Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 February 2020

Oscars 2020: The books that inspired the nominated films, from 'Little Women' to 'How to Train Your Dragon'

We look at seven works that inspired this year's Oscar-nominated movies

Books that inspired Oscar-nominated films in the 2020 Academy Awards
Books that inspired Oscar-nominated films in the 2020 Academy Awards

The great debate of books versus movies is one that has been waged over decades.

While we won’t weigh in with our own opinions here, it does bear mentioning each sides of the argument.

Books provide us more detail and give our imaginations sovereignty over the setting and the events of the story.

But there have been plenty of movies that have done justice to their paperback counterparts. Think One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Godfather, and Clockwork Orange, all of which have become cult classics. And can you really imagine anyone but Anthony Hopkins playing the older Hannibal Lecter in Silence of The Lambs? Try reading the Thomas Harris novel now and it’s likely that Hopkins will stride into your mind and commandeer your inner voice as you read: “Good evening, Clarice.”

So what we’re basically saying is that, it depends on the book, and it sometimes depends on the film. Sometimes one really complements the other.

Especially if you just can’t get enough of the story or its characters. With the Oscar nominations now in place ahead of the 92nd Academy Awards on Monday, February 10, here’s a look at the titles behind the movies that are up for golden statuette this year.

This image released by Fox Searchlight Pictures shows Scarlett Johansson, left, and Roman Griffin Davis in a scene from the WWII satirical film "Jojo Rabbit." On Monday, Jan. 13, Johansson was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in the film. (Larry Horricks/Fox Searchlight Pictures via AP)
This image released by Fox Searchlight Pictures shows Scarlett Johansson, left, and Roman Griffin Davis in a scene from the WWII satirical film "Jojo Rabbit." On Monday, Jan. 13, Johansson was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in the film. (Larry Horricks/Fox Searchlight Pictures via AP)

'Caging Skies'

The inspiration behind Jojo Rabbit, which boasts a star-studded cast including Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell and the young Roman Griffin Davis. The film is directed by Taika Waititi, famous for his work on Thor:Ragnarok and What We Do in the Shadows, and he also plays the role of Adolf Hitler in the film. The movie has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The novel Waititi based the film on is by Christine Leunens, and follows Johannes, an avid member of the Hitler Youth in the 1940s. After being severely injured in a raid, he discovers his parents are hiding a Jewish girl called Elsa behind a false wall in their large house in Vienna. As the plot unravels, Johannes’ horror turns to interest, then love and obsession. After his parents disappear, he realises he is the only one aware of Elsa’s existence in the house. The only one responsible for her survival.

This image released by Sony Pictures shows, from left, Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan and Emma Watson in a scene from "Little Women." On Monday, Jan. 13, Ronan was nominated for an Oscar for best actress for her role in the film. (Wilson Webb/Sony Pictures via AP)
This image released by Sony Pictures shows, from left, Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan and Emma Watson in a scene from "Little Women." On Monday, Jan. 13, Ronan was nominated for an Oscar for best actress for her role in the film. (Wilson Webb/Sony Pictures via AP)

'Little Women'

The film version of the classic Louisa May Alcott novel has some big names attached to it, such as Saoirse Ronan of Lady Bird, who is also vying for the Best Actress award and Harry Potter actress Emma Watson. The story follows the lives of the four March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy – as they pass from childhood to womanhood. The novel is loosely based on the author and her three sisters.

The film, directed by Greta Gerwig who also directed Lady Bird, is nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. Gerwig being overlooked for the Best Director category was a notable snub. In fact, no women were nominated in the category, which has since raised an important question over whether the Academy Awards is still a white man's club.

Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro in a scene from "The Irishman." The film was nominated for an Oscar for best picture. Courtesy: Netflix via AP
Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro in a scene from "The Irishman." The film was nominated for an Oscar for best picture. Courtesy: Netflix via AP

'I Heard You Paint Houses'

The title of this book was the first words labour union leader Jimmy Hoffa told Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran. "To paint a house" is gangster-speak for committing murder – the paint refers to the blood that spatters the walls.

The book is a work of narrative nonfiction, written by former homicide prosecutor and investigator Charles Brandt. It became the basis for Martin Scorsese’s Netflix crime epic The Irishman. The cast list is well known for its inclusion of mega stars, including Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. It has been nominated in 10 categories including for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor for Pacino and Pesci.

Director Fernando Meirelles and Jonathan Pryce during the filming of "The Two Popes." Pryce was nominated for an Oscar for best actor in a leading role. Co-star Anthony Hopkins also received a nomination for best supporting actor and Anthony McCarten was nominated for best adapted screenplay. Courtesy: Netflix via AP
Director Fernando Meirelles and Jonathan Pryce during the filming of "The Two Popes." Pryce was nominated for an Oscar for best actor in a leading role. Co-star Anthony Hopkins also received a nomination for best supporting actor and Anthony McCarten was nominated for best adapted screenplay. Courtesy: Netflix via AP

'The Pope: Francis, Benedict, and the Decision That Shook the World'

This book was written by Anthony McCarten and focuses on the startling announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation. Reeling from the news, the College of Cardinals rush to the Sistine Chapel to pick a successor to the arch-conservative pope, coming up with an unlikely choice. Pope Francis was the first non-European pope in 1,200 years, a onetime tango club bouncer, and a passionate soccer fan. The story highlights Benedict and Francis's formative experiences in war-torn Germany and Argentina and the sexual abuse scandal that continues to rock the Church to its foundations.

The Netflix adaptation features stunning performances by Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins, both of whom are in the running in the Best Actor and Support Actor categories. The film is also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman in a scene from "Harriet." Erivo was nominated for an Oscar for best actress for her role in the film. Courtesy: Focus Features via AP
Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman in a scene from "Harriet." Erivo was nominated for an Oscar for best actress for her role in the film. Courtesy: Focus Features via AP

'Harriet Tubman : The Road to Freedom'

Tubman was one of the most important figures of 19th century America. She was the legendary conductor on the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes used by enslaved African-Americans to escape into the free states and Canada.

Her biography was the basis of the movie Harriet. Cynthia Evo gives a brilliant performance as the enduring historical figure and is nominated for Best Actress. The film is also contending for Best Original Score for Stand Up.

Joaquin Phoenix in a scene from "Joker."  Phoenix was nominated for an Oscar for best actor for his role in the film. Courtesy: Warner Bros. Pictures via AP
Joaquin Phoenix in a scene from "Joker."  Phoenix was nominated for an Oscar for best actor for his role in the film. Courtesy: Warner Bros. Pictures via AP

'Batman: The Killing Joke'

While not directly related to the 2019 film Joker, which leads the Oscar nominations with 11 nods, the graphic novel by Allan Moore and Brian Bolland is a brilliant read for those willing to explore the origin stories for Batman’s primary nemesis. Freed once again from Arkham Asylum, the Joker is out to prove that "one bad day" is all that separates the sane from the psychotic. The graphic novel follows his attempt to prove his deranged point as he goes after Gotham City’s police commissioner Jim Gordon and his daughter Barbara.

Hiccup, voiced by Jay Baruchel, in a scene from "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World." The film was nominated for a Golden Globe for best animated film. Courtesy: DreamWorks Animation/Universal Pictures via AP
Hiccup, voiced by Jay Baruchel, in a scene from "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World." The film was nominated for a Golden Globe for best animated film. Courtesy: DreamWorks Animation/Universal Pictures via AP

'How To Train Your Dragon'

The final installment of the How To Train Your Dragon trilogy is nominated for Best Animated Feature. How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World takes place a year after the events of its predecessor, with Hiccup, Toothless and their fellow dragon riders rescuing captured dragons and bringing them to their home in Berk. Their efforts, however, have resulted in the island becoming overpopulated with dragons. To deal with this, Hiccup sets out to discover the Hidden World, a safe haven for dragons. The movies are loosely based on the book series of the same name, by Cressida Cowell. A noteworthy read if you just can’t get enough of Toothless and the dragon-populated Berk.

Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti and Djebril Zonga in a scene from 'Les Miserables'. The film has been nominated for Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards. AP
Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti and Djebril Zonga in a scene from 'Les Miserables'. The film has been nominated for Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards. AP

'Les Miserables'

We’ve seen many adaptations of the famous Victor Hugo novel, including the 2012 movie starring Hugh Jackman and the 2018 BBC miniseries. However, the 2019 French film takes a more modern take on the classic. Inspired by the 2005 French riots and the period of civil unrest and lootings that followed.

The film, directed by Ladj Ly, explores the tensions between neighbourhood residents and the police that enflamed the riots. Les Miserables is in the running for Best Foreign Language Film. It was bought by Amazon for the US after its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

Updated: January 27, 2020 11:05 PM

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