Monday, January 31, 2011
This year, for instance, four of the 10 Best Picture nods are based on books: Two on novels — Winter's Bone (Daniel Woodrell) and True Grit (Charles Portis) and two on non-fiction books — The Social Network (Ben Mezrich, The Accidental Billionaires) and 127 Hours (Aron Ralston, Between A Rock and A Hard Place).
Last year, also four of the 10 were based on books: Two on novels — Up In The Air (Walter Kirn), and Precious (Push, by Sapphire), and two on non-fiction — The Blind Side (Michael Lewis) and An Education (memoir by Lynn Barber).
In 2009, four of the five Best Picture films were based on books (I'll loosely interpret "books" to include plays so we can count Frost/Nixon): The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. Slumdog Millionaire (the winner) is based on the novel Q&A by Indian writer Vikas Swarup. The Reader is based on a novel of the same name by Bernhard Schlaik and Frost/Nixon is based on a play by Peter Morgan. The only Oscar-nominated Best Picture film not based on a book in 2009 is Milk.
Atonement (Ian McEwan), the winner No Country for Old Men (Cormac McCarthy) and There Will Be Blood ("loosely based" [whatever that means] on Upton Sinclair's novel Oil!). Juno and Michael Clayton were original screenplays.
Finally, in 2007, only one Best Picture nom is book-based — Letters From Iwo Jima (based on the books titled Picture Letters From the Commander In Chief, by General Tadamichi Kuribayasi). The Queen, Babel, The Departed and Little Miss Sunshine were all originals.
So, in the last five years, 16 of the 35 — about 45 percent — Best Picture nominated films were adapted from books. What conclusions can we draw from this number? Well, for one, just under half of the Best Picture noms were based on books. I'm nothing if not a precise data analyst.
Anyway, to be frank, that number's a lot lower than I assumed it'd be when I sat down to write this post. Also, only twice in the last five years, has the winning film been based on a book — Slumdog Millionaire and No Country For Old Men. Another perceived truism these days is that, given the glut of remakes and sequels, Hollywood is out of ideas. But many, many good films are still being made from Original Screenplays.
As a final note, one of my favorite movies of all time — Wonder Boys — is based on a Michael Chabon novel, so you can definitely not count me among those literary snobs who won't watch any film based on a movie "because it can't possibly live up to the book."
How about you? What are some of your favorite book-based films?
Posted by Greg Zimmerman at 2:00 PM