I went to bed in my tux Wednesday night just so I’d be ready for Thursday morning’s announcements of the Academy Award nominations. And while I woke up a little rumpled, I was happy to see that a host of movies adapted from books will be looking to go home with Hollywood’s favorite golden boy when the Oscars are handed out on February 22.
Clearly, Oscar’s big favorite this year is Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), which garnered nine nominations, including nods for Best Picture, Best Actor (Golden Globe award winner Michael Keaton), and Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton). While not based on a book per se, Birdman owes much of its plot to the wave of comic book films that have swept the cultural consciousness, particularly over the past six years. (Oscar did throw a bone to several genre films, doling out one nomination each to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, and X-Men: Days of Future Past, although these nominations were in technical categories. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, based on the J.R.R. Tolkien classic The Hobbit; and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, based on the premise of Pierre Boulle’s Planet of the Apes, also netted technical nominations.)
The Academy also loved The Imitation Game which racked up eight nominations, including nods for Best Picture and Best Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch). That movie was based on the book The Enigma, by Andrew Hodges. Along with Keaton (who may be the prohibitive favorite to win the Oscar), Cumberbatch’s main competition for Best Actor may be another Golden Globe winner and fellow Brit Eddie Redmayne, who played Professor Stephen Hawking in the biopic The Theory of Everything, which tallied five nominations. (The film is based on Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, by the physicist’s ex-wife, Jane Wilde Hawking. Stephen Hawking himself is well known for the classic A Brief History of Time.)
Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper (based on American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. History by Chris Kyle) picked up six nominations, including bids for Best Picture and Best Actor (Bradley Cooper). In addition to the actors listed above, Cooper will fend off Steve Carell, who was recognized for his turn as lunatic millionaire John du Pont in Foxcatcher (the film also picked up a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Mark Ruffalo). There were several books written about the du Pont’s murder of wrestler Dave Shultz, chief among them Foxcatcher: The True Story of My Brother’s Murder, John duPont’s Madness, and the Quest for Olympic Gold, by Mark Shultz.
So while we normally like to curl up with a good book on a Sunday winter night, come February 22, we’re putting our reading aside and seeing which of these performances with literary roots will saunter up the red carpet and bring home the top prizes. In the meantime, I’m sending my tux out to be re-pressed. The big night is just over a month away!