January 24, 2019
An Oscar nomination’s literary roots
by Michael Seidlinger
The 2019 Oscar nominations were announced this week to a rapt crowd of critics and cinephiles. Among the highlights include a best actress nomination for Yalitza Aparicio who starred in Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, seven (that’s right, SEVEN) nominations for Black Panther, and a much-deserved best animated feature nomination for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Skimming the list in full, you can’t help but notice just how many are, in fact, film adaptations. If you’re like me, the next thing to pop up in your overactive and overly analytical brain is the topic of source material and just how often “the source” in question is a book, novel, etc. By the look of this year’s list, the answer is a unanimous—all the time. The best stories originate from the pages of a book. Here are some of the literary standouts:
If Beale Street Could Talk
Based on the novel of the same name by James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk is about a 19-year-old girl named Tish who falls in love with Fonny, a sculptor and father of her child. Things seem to go well until Fonny is imprisoned for a crime he may or may not have committed. The result is a story rife with two sides of the emotional spectrum, from despair to hope, as viewers watch as Tish and Fonny’s families fight to clear Fonny’s name.
Based on Meg Wolitzer’s masterful novel, Glenn Close dons the role of Joan Castleman, who has put her career on hold to support her husband, Joe Castleman. With Joe about to be awarded the Nobel Prize for his writing, Joan comes to terms about her marriage.
It’s important to point out that the film itself was inspired by but not based on Victor Greene’s The Negro Motorist Green Book. Still, the film’s essential ideas come from the book and act as a foundation for Viggo Mortensen (up for best actor in a starring role) and Mahershala Ali’s (nominated for best actor in a supporting role) extraordinary performances.
Based on, what else, the Black Panther series of comics. Wakanda Forever. Seven nominations. If Black Panther doesn’t land at least one win, it’s time to give up on the Oscars for good.
Ready Player One
Based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, I recommend reading the book over the film but if you only have two hours to spend, maybe watch one of the other films.
Michael Seidlinger is the Library and Academic Marketing Manager at Melville House.