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28 February 2008

By the book

SO MUCH has already been written on two compelling facts about this year's Oscar awards: most nominations being dark-themed and acting awards going to non-Americans. But not much has been told about the fact that several nominations belong to adaptations of fiction books. There's “Oil” by Upton Sinclair (retitled “There Will be Blood”), “Atonement” by Ian McEwan, and “No Country for Old Men” by Cormac McCarthy. Toss in Khaled Hosseini's “The Kite Runner” and Robert Ludlum's “The Bourne Ultimatum” also, although they failed to win as much nominations at the other three.

Several Best Picture winners in the past 80 years of the Academy Award history originated from short stories (Mary Orr's “All About Eve” in 1950 and FX Toole's “Million Dollar Baby” in 2004) and plays (Shakespeare's “Hamlet” in 1948 and Ebb and Kander's “Chicago” in 2002). Rarely have they come from novels. Over the last two decades, only four Best Picture winners began as fiction books: Isak Dinesen's “Out of Africa” (1985), Michael Ondaatje's “The English Patient” (1996), Thomas Harris' “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991), and JR Tolkien's “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003). The blog “Strange Culture” lists statistics of the past ten years, noting that only 16 of 50 best picture nominees are fiction adaptations.

I don't claim to be an avid Oscar buff, but the literary stats above are reason enough for me to celebrate this year's Oscars—the year a writer's strike almost crippled the “Golden Boy”!


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