreciate it enough upon first reading, so I’d like to give it another go. The movie, while not great, far exceeded my expectations. Also, as I was writing this, I was thinking how funny it would be if someone made a montage of every time Leo Gatsby says “old sport” in the movie, and what do you know? Somebody did.
Book: The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
Notes: I’m a big fan of the book, but hate the decision to split it into three movies. So much was added that isn’t in the book, especially in “The Desolation of Smaug,” and while some of it enhanced the story, it made the movie so long that I was pretty much just waiting for it to end during the entire final third.
There you are, folks: eight of the year’s most high-profile, award-contendin’ films that only exist thanks to books. Watch them. Read them. Compare them (but don’t be too harsh; the movies are trying their best).