Books

Analyzing Oscar's Best Adaptations

As you have no doubt heard, the Academy Awards nominations were announced on Tuesday. For the benefit of film-loving book geeks I have put down my Walter Mosley to ridiculously overanalyze that most writerly of Oscar categories, Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay), to try and determine this year’s champion based on the completely unscientific merits of the past winners.

Before we begin, this year’s nominees are as follows:

District 9 - Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell

An Education - Screenplay by Nick Hornby

In the Loop - Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche

Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire - Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher

Up in the Air - Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

To start, the academy overwhelmingly prefers to award adaptations of written materials. There are only two exceptions: Sling Blade (1996) based on Billy Bob Thornton’s short film "Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade" and The Departed (2006) based on the Hong Kong movie Infernal Affairs.

This does not bode well for our first nominees, Neill Blomkamp and Terri Hatchell for District 9, which was based on the short film "Alive in Joburg" by Neill Blomkamp. They will lose.

The next least won category is adaptations of teleplays with three past winners. Two of these -- Marty (1955) and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) -- came from the early "golden age" of original television dramas and the third, Traffic (2000), was based on a British miniseries.

Given these tepid figures I will cross out our second set of nominees Armstrong, Blackwell, Iannucci, and Roche for In the Loop since it was derived from their BBC show The Thick of It.

Scripts for movies based on short or original stories (the wording has shifted over the years) have won seven times and screenplays based on plays have won 14 times. None of this year’s nominees are based on short stories or plays, but I took the time to count them all so here you go.

Book adaptations have won the majority of the adapted screenplay awards, with 54 wins over 81 ceremonies.

This year’s first book-based nominee is Hornby for An Education, based on Lynn Barber’s memoir of the same name. There have been four winners based on an autobiography or memoir: Julia (1977), Out of Africa (1985), The Last Emperor (1987), and The Pianist (2002).

Hornby’s name recognition is a complicating factor, but I don’t believe it’s enough to overcome the script’s memoir factor for the win.

That leaves the final two nominees, Fletcher for Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire and Reitman and Turner for Up in the Air, based on Walter Kirn’s book.

In the past few decades book wins tend to be based on classics (A Room with a View (1986), Sense and Sensibility (1995), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)), biographies for biopics (Schindler’s List (1993), Gods and Monsters (1999), A Beautiful Mind (2001)), and critically acknowledged best sellers (The Silence of the Lambs (1991), L.A. Confidential (1997), The Cider House Rules (1999), No Country for Old Men (2007)).

Kirn and Sapphire don’t fit into any of these categories. They’re unassuming middle list authors along the lines of past winners Forrest Gump (1994) and Sideways (2004).

This puts them at a dead heat that I will resolve by comparing the current Amazon sales ranking for the tie-in edition books. Up in the Air is at 8,931. Push is at 407.

Given the tie-in’s sales figures and the fact that the book and author get a gratuitous plug in the frigging title, I peg Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire as the odds-on favorite to win.

(Bill Gibron’s complete Oscar nominee analysis can be found on our film blog.)

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


Keep reading... Show less
Film

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

Rather than once again exploring the all-too-familiar territory of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Samantha Silva's debut novel contextualizes the work's origins and gets inside the mind of its creator.


Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol has been told and retold so many times over the years that, by this point, one might be hard-pressed to find a single soul evenly glancingly familiar with western culture who isn't at least tangentially acquainted with the holiday classic. This is, of course, a bit of holiday-themed hyperbole, but the fact remains that the basic premise of A Christmas Carol has become so engrained in our culture that it would seem near impossible to imagine a time prior to its existence. It's universally-relatable themes of the power of kindness, redemption and forgiveness speaks to the heart of the Christmas season – at least as it has been presented in the 174 years since it was first published in 19 December 1843 -- just in time for Christmas.

Keep reading... Show less
6

Following his excellent debut record Communion, Rabit further explores the most devastating aspects of its sound in his sophomore opus Les Fleurs du Mal.

Back in 2015 Rabit was unleashing Communion in the experimental electronic scene. Combining extreme avant-garde motifs with an industrial perspective on top of the grime sharpness, Eric C. Burton released one of the most interesting records of that year. Blurring lines between genres, displaying an aptitude for taking things to the edge and the fact that Burton was not afraid to embrace the chaos of his music made Communion such an enticing listen, and in turn set Rabit to be a "not to be missed" artist.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image