If you are like me—obsessed with both books and movies—the recently announced 2015 Academy Award nominations probably have you pretty darn excited. In the midst of buzzed about surprises (Marion Cotillard for Best Actress and the incredible Whiplash—my personal favorite—for Best Picture) and snubs (no Jennifer Aniston for Best Actress and no love for the Director of Selma, Ava DuVernay), the Academy recognized several films and performances that drew inspiration from books. Some of these were mentioned in our Read a Movie post. If you still haven’t gotten around to reading an adaptation (tsk tsk), think about making the Oscar ceremony date of February 22nd as your new deadline. Let’s get reacquainted with a few of the nominees, shall we?
If you belong to a book club or keep up with the best sellers list, odds are that at least one of your recent reads has been recognized by the Academy. For example, Wild based on Cheryl Strayed’s bestseller (and Oprah Book Club pick), garnered a Best Actress nomination for star and producer Reese Witherspoon. Laura Dern, playing mom to Witherspoon’s Cheryl, is nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Joining Witherspoon in the Lead Actress category is Julianne Moore for Still Alice. Lisa Genova, a neuroscientist-cum-novelist, wrote the source material for this film about a professor suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. One of the biggest literary phenoms in recent memory has been Gillian Flynn’s twisty meditation on marriage, Gone Girl. Early in the awards season, it looked as though the film adaptation would be a strong contender in the Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay categories. That didn’t happen. However, star Rosamund Pike will be walking the red carpet next month and vying against Witherspoon and Moore for her performance as “Amazing Amy.” If you missed the film in theaters, it is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Two of the most celebrated films of the year are based on the biographies of groundbreaking Brits: physicist Stephen Hawking and pioneering mathematician Alan Turing. The respective biopics, The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, have garnered nominations in a slew of major categories, including the biggie: Best Picture. Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen: The True Story Behind The Theory of Everything and Alan Turing: The Enigma should be added to your reading list if you are interested in learning more about Hawking and/or Turing.
If you’re looking for some intense viewing (and reading) look no further than stories that wrangle with the heady topic of life during wartime, both on the battlefield and at home. Prior to its release, Angelina Jolie’s big budget adaptation of Unbroken was generating major awards buzz. Unfortunately, this World War II story was not able to break through, ending up with a few nominations in technical categories, including Cinematography and Sound Editing. On the flip side, Clint Eastwood’s rendering of American Sniper seemed to sneak in out of nowhere and end the day with a grand total of six nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Jason Hall’s screenplay is based on Chris Kyle’s memoir of the same name, which details Kyle’s life as a Navy SEAL with more confirmed kills than any other U.S. sniper (160). In addition to Graham Moore and Anthony McCarten (writers of The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, respectively), Hall will be competing against Paul Thomas Anderson for his adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel Inherent Vice.
Lastly, there is a batch of nominees whose work originates with material for younger readers. For example, the animated feature The Boxtrolls is inspired by Alan Snow’s children’s book Here Be Monsters! The Boxtrolls’ competition in the Best Animated Feature category, How to Train Your Dragon 2, is loosely based on an eleven book series by Cressida Cowell. Let’s also not forget the many comic books that have been successfully adapted and are nominated in a number of technical categories this year: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Big Hero 6, which also originated as a comic, is another best Animated Feature nominee.
So, for the second time in about four months, I am imploring you to read between the scenes. Seek out the source material that inspired these celebrated films and share your thoughts with us. Which is better: the book or the movie? Which films are you rooting for on Oscar night? And all you cinephiles stay tuned: I have a sneaky suspicion that there will be another Checking the Shelf post dedicated to the awards season.