The literary side of the Best Picture Oscar nominees


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Several films nominated for best picture this year are based on books, which might be a literary accomplishment if there weren’t so many darned pictures in the running. For the first time in decades, the Motion Picture Academy has chosen to nominate 10 films for best picture; four are based on books.

Let’s start with the one I didn’t grab the poster image of: ‘The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game’ by Michael Lewis. Published in 2006 by W.W. Norton, the book is a revisionist analysis of football illustrated by the story of left tackle Michael Oher. Fans of the film who pick up the book may be surprised to find football analysis like ‘Offensive linemen were the stay-at-home mothers of the NFL: everyone paid lip service to their contribution yet hardly anyone could tell you what that was.’


‘An Education’ is perhaps the most highly literary selection; it was based on a memoir by intimidating British journalist Lynn Barber and adapted by novelist Nick Hornby. Not yet available through a U.S. publisher, Barber’s ‘An Education’ details a youthful fling, her journalistic climb, her long marriage and her husband’s fight with cancer. Does the movie cover so much ground? It wouldn’t be right to say.

‘Precious’ is based on the 1996 novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire; the easiest-to-find version is the new movie tie-in. The new edition has been renamed ‘Precious,’ although the book’s cover, confusingly, reads ‘based on the novel ‘Push,’’ as if it weren’t itself the novel. Sapphire was a remedial reading teacher in Harlem, where, she told NPR, ‘I encountered this. I had a student who told me that she had had children by her father.’ In 1993, Sapphire entered the MFA program at Brooklyn College and began working on the book. ‘I had the intense feeling that if I didn’t write this book no one else would.’

Walter Kirn’s novel ‘Up in the Air,’ also now easy to find in a movie tie-in edition, came out in hardcover in July 2001. ‘Planes and airports are where I feel at home,’ narrator Ryan Bingham says. ‘To know me you have to fly with me.’ That characterization may have been a hard sell in the fall of 2001; perhaps it says something about our country that it isn’t anymore. Or maybe it says something about George Clooney.

-- Carolyn Kellogg