Literary adaptations look set to sweep the board in Hollywood this year.
Six of the nine nominations announced this week for Best Picture are based on books, reflecting a recent pattern in which the Oscar lists have consistently and gratifyingly affirmed cinema’s dependence on literature. Apart from a modest lurch towards originality in 2010, the previous five years saw line-ups in which half or more of the shortlistees were adaptations, including the winners No Country for Old Men (2008), Slumdog Millionaire (2009) and The King’s Speech (2011).
It’s not classic novels that attract movie-makers. Of the books turned into nominated films this time, only Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse (1982) was not published in the noughties. The others are Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret (filmed as Hugo), Jonathan Safran Foer’s 9/11 novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Moneyball by Michael Lewis (the second non-fiction sports title by him in three years to generate a Best Picture nominee, as he also wrote the source of Blind Side), and two debuts, Kaui Hart Hemmings’s The Descendants and Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. It’s the first time for quite a while – conceivably since 1940, when Gone with the Wind won and Wuthering Heights was among the nominees – that versions of two novels by women have been listed for the most coveted Oscar.
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