And the Oscar Goes To…

The books that were made into Oscar-nominated films of 2013.

If you’re following this year’s awards season, you may have noticed that many of the movies receiving the highest accolades were adapted from novels. Some of the big winners at last night’s Golden Globes made me want to compile a small list of the books that inspired the movies. While many viewers of the awards season make it their mission to watch all of the nominated films, wouldn’t it be an interesting idea to read the book behind each lit-inspired movie? If you care to tick off that list, it is…

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

8 Nominations

Someone over at Goodreads likened this book to “The Perks of Being a Wallflower for adults.” That’s probably on account of the novel’s tender qualities, quirky humor, and soul. Warm your heart with this debut novel from Matthew Quick.

 

Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History by Antonio J. Mendez

7 Nominations

The book and the movie provide a behind-closed-doors look into an almost unreal CIA mission to save six embassy workers from Iran in the 1970s… by impersonating a sci-fi film crew. Don’t get a manicure before watching or reading this entertaining political thriller.

 

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

11 Nominations

A boy, a boat, and a tiger — one might say those are the main components of Martel’s novel, and correspondingly director Ang Lee’s movie. But both deliver much more: spellbinding visuals, philosophical themes, and yes I just have to reiterate, an amazing tiger called Richard Parker.

 

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

3 Nominations

Adaptations of Tolkien’s works have dominated cinema for the last decade, so unless you call the lonely space beneath a rock your home,  you’ll probably know what you’re in for with Jackson’s latest movie. Yet, returning to Middle Earth to recount the fantasy of your childhood will yield memories that might not have made it to the film (despite it being the first three-hour installment of a trilogy).

 

Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

12 Nominations (for the film Lincoln)

Though of course Spielberg’s biopic is based on actual history, it had a helping hand from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography. But beware, it’d probably be faster to complete an AP course on U.S. History than to read this 944-page tome. For the ambitious among you, the biography reveals the brilliance behind one of America’s most cherished forefathers and comes highly recommended by the elite who have the will to sit down and read it.

 

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

8 Nominations

The musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s sprawling tragedy set during the upheaval of the French Revolution has been on stage for years and has now made its way to the silver screen. But if you want a reading of the work that does not involve singing every line, try picking up Hugo’s original. Of course, if you enjoy the catharsis of singing every line as you read them, by all means go ahead… so long as I’m not anywhere near you at the time.

 

What Oscar-nominated adaptations did you enjoy this past year? Which did you enjoy that did not make it into the Academy’s good graces? Share with us in a comment below!


Life of Pi: the Book and the Movie

“Which story do you prefer?”

Have you been following the trailers for Life of Pi?

After months of anticipation, I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of it last night. The new movie is the cinematic adaptation of Yann Martel’s celebrated 2001 novel, is directed by Ang Lee, and has been generating Oscar buzz for weeks thanks to its imaginative art direction and astounding special effects. But there’s more about the film you should know…

There are a lot of movie adaptations set to be released in the upcoming months–The Hobbit, Anna Karenina, and The Great Gatsby to name a few–the wait for which brings excitement to the literary masses, though the products often bring disappointment; avid readers time after time conclude that the magic that comes with reading a novel just cannot be translated onto the big screen. And I am usually one of them.

But Life of Pi is a unique case. For one thing, I actually didn’t even enjoy the book all that much. My apologies in advance to the die-hard fans out there, because I know you’re there; the novel has such a polarizing effect, it seems that everyone I’ve ever talked to about it either loved it or couldn’t finish it. On the one hand, its manuscript was rejected by five publishing houses before it was accepted by Knopf, on the other it was endorsed by President Obama in a private letter to Martel as, “an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling.” Oh yes, and it won the Man Booker Prize in 2002.

What kind of precedence does that set for its translation into film? Well, having watched the movie, I can say that it’s given me a new appreciation for Martel’s storytelling. His writing, so hard for me to get through on paper, has been transformed into a format that can celebrate all of its surrealist qualities and make them magical. Just watch the scenes on meerkat island if you don’t believe me.

But you’d have to celebrate that surreality to make the film a success. In a novel, the allegorical tale of a boy sharing a lifeboat with a massive Bengal tiger just works. In a movie, the fact that it’s impossible to throw your lead actor in with a real-life mankiller is only upstaged by the greater challenge of bringing character to the animal and making him real. On that I will only say that I was told that fewer than a quarter of the tiger shots in the film depicted a non-CG tiger. Good luck picking out which ones. Not only do we end up believing Richard Parker is real and alive, but we, like Pi, believe in his soul, all thanks to the reality-bending technology of computer graphics and the artistry of Parker’s animators.

Because of his embrace of the novel’s surreality, director Ang Lee has not only managed to retell Martel’s story, but to bring to it a spark of magic that is normally only reserved for the original book, something relatively unheard of in an adaptation.

Based on Martel’s own words from the novel, I think he’d agree:

“That’s what fiction is about, isn’t it, the selective transforming of reality? The twisting of it to bring out its essence?”

Life of Pi

So, are you excited to see a movie based on this bestselling book? What are your thoughts and expectations for movie adaptations, or this one in particular?

More on Life of Pi from eNotes:

The Life of Pi eNotes Study Guide, a perfect reading companion complete with chapter summaries and analysis. Have a question? Post it to our Q&A area for the novel and our expert editors will provide answers.

Test your knowledge of the novel with eNotes’ Life of Pi Study Questions.

Teachers, planning on teaching Life of Pi in the classroom? We have an eNotes exclusive Teaching Unit to help you with that, plus related lesson plans from Prestwick House Publishers to aid your instruction.


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