Essentials: Big-Screen Adaptations
By Dante on February 24th, 2012
The Academy Awards are Sunday night, and we’re all excited that Hugo (based on Brian Selznick’s book The Invention of Hugo Cabret) leads all films with 11 nominations, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. But Hugo isn’t the only adaptation up for Best Picture. Of the nine nominees, six are based on books: Hugo, War Horse, The Descendants, The Help, Moneyball, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
Hollywood has always drawn heavily on books as sources for movies, and the Oscars have honored numerous adaptations with the Best Picture award. All Quiet on the Western Front, Gone With the Wind, From Here to Eternity, The Godfather, The Silence of the Lambs, and No Country for Old Men are just a few of the adaptations recognized as the best picture of their respective release years. Dig into the nominees that didn’t win, and the list of adaptations cited by the Academy explodes. Then when you consider all the movies not nominated for Oscars that have been based on books, well, the list becomes unruly.
With so many adaptations out there, I thought it would be helpful to cull a list of the essential big-screen adaptations.
I’m going to cheat and nominate two films, and both movies do what all great adaptations accomplish: They take the source material, stay true to the spirit of it, then create something new and cinematic that rewards the people familiar with the original iteration of the story while encouraging those viewers new to it to seek out the book, short story, or article that provided the inspiration. My first choice is also my all-time favorite movie: Sweet Smell of Success, based on the novella by Ernest Lehman. The other is There Will Be Blood, which is a fantastic and unique adaptation by Paul Thomas Anderson of one small section of Upton Sinclair’s epic novel Oil!
The OOM team has some suggestions, too:
Nadia: The movie Clueless is a great adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma. Movie characters Cher, Josh, and Elton are a perfect parody to Austen’s characters Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Mr. Elton. And what better way is there to show class division in society than using cliques in high school?
Lauren: This was a tough one for me to choose. Being a film buff, I’ve really enjoyed watching the various ways my favorite stories have come alive on screen. However, if I had to choose one, I will always remember how it felt to see Baz Luhrmann interpretation of Romeo + Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in theaters for the first (and second, and third, and fourth… cause that’s what happened) time. While it may have been watching two of my favorite celebrities in the iconic roles (along with an edgy trailer) that got me into the theater, I was completely enthralled (let’s be real, obsessed) with everything about the movie – from the acting, to the language, to the gritty setting and haunting soundtrack. Having only been in seventh grade and not having read much Shakespeare, the movie sent me speeding to the library to read that play (over and over) as well as many of Shakespeare’s other works. I still get chills whenever I watch it.
Michael: Jurassic Park is one of the few movies that I think lived up to my expectations from the book. I’m normally a cynic about movie adaptations, but I felt like they nailed the pace, effects, and casting.
Kristen: The Shawshank Redemption is definitely one of my favorite film adaptations of a book. Although I’ve never read the original short story by Stephen King, many people say that this may be one of those rare exceptions where the film is a little bit better!
Now it’s your turn. What are you favorite big-screen adaptations? Let us know in the comments below!