Saturday, February 14, 2009

Oscar Movies Based on Books

A spin on the feature Movies Based on Books, this week we bring you a very special installment. The Oscars are only a week away and after browsing the list of best picture nominees I noticed that a great number of the nominated films this year are based on books. Here's a rundown of some of the novels the inspired the celebrated movies that will compete for awards next Sunday. The book is always better than the movie, right?

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald

A 1921 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, first published in Colliers Magazine, and subsequently anthologized in his book Tales of the Jazz Age (occasionally published as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Jazz Age Stories). Developed for years by the late Hollywood mogul Ray Stark, the rights and story development were purchased from the Ray Stark Estate and adapted for a 2008 film of the same name directed by David Fincher.

Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchet, Taraji P. Henson

The film was released on December 25, 2008 and received 13 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress.

The Reader
Author: Bernhard Schlink
Translated by: Carol Brown Janeway

An award-winning novel by German law professor and judge Bernhard Schlink. It was published in Germany in 1995 and in the United States in 1997. It deals with the difficulties of subsequent generations to comprehend the Holocaust; specifically, whether a sense of its origins and magnitude can be adequately conveyed solely through written and oral media. The first German novel to top the New York Times bestseller list, and US television presenter Oprah Winfrey made it a selection of her book club. It has been translated into 37 languages and been included in the curricula of college-level courses in Holocaust literature.

Starring: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, David Kross

The British drama opened in limited release on 10 December 2008 and has been nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Director.

Q & A (Slumdog Millionaire)
Author: Vikas Swarup

A novel by Vikas Swarup, an Indian diplomat. Published in 2005, it was the author's first novel. Set in India, it tells the story of Ram Mohammad Thomas, a poor young waiter who becomes the biggest quiz-show winner in history, only to be sent to jail on accusations (but with no evidence or proof) that he cheated. The basis for the award winning movie Slumdog Millionaire.

Starring: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan

The film was released in 2008. The British drama was directed by Danny Boyle, co-directed by Loveleen Tandan, and written by Simon Beaufoy. Nominated for a total of ten Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.

Revolutionary Road
Author: Richard Yates

The first novel of author Richard Yates, was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1962. When it was published by Atlantic-Little, Brown in 1961, it received critical acclaim, and the New York Times reviewed it as "beautifully crafted... a remarkable and deeply troubling book." In 2005 the novel was chosen by Time as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present.

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Michael Shannon

The film opened on December 26, 2008 in selected theaters and opened everywhere throughout the U.S. on January 23, 2009. Revolutionary Road was the source of a good deal of controversy after DiCaprio was nominated for a Golden Globe and Winslet won the award for Best Actress for the film but neither were nominated for an Academy Award for their work in the film. Winslet, instead, was nominted for Best Actress for her Golden Globe Best Supporing Actress winning role in The Reader. The film also failed to be nominte for an Oscar for best picture. The film is, however, nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design and Best Supporting Actor for the relatively unknown Michael Shannon.

Author: John Patrick Shanley

Not a book but a play initially titled Doubt: A Parable (but still a very well written drama that makes for very good reading) was originally staged off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club on November 23, 2004. The production transferred to the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway in March 2005 and closed on July 2, 2006 after 525 performances and 25 previews.

Starring: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams
Viola Davis

The film, written and directed by the original play's author, John Patrick Shanley, premiered on October 30, 2008 at the AFI Fest before being distributed by Miramax Films in limited release on December 12, 2008 and in wide release on December 25, 2008. The film and play are set in 1964 at a Catholic church in turmoil located in the Bronx, New York. Nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Actor, Best Actress (for previous Oscar winners Seymour Hoffman and Streep), two Best Supporting Actress Nominations and Best Adapted Screenplay for Shanley. Ironically, recieving the most acting nominations of any 2008 movie, Doubt was not nominated for Best Picture.

Frost/Nixon: The Book & Frost/Nixon: The Play
Author: Sir David Frost with Bob Zelnick

Frost/Nixon, inspired by David Frost's now iconic interviews with the disgraced ex president was first told as a play written by British dramatist Peter Morgan, author of The Queen. The play premiered at the Donmar Warehouse theatre in London in August 2006. Directed by Michael Grandage, and starring Michael Sheen as the talk-show host and Frank Langella as the former president, Frost/Nixon received enthusiastic reviews in the British press.
The play won three Tony Awards including Langella's win for Best Performance By a Leading Actor.

In 2007 Frost released a book by the same title, Frost/Nixon, which is a first hand account and tells the extraordinary story of how Sir David Frost pursued and landed the biggest fish of his career--and how the series drew larger audiences than any news interview ever had in the United States, before being shown all over the world.

Starring: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt

The film It was released in the United Kingdom and expanded into wide status in the United States on January 23, 2009 and landed on a number of top ten films of the year list. Frost/Nixon is nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director (for Ron Howard), Best Actor and Best Screenplay for the play's initial author Morgan. Both Michael Sheen and Frank Langella reprised their roles in the film version. Interestingly, Langella stands a chance to win both a Tony and an Oscar for the same role.

Waltz with Bashir
Author: Ari Folman and David Polonsky

Not intially a book a graphic novel of the animated and celebrated film will be released February 17th. Asked why the authors decided to release the story in graphic novel form co-author Folman said. "It gave us total freedom to do whatever we liked. We could go from one dimension to another, from real events to the subconscious to dreams to hallucinations. It gave us the liberty to play with vastly different elements in one fluid story line, with no boundaries, and also to make something visually familiar and tired--war scenes--look entirely new." A reviewer has said of the graphic novel: "probing inquiry into the unreliable quality of memory, and a powerful denunciation of the senselessness of all wars."

Starring: Ari Folman

The film was one of the first Israeli animated feature-length films released in movie theaters (along with the film $9.99). Waltz with Bashir premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival where it entered the competition for the Palme d'Or, and since then won and was nominated for many additional important awards while receiving wide acclaim from critics. It won a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, a NSFC Award for Best Film, an IDA Award for Feature Documentary and is currently nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The film has been nominated for Best Foreign Film a category for which it won the Golden Globe.

The Class (Entre les murs )
Author: François Bégaudeau

The book, published in 2006 with the title Entre les murs (in English: Between the Walls), is a work of contemporary fiction by French writer François Bégaudeau. It is a semi-autobiographical account of Bégaudeau's experiences as a literature teacher in an inner city middle school in Paris. Published in the United States with the title The Class, the same name as the film.

Starring: François Bégaudeau

The film's star is also the author of the book revealing the multifaceted nature of Bégaudeau who was also a member of the 1990's punk group Zabriskie Pont. (The guy is apparently very busy!) The film received the Palme d'Or (the highest award) at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, making it the first French film in 21 years to do so. The movie has mainly received positive reviews, achieving a 97% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. The Class has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

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