Oscar Sunday is once again upon us, and while it’s mostly a time to celebrate movies (or, if you’re fancy, British, or fancy British, films), I look at it as another sweet reminder of how awesome books are. As I’ve previously discussed in this space, many movie makers mine material from their motion-impaired mates in literature, which often springboards them to both box office and critical success, as Oscar nominees remind us year after year. The graphic above from Goodreads demonstrates just how book-heavy Hollywood can be; a whopping 90% of this year’s best actor and actress nominees starred in movies based on books.
I’m not a major cinephile like Roger Ebert, Leonard Maltin, or Michael Bolton, so I, perhaps unforgivably, haven’t seen any of the movies listed in the graphic. I’d like to watch some of them, but the desire hasn’t been strong enough to lure me to the theater and part with nine dollars, especially since patience will eventually reward me by allowing me to check out DVD copies of them from the library for free (seriously, how great are libraries?). Honestly, the next time I do go to the theater won’t be to see Oscar fare, but rather to watch Deadpool which, like all the other best movies, is also based on a book.* Because I have no basis for analysis or predictions, I’ll quickly power rank the five book-to-movie Oscar movies I’d most like to watch and/or read their source material.
- The Martian (based on The Martian by Andy Weir) – This is the only movie in the crop for which I have read the source material, and I found Weir’s book highly enjoyable. The main character, a nerdy, sarcastic, funny, brilliant, highly resourceful astronaut, doesn’t exactly scream Matt Damon to me, but from what I’ve heard and read, he’s strong in the role and could be a dark horse to upset Best Actor heavy favorite Leo Gatsby Costigan Grape DiCaprio. I’ll definitely be watching this one.
- The Revenant (based on The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke) – A gritty tale of revenge and bear-related savagery that sadly could have been prevented had it occurred during the days of round-the-clock Bear Patrol, The Revenant has major Oscar buzz and is considered a legitimate threat to sweep the Big Three awards (picture, directing, and acting). It could go down as the vehicle that brings the aforementioned Leo Jack Romeo J. Edgar Hoover DiCaprio his precious first Oscar. I feel like I’m going to have to consume this story in some way just to see what all the hubbub is about.
- Room (based on Room by Emma Donoghue) – I’ve read one other Emma Donoghue book, Frog Music, and I didn’t much care for it. However, the premise for this story, a mother trapped raising her child in a single room orchestrating an escape, sounds like riveting stuff. The book is told from the perspective of a five-year-old boy, which I expect will either be refreshingly novel or frustratingly gimmicky. I’m betting the movie gives deeper insight into the mother’s harrowing experience, so this seems like one to both read and watch.
- Trumbo (based on Trumbo by Bruce Cook) – I hadn’t heard anything about Cook’s book about blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo before it was adapted for the big screen, but the fact that the movie stars the magnificent Bryan Cranston gives it instant appeal for me. Trumbo is a biography, which isn’t necessarily in my reading wheelhouse, but the presence of Cranston in the movie alone makes it a must-see.
- The Big Short (based on The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis) – Wall Street and economics aren’t necessarily topics that usually interest me, but The Big Short author Michael Lewis was able to make baseball interesting in Moneyball (honestly, baseball!), so I have faith he can write well enough to make anything fascinating. The movie’s Murderer’s Row of a cast, which features Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, and Marisa Tomei, is Ocean’s Eleven-esque. I’d watch them in anything, even if they someday star in a movie about baseball.**
So today, as you’re dyeing your carpet red, spray painting your pets gold, and working out the rules for your acceptance speech adult beverage consumption games in preparation for the big show, take some time to appreciate how authors and books make it possible for Hollywood to create movies worth such gaudy fanfare. Thanks, books. You really do spoil us.
*Comic books are books too, darn it!
**I really don’t hate baseball. I mean, I made a baseball reference one sentence earlier.