Page to Podium: Oscar Reads, Part 1

Though books are totally our bag here at Book Riot, we have a soft spot in our hearts for any medium of good storytelling. This includes TV and movies and theater and essays, etc., etc. (By “we” of course, I just mean me, but I’m pretty sure that most of my Riot colleagues would agree to a large extent, if our Beyond the Books feature every month is any indication.)

Around this time of year in particular, I nerd out hardcore. Why? Because it’s Oscar season, of course! My book reading takes a serious nose dive in favor of spending long Saturdays in movie theaters, gorging myself on every. Single. Nominated. Movie. Every one of them. I’ve seen all 53 films nominated for a golden man statue this year, even the really random movies nominated for Best Visual Effects (Oh hai there, Prometheus, you nightmare conjurer, you!) and Best Sound Mixing (RAWR, James Bond. RAWR.).

Quite a few films this year have a solid connection to our book friends, though not as many as in some past years. A solid ten movies have literary origins, and of the nine nominated for Best Picture, over half of them – five to be exact – descended from book form. And with the exception of Beasts of the Southern Wild and The Sessions, all of the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay are based on books.

Below we break down the book-based nominees for Best Picture and our not-at-all-technical guesses as to their chances of winning. Keep an eye out for Part Two later this week where I look at all the rest of the nominees who have literary roots.


  • 7 Nominations (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor – Alan Arkin, Best Adapted Screenplay – Chris Terrio, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score)


  • Though Argo is getting a lot of attention for the nomination it didn’t garner (for Ben Affleck’s job as director), it does have a lot of potential to pick up a few awards. The book basis for Argo is a portion of the memoir A Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez and the article “The Great Escape” by Joshuah Bearman; there is now a book version of the movie available, though it was published just in advance of the movie’s release. It’s already picked up four wins for Best Film at major awards shows, and at least four adapted screenplay wins, including at the Writer’s Guild of America Awards. Arkin has also picked up a couple of wins, and a handful more nominations for his performance, but in the major categories, Argo’s best shot at taking home a little gold man is in the Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay categories.

Les Misérables

  • 8 Nominations (Best Picture, Best Actor – Hugh Jackman, Best Supporting Actress – Anne Hathaway, Best Original Song, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design)


  • Book turned musical turned movie, Les Misérables is a powerhouse of a film, with epic vocals by both acting nominees, but especially by Hathaway, who probably earned her nomination purely based on the heartrending rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream.” Anyone else disappointed that this won’t be the song performed during the Oscar ceremony? But we will get to see a performance of “Suddenly,” the film’s contribution to Best Original Song, though it’s anyone’s guess who will be performing it since it was sung multiple times during the film. My hope is for Hugh Jackman as Valjean; that man does know how to work a stage. Best shot for Oscar? Hathaway, without question.

Life of Pi

  • 11 Nominations (Best Picture, Best Director – Ang Lee, Best Adapted Screenplay – David Magee, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score, Best Original Song)

Suraj Sharma and tiger in Life of Pi.

  • Based on the critically-acclaimed 2001 novel of the same name by Yann Martel, director Ang Lee has said that this story as written by Martel was “unfilmable,” and its journey to the screen would support that assertion. But a few choices by Lee that are being recognized with Oscar nods made Life of Pi the most successful of the Best Picture nominees at the box office. In part, his decision to shoot in 3D – by far the best way to see it – contributed to the recognition in Visual Effects, Cinematography, Production Design, and Film Editing, though each of these nominees is well-deserving without the 3D enhancement. The film is a spectacular visual feast, and it is in these categories it has the best chance of winning. As an “unfilmable” book, David Magee’s adaptation hasn’t garnered as many wins as one might expect, though a win for Ang Lee as Best Director would not be unsurprising considering the massive scope and execution in bringing Pi to life.


  • 12 Nominations (Best Picture, Best Director – Steven Spielberg, Best Actor – Daniel Day-Lewis, Best Supporting Actor – Tommy Lee Jones, Best Supporting Actress – Sally Field, Best Adapted Screenplay – Tony Kushner, Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing)


  • Topping the list of films with the most nominations, Steven Spielberg reportedly spent 12 years researching this historical drama based on the final four months of Lincoln’s presidency, focusing on his fight to pass the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery. The film is based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, published in 2005. Let’s be honest: Daniel Day-Lewis has the Best Actor race on lockdown, so let’s focus on categories where the race is a little less clear. In a tough field, the Best Picture and Best Director nomination for Spielberg could make it an interesting run. It is certainly considered a favorite in both categories, as in each of the supporting acting categories, and the Academy does prefer their historical dramas, particularly those directed by Spielberg (see also Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Munich and War Horse). There’s major potential to sweep in the major categories here.

Silver Linings Playbook

  • 8 Nominations (Best Picture, Best Actor – Bradley Cooper, Best Actress – Jennifer Lawrence, Best Supporting Actor – Robert De Niro, Best Supporting Actress – Jacki Weaver, Best Director – David O. Russell, Best Adapted Screenplay – David O. Russell, Best Film Editing)


  • Silver Linings Playbook is the only one of the Best Picture nominees to capture what’s known as the “Big Five” – nominations in Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay (either Original or Adapted). To top that off, it also garnered nominations in the two supporting acting categories as well. With that kind of resume, it would be expected that the film – based on the 2008 novel by Matthew Quick – would be a favorite in most of those categories. That is surprisingly not the case, though Jennifer Lawrence has won the most awards for the film leading up to the Oscars. In such a jam-packed year, Russell’s film isn’t running away from the field, though it could have the potential to upset favorites like Lincoln and Argo. I also like David O. Russell’s chances to win for Adapted Screenplay; it could be the Academy’s way of recognizing him without snubbing Spielberg in the Directing category.

Other bookish Best Picture notes:

  • Beasts of the Southern Wild is based on a one-act play, Juicy and Delicious by Lucy Alibar, that is now available in print.
  • Zero Dark Thirty, though not technically adapted from any one printed source, one account of the raid and assassination of Osama Bin Laden, No Easy Day, was published in 2012.