Benbrook Library / Books

The Case of the Curiously Not-So-Book-y Oscars

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Oscar Sunday is about celebrating movies deemed to have reached, or at least approached, the pinnacle of filmmaking excellence. As we’ve discussed before in this space, many movies make it to such lofty heights by riding the coattails of topnotch books, which provide source material screenwriters love to poach steal adapt. Lit-to-film adaptations are usually staples of the Best Picture category, but this year, not so much.

Of the nine movies nominated for 2017 Best Picture, only three are based on books. According to the Chicago Review of Books, that makes this year’s Oscars “one of the least literary in history.” The ChiReOBoo author egghead-edly breaks down the historical breakdown of book-based Oscar nominees by the percentages, and it’s worth checking out if you’re into that sort of thing. He calculates since the inception of the Academy Awards, 53% of Best Picture nominees have been based on books, which, coincidentally, is the same as the percentage of book-based winners of the award.

What can we take away from this? For one, if gambling were legal, the slightly smarter money would be on one of Hidden Figures, Arrival, or Lion, to win 2017 Best Picture, as they’re this year’s literary adaptee nominees. The second takeaway is a big duh doy, but it’s worth repeating: there are a whole bunch of great movies inspired by (in most cases) greater books, and if you place stock in what the distinguished, pinky-out-while-tea-drinking members of the Academy think, such films deserve your attention. The library has a ton of them, and there’s an easy way to track them down using ye olde catalog. Go to advanced search and use the following settings:

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You’ll get a monstrous 5,049 results, but you can trim down your options by using the “narrow your search” options (personally, I recommend “Subject” and “Year of Publication”) on the left side of the page.

So, even if this year’s Oscars is light on literary inspiration, that doesn’t mean your personal movie viewing has to be. Sure, without original screenplays, we wouldn’t have such cinematic gems as Pulp Fiction, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Dude, Where’s My Car?, but more often than not, when you’re seeking greatness, look to books.

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