Awards season in Hollywood — one of my favorite times of the year! Given the ongoing controversy surrounding the lack of diversity in this year’s Oscar nominees and the voting membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences itself, it’s pretty easy to lose sight of the quality and variety of the films competing for best picture. How many of the nominated films have you seen? A few are already on library shelves, and the rest will make their way to DVD in the next few months. Sign up for our monthly Feature Films newsletter so you’ll be among the first to know when the new releases arrive.
Something this librarian was thrilled to see: six of the eight films nominated for best picture this year were bestselling novels before making their way to the silver screen. Add in a best actor nomination for Eddie Redmayne for a book-based character, and another for Michael Fassbender for a real-life character that has been the subject of countless biographies in recent years, and you practically have a literary sweep!
Are you someone who likes to read the book before seeing the movie — or vice versa? Either way, grab one of the titles highlighted below and get reading! Tune in to ABC for the presentation of the Academy Awards on Sunday, February 28th to find out whether any of your favorite book-to-movie translations score the big prize.
The Martian by Andy Weir As good as this movie is, Weir’s book about an American astronaut stranded on Mars is even better: more action, more life-threatening dilemmas, and just as much humor. This is also an exceptional audiobook. If you’re worried about stumbling over all of the science in the print edition (and it’s not that bad!), rest assured it’s very easy to digest in the audio version of the book. A great narrator telling a great story make this one compelling listen!
Bridge of Spies by Giles Whittell Whittell expertly tells the suspenseful true story of American lawyer James B. Donovan, who was recruited at the height of the Cold War to defend an arrested Soviet spy in court, and then help the CIA facilitate an exchange of the spy for an American pilot captured and held by the Russians. Tom Hanks stars as Donovan in the film, and is as good as always. I’ll be cheering for Mark Rylance in the supporting actor Oscar race. Rylance infuses his role of a Russian spy with such dignity and quiet humor that he’s one Communist many viewers find themselves rooting for!
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin Irish novelist Toibin is no stranger to the New York Times bestseller list. His 2009 novel Brooklyn tells the story of Eilis Lacey, a young Irish girl who embarks on a new life in America when she emigrates to Brooklyn in the 1950’s. When a tragedy at home requires her return to Ireland, she finds herself torn not just between two countries, but two young men as well. Young Eilis is brought to life beautifully in the film adaptation by radiant Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, a best actress Oscar nominee. The film is nominated for a total of four Oscars, including best picture.
The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis Leave it to bestselling author Lewis to explain in plain terms exactly why the economy tanked in 2008. In reporting that is both humorous and insightful, Lewis focuses on the real-life characters at the heart of the wheeling and dealing that brought the U.S. economy to its knees. A stellar cast including Christian Bale, Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling bring Lewis’ tale of greed and financial shenanigans to entertaining life in director Adam McKay’s best picture Oscar nominee.
The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke Punke’s riveting tale of survival and revenge is based on the true story of legendary 1820’s fur trader Hugh Glass, who is left for dead in the American wilderness by his fellow trappers after becoming the victim of a vicious bear attack. Nominated for 12 Oscars, the film version looks like it might be the movie to beat in the best picture race, and Leonardo DiCaprio may finally take home Oscar gold for his spellbinding performance as the man determined to exact revenge on those who left him behind.
Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue The only home 5-year-old Jack has ever known is an 11-square-foot room he shares with his Ma. Held captive in the room since her kidnapping seven years earlier, Jack’s Ma has managed to fill his life with love and some semblance of security. Ma fears, however, that the time is rapidly approaching when the room will no longer be enough to contain Jack’s curious nature. Donoghue’s novel is both beautiful and frightening, but manages to fill readers with a sense of hope and wonder. Actress Brie Larson stuns in her performance as Ma in the film version, and may well be the one left holding the best actress trophy come Oscar night.
The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff Ebershoff’s prize-winning novel is based on the real-life story of Einar Wegener, a Danish artist who 70 years ago became the first man to be medically transformed into a woman. Ebershoff writes movingly of the meaning of love and marriage, and the struggle one undertakes in coming to terms with one’s sexual identity. Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander instill their characters with love and compassion in director Tom Hooper’s film version. Will Eddie Redmayne take home two best actor Oscars in a row? He won last year for The Theory of Everything.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson The film by the same name may not have been based strictly on this biography of the man behind Apple, but this is one of the best biographies published about Jobs. Settle in for a long read: at over 600 pages, this is a definitive look at the genius who almost single-handedly changed the way we communicate. Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet both scored well-deserved Oscar nods for their performances in director Danny Boyle’s outstanding film about this fascinating personality.