The Oscars and Books: a love-hate relationship

2:15 pm EDT, February 27, 2012

Last night at the Oscars six out of the nine films nominated were movies adapted from books.  In total there were eleven adaptations nominated.  So while last night may have been a big night for movies, it is safe to say that it was also a big night for books.

In all the major categories at least two actors were nominated from a book to film adaptation.  Octavia Spencer won for her role in The Help based on the Kathryn Stockett novel.  She was the only one to win in a role based on an adaptation out of the nine possibilities.

Hugo, based on Brain Selznick’s beautiful book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, took home 5 awards for the evening.  All of them were for technical aspects of the film.  Not even Martin Scorsese could win for best director, and for those who have seen the film it is amazingly well done.  I understand that the Oscars are about film but it seems odd that so many adaptations were nominated and so few won.

The other adaptation that has been completely snubbed by the Oscars is Harry Potter.  8 films filled with exceptional actors, visual effects and make-up and not a single Oscar to show for it.  While none of the actors were nominated, Harry Potter was nominated in three categories: art direction, visual effects, and make-up.  In two of the categories, art direction and visual effects, Hugo took the award and in make-up, The Iron Lady won.  To be honest making Meryl Streep look like Margaret Thatcher isn’t a huge stretch. But to make Ralph Fiennes look nose-less and terrifying is.  This isn’t to slight anyone’s work but it just doesn’t make sense to me, the average movie goer.

It’s no secret that Hollywood loves to adapt books to film.  In recent years Harry Potter and Twilight have made the studios massive amounts of money, money that is used to finance smaller films that may not otherwise see the light of day. It is inevitable that The Hunger Games will do the same.  These adaptations come with a key factor: ravenous fan bases.  Granted not all of these adaptations are Oscar caliber but many of them have elements that deserve recognition.  It should also be noted that while Hugo was recognized it is also a much more artsy film, about film making, directed by a legendary film maker.

Lastly, let’s take a moment to thank the authors who created the books that were made into movies because that didn’t happen once last night.  I understand that the authors don’t create the film but they create the entire world, plot line and characters that are essential to any good story. In the case of Brian Selznick, he actually had a lot to do with the creative side of Hugo because the book contains illustrations, and those illustrations were used for the set design and art direction.

So what do you think: Does Hollywood love the book to film adaption because they bring in the money and fervent fan bases, but aren’t willing to acknowledge them when it comes to award season in the major categories?

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