Watching the Oscars on Sunday night, I was struck once again by how many of the year’s best films were adapted from books. Here are just a few of the nominations I spotted that have their roots in the printed word.
Philomena: A Mother, Her Son, and a Fifty-year Search
by Martin Sixsmith
Also published as The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, BBC reporter Sixsmith tells the story of a young unmarried Catholic girl sent to an Irish convent to deliver her child. Forced by the nuns to surrender her child, she is determined later in life to discover what happened to him. The movie was nominated for Best Picture.
A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea
by Richard Phillips
Also nominated for Best Picture was the film Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks. This unbelievable true story of his capture by Somali pirates and subsequent rescue by Navy Seals is told here in heart-stopping prose by the Captain himself.
The Wolf of Wall Street
by Jordan Belfort
Leonardo DiCaprio won a Best Actor nomination for his portrayal of the fast-talking Wall Street con artist who authored this book. Belfort’s life of excess is on full display in this tell-all memoir. Although, perhaps he didn’t tell all, because it turns out he wrote a sequel called Catching the Wolf of Wall Street: More Incredible True Stories of Fortunes, Schemes, Parties, and Prison. The film, directed by Martin Scorsese, was also nominated for Best Picture and comes out on DVD later this month.
August: Osage County
by Tracy Letts
Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts both earned Oscar nominations for their performances in this award winning play by Tracy Letts. The play debuted at Chicago’ Steppenwolf Theatre where Letts is an ensemble member, and went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, as well as a Tony Award for Best Play. His portrait of a dysfunctional American family has earned him comparisons to Eugene O’Neill.
The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This stylish retelling of Fitzgerald’s Great American Novel garnered no Best Picture or Performance nominations, but it did earn kudos from the Academy for looking good. Winning Design awards in Production and Costume, I think Zelda would have approved.
The Hobbit Or, There and Back Again
by J.R.R. Tolkien
The second installment in a three part film adaptation of this classic fantasy novel by Tolkein did not go unnoticed by the Academy. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was nominated for sound and visual effects. The film does take a few departures from the book, but you’ll be there and back again before you know it.
As the title suggests, this book is a first hand account of a Navy SEAL who was the lone survivor of an ill-fated mission to kill or capture a high-ranking Taliban leader. The film earned no best picture or performance nominations, but was recognized for sound mixing and sound editing. Don’t ask me the difference between the two.
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
While the movie was passed over for the major nominations, aside from Best Music Score by John Williams, the book is still a winner in my book. The “book thief” is none other than 10 year-old Liesel Meminger, who comes to live with the Hubermanns when her parents disappear under suspicious circumstances in Nazi Germany. She can barely read when she arrives, but under the patient tutelage of her new papa, she develops a passion for books and a talent for stealing them .