2016 Oscars Reading List
Have you watched any of this year's nominated films? Read any of the books that inspired them? Not sure, or not sure where to start? Wonder no more! Your annual Oscars book-to-film reading/viewing list is here!
This year there are 19 book-related films nominated across 21 different categories. Seven of the eight films up for Best Picture are book adaptations. (As a wise person once said: the book is far from dead - what would Hollywood do without it?)
All of the books are available to borrow from the library and some of the film adaptations are already in too.
And the nominees are...
THE BIG SHORT
FILM SYNOPSIS: Four denizens in the world of high-finance predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight.
NOMINATED FOR: Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Christian Bale), Directing (Adam McKay), Film Editing, and Writing (Adapted Screenplay).
ADAPTED FROM: The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis. The author of other Acadamy-approved titles (The Blind Side, Moneyball) illuminates the 2008 U.S. credit crash in this character-driven financial thriller.
BRIDGE OF SPIES
FILM SYNOPSIS: During the Cold War, an American lawyer is recruited to defend an arrested Soviet spy in court, and then help the CIA facilitate an exchange of the spy for the Soviet captured American U2 spy plane pilot.
NOMINATED FOR: Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance), Music (Original Score), Production Design, Sound Mixing, Writing (Original Screenplay).
ADAPTED FROM: Strangers on a Bridge by James B. Donovan. Though not a true adaptation, the film dramatizes the Cold War prisoner exchange that is the subject of this 1964 memoir, and stars Tom Hanks as its author, American lawyer James B. Donovan.
FILM SYNOPSIS: An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a romance with a local. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.
NOMINATED FOR: Best Picture, Actress (Saoirse Ronan), Writing (Adapted Screenplay).
ADAPTED FROM: Brooklyn by Colm
FILM SYNOPSIS: An aspiring photographer develops an intimate relationship with an older woman.
NOMINATED FOR: Actress (Cate Blanchett), Supporting Actress (Rooney Mara), Cinematography, Costume Design, Music (Original Score), Writing (Adapted Screenplay).
ADAPTED FROM: The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith. Originally published in 1952 under the pseudonym Claire Morgan, this romance novel (by an author best known for her psychological thrillers, including the other film inspirations Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley) is the first to give its lesbian characters the possibility of living happily-ever-after.
FILM SYNOPSIS: When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her scheming step-sisters. Never one to give up hope, Ella's fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger.
NOMINATED FOR: Costume Design.
THE DANISH GIRL
FILM SYNOPSIS: A fictitious love story loosely inspired by the lives of Danish artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. Lili and Gerda's marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili's groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer.
NOMINATED FOR: Actor (Eddie Redmayne), Supporting Actress (Alicia Vikander), Costume Design, Production Design.
ADAPTED FROM: The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff. Set in the 1920s and 1930s in Europe and California, this novel is a fictionalization of the real life of Lili Elbe, a Danish transgender woman who was one of the first people to undergo sex reassignment surgery.
EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT
FILM SYNOPSIS: The story of the relationship between Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman and last survivor of his people, and two scientists who work together over the course of 40 years to search the Amazon for a sacred healing plant.
NOMINATED FOR: Foreign Language Film (Columbia).
INSPIRED BY: The diaries of scientists Theodor Koch-Grunberg and Richard Evan Schultes. Schultes has written several books on hallucinogenic plants and the sacred practices around them, such as Vine of the Soul.
FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
FILM SYNOPSIS: Literature student Anastasia Steele's life changes forever when she meets handsome, yet tormented, billionaire Christian Grey.
NOMINATED FOR: Music (Original Song)
ADAPTED FROM: Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James. The first book in the wildly popular, explicitly erotic, and sometimes controversial series (Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades Freed, and Grey) evolved from a 2010 fan-fiction web series, to a self-published eBook and print-on-demand paperback, and was released by Vintage in 2012.
FILM SYNOPSIS: A married couple preparing to celebrate their wedding anniversary receive shattering news that promises to forever change the course of their lives
NOMINATED FOR: Actress (Charlotte Rampling).
ADAPTED FROM: The title story from In Another Country: Selected Stories by David Constantine. Award-winning author and translator Constantine is highly regarded in the U.K. but this is the first time his short fiction has been published in book form in North America. Fortunately the library has others including his previous short story collection Tea at the Midland.
FILM SYNOPSIS: During a mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meagre supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit, and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.
NOMINATED FOR: Best Picture, Cinematography, Costume Design, Directing (George Miller), Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, Writing (Adapted Screenplay).
ADAPTED FROM: The Martian by Andy Weir. Another book on this list that was originally self-published, this science fiction thriller combines the technical details of hard science (the author is the son of a particle physicist) with a gripping survivor story.
THE 100 YEAR-OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW AND DISAPPEARED
FILM SYNOPSIS: After living a long and colorful life Allan Karlsson finds himself stuck in a nursing home. On his 100th birthday he leaps out a window and begins an unexpected journey.
NOMINATED FOR: Makeup and Hairstyling.
ADAPTED FROM: The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. This is a lighthearted story, with a slightly deadpan sense of humour, about a centenarian who escapes from his nursing home and steals a suitcase of money from a gang of criminals, which is nothing compared to his many other adventures recounted in this picaresque tale.
FILM SYNOPSIS: A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team.
NOMINATED FOR: Best Picture, Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Supporting Actor (Tom Hardy), Cinematography, Costume Design, Direcing (Alejandro G. Iñárritu), Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects.
ADAPTED FROM: The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke. This debut novel, inspired in part by true events in the life of fur trapper Hugh Glass, was written by a man who is now the Deputy U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Ambassador to the World Trade Organization and who, as such, is prohibited by ethics rules from talking publicly about his book or engaging in any kind of other promotional activities. I hope he is at least allowed to watch the Oscars.
FILM SYNOPSIS: After five-year-old Jack and his mother escape from the enclosed surroundings that Jack has known his entire life, the boy makes a thrilling discovery.
NOMINATED FOR: Best Picture, Actress (Brie Larson), Directing (Lenny Abrahamson), Writing (Adapted Screenplay).
ADAPTED FROM: Room by Emma Donoghue. The author adapted her own captivating 2010 novel, told entirely from the perspective of five-year-old Jack, for the big screen, and is slated to write the screenplay for the feature adaptation for her 2014 novel, Frog Music. (Hint: read that one now!)
FILM SYNOPSIS: A cryptic message from Bond's past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.
NOMINATED FOR: Music (Original Song).
ADAPTED FROM: Characters created by Ian Fleming, most notably James Bond (of course), but also Franz Oberhauser, whose father Hans Oberhauser appears in Fleming's short story Octopussy.
FILM SYNOPSIS: The true story of how The Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.
NOMINATED FOR: Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Mark Ruffalo), Supporting Actress (Rachel McAdams), Directing (Tom McCarthy), Film Editing, Writing (Original Screenplay).
FILM SYNOPSIS: Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution, to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac.
NOMINATED FOR: Actor (Michael Fassbender), Actress (Kate Winslet).
ADAPTED FROM: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. This warts-and-all authorized biography of the late Apple computer mogul was released to critical acclaim just 19 days after its subject's death in 2011.
FILM SYNOPSIS: In 1947, Dalton Trumbo was Hollywood's top screenwriter, until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs.
NOMINATED FOR: Actor (Bryan Cranston).
ADAPTED FROM: Trumbo by Bruce Cook. This biography of the famed Oscar-winning screenwriter, who wrote several screenplays anonymously while blacklisted from Hollywood (such as Roman Holiday, Spartacus, and Exodus), is by an author who himself wrote anonymously; historical mysteries, under the name Bruce Alexander.
WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?
FILM SYNOPSIS: A documentary about the life and legend Nina Simone, an American singer, pianist, and civil rights activist labeled the "High Priestess of Soul."
NOMINATED FOR: Documentary Feature.
INSPIRATION FOR: What Happened, Miss Simone? by Alan Light. I'm cheating a bit by including this one, but it's Nina Simone, so. This biography by music journalist Light was actually written after the documentary was released and is based on the extensive research and archival materials - interviews, letters, journals - used in making the film.
WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE
FILM SYNOPSIS: Upon being sent to live with relatives in the countryside, an emotionally distant adolescent girl becomes obsessed with an abandoned mansion and infatuated with a girl who lives there; a girl who may or may not be real.
NOMINATED FOR: Animated Feature Film.
ADAPTED FROM: When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson. First published in 1967, this book for young readers was included on a list of 50 children's books recommended by Hayao Miyazaki, the internationally acclaimed film director and co-founder of Studio Ghibli. The studio has announced that this will be its last feature film.
*Please note: Talking Book CD and Talking Book DAISY formats are restricted to print disabled customers.
All film synopses are from Internet Movie Database.
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Interested in reading more about the Oscars?
Interested in more book-to-movie lists?
- From Books to Movies at the 2015 Oscars - See the links under Related Reading for even more book-to-movie lists.