Thursday, 15 January 2015

Oscar Worthy Books

As you might have noticed the 2015Academy Awards nominations were revealed earlier today. Usually, I try to keep this blog away from my other big passion in life – cinema (although I do have a post dedicated to Benedict Cumberbatch) – but I think I do have an excuse today as there is at least one category in the Oscars that is strictly connected to literature. As you might have already guessed – that is Best Adapted Screenplay
So, this post is dedicated to the five books that inspired the five film contenders in this year’s Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar category.

The Imitation Game – Screenplay by Graham Moore. Inspired by: Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges.

A must see as a film, this is also a must read as a book. Telling the real life story of World War II hero Alan Turing, Alan Turing: The Enigma is a read that needs to reach more and more people – especially in the UK. That is, people should know and value their history, and Alan Turing proves to be one of the most underrepresented figures in the new history of the world. Not only was he a brilliant mathematician who created a very early version of what we now call a computer, be he also helped breaking the German Enigma code during the Second World War. Arguably, because of him the war was shortened by two years, saving around 20 million lives.
Of course the outrageous thing is that up until recently he was not famously recognised as the hero, he deserved to be. In his lifetime Turing did not enjoy any peace of mind either. In the early 50s he was investigated for his homosexuality, which was still at the time a criminal offense in the UK. As a result, Turing was chemically castrated and regarded as a security threat. In 1955 he ended his life with a cyanide poisoning.
If you want to know more about the life of the misunderstood genius, or if you want to pay this hero a homage, I do recommend Alan Turing: The Enigma. And do not forget to watch The Imitation Game as well – a great film, with an amazing performance by Benedict Cumberbatch.

The Theory of Everything – Screenplay by Anthony McCarten. Based on Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Hawking

Again: watch the film and read the book – in whatever order you want. Another genius, this one though is a lot more recognised – after all, who hasn’t heard of Stephen Hawking? (Speaking of which, his bestseller A Brief History of Time is another book that you should read in its own merit – it is a scientific piece but it is a bestseller for a reason, so do give it a try.)
The Theory of Everything is based on his first wife’s memoir. Jane Hawking lets us have a peek at their extraordinary marriage, marked by "motor neuron disease and genius" (as she herself points out). Telling such a personal story can seem rather hard, but she does it effortlessly and with a good sense of humour, making it a thoroughly enjoyable read. Ultimately you come to see what a strong woman Jane is as for 25 years she was not only taking care of her disabled husband, but also looking after their three children. What is remarkable about the book is how honest it is as the author is not afraid to talk about some of their most intimate moments.
It is a story about love – even though their marriage ends, when Stephen leaves her for one of his nurses. Love does not end when marriage ends, and Jane’s story is above all highly optimistic. A moving read about the effects of fame, about sacrifice and the strength of love – My Life with Stephen is what we want to get when we reach for a memoir: honesty and emotion.
As for the film, its main qualities include not only the story, directing and the music, but mainly the brilliant leading performances by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.

American Sniper – Screenplay by Jason Hall. Based on American Sniper by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwan and James Defelice

Chris Kyle is a navy SEAL sniper, who was sent to Iraq after 9/11. It was there that his accuracy turned him into a world-class sniper and a hero. However, his main issue lies back home where he struggles to cope with the reality of war – something that proves damaging to his marriage.
American Sniper is another very personal story as Kyle tells about war as he witnessed it. Not only the atrocities of the war in Iraq, but also about the consequences of war staying with you. It is a book that does not rely on great writing style, sophisticated metaphors or grand thoughts about the meaning of life. It offers something far simpler, but all the same enjoyable – it is one man's honest story about war, shootings, honour, family, friendships, and life after war. To get a better idea of what it is to be a modern day sniper, and how he copes with his daily life back home – American Sniper is the one for you as it is a great first-hand account on the matter.
The film is directed  by Clint Eastwood, with Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller as its leads.

Inherent Vice – Screenplay by Paul Thomas Anderson. Based on Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon.

Situated in the seventies, Inherent Vice is the story of Doc Sportello. Here is the plot, borrowed from Goodreads: “It's been awhile since Doc Sportello has seen his ex-girlfriend. Suddenly out of nowhere she shows up with a story about a plot to kidnap a billionaire land developer whom she just happens to be in love with. Easy for her to say. It's the tail end of the psychedelic sixties in L.A., and Doc knows that "love" is another of those words going around at the moment, like "trip" or "groovy," except that this one usually leads to trouble. Despite which he soon finds himself drawn into a bizarre tangle of motives and passions whose cast of characters includes surfers, hustlers, dopers and rockers, a murderous loan shark, a tenor sax player working undercover, an ex-con with a swastika tattoo and a fondness for Ethel Merman, and a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang, which may only be a tax dodge set up by some dentists.”
If that sounds interesting to you, you should check out the film as well, as it features great performances by Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Katherine Waterston, Benicio Del Toro, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Martin Short, and Jena Malone.

Note: The fifth nominated film, somewhat controversially, is Whiplash (screenplay by Damien Chazelle), which is not based on a book. Truth is 'Chazelle directed a short film of the same name that was merely a scene taken from the already-written feature in order to raise funds' to make it (read more here). However, it is good to mention that J.K. Simmons gives a brilliant performance which is worth the watch.

So, what do you think? Have you seen the films and would you give these books a chance?


  1. Oh, The Theory of Everything! A friend of mine went to see the movie and said it was so awesome! But now that I know there is a book, mh, probably reading it first before the movie. Great post! With love,

  2. Hah I saw the film before reading the book because I was too impatient! But it only got me more interested in the book than I ever was before :D x