Reading This Year’s Great Movies

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Beginning at 1:30 this afternoon, you can tune in to ABC, and watch them squeeze every last possible minute of coverage – and commercials – out of the spectacle lovingly known as the Oscars.

See who is arriving with whom, how many carats they borrowed from Neil Lane, and what designer created their finery — and that’s just the pre-show!

The heavily nominated film "Hugo" is based on “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick.

The inspiration for many a soiree, and even some friendly wagers, the Oscars always make for a big night, but if you have a little down-time this weekend, why not kick-off the festivities by diving into one of the six books whose film adaptations have been nominated for the Best Picture Award this year?

With nine films nominated, this means that an impressive two-thirds were inspired by the written word!  As a book lover, it is nice to know that the powers that be are as enamored as I am.  I must say as well, that the books, and their cinema counterparts, make an impressive collection.

This year’s nominated books-to-film include:

“The Descendants” by Kaui Hart Hemmings

“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer

“The Help by Kathryn Stockett

“Hugo,” inspired by “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick

“Moneyball” by Michael Lewis

“War Horse” by Michael Morpurgo

I have seen five of the six films and read three of the books, and I can definitely say that Hollywood chose well.  When I read “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” several years ago, I was so impressed that I used the “B” word: Brilliant.  It made me laugh, and cry, and absolutely captured me from the first page.  Safran Foer has a unique voice, and this was my first introduction to his writing, though I have since read others of his books.

The film version didn’t disappoint, either.  Although it had a little bit of a different slant than its paperback counterpart, I thought it was a well-told story.  The young actor who played the lead deserves every accolade he receives, as he was nothing short of incredible.

“The Help” is probably still my favorite recent read, even though I read it over a year ago.  Another easy-to-read story dealing with a heavy topic, it also kept me captivated from the start.  Narrated entirely by women, in addition to looking at the state of relations between African-Americans and their employers during the civil rights era, it also showcases our ability to both buoy each other up, and tear each down with equal ease and simplicity, according to our fancy.

The big-screen version was well acted by a talented ensemble cast.  Viola Davis, who also had a role in “Extremely Loud…,” has been nominated for a Best Actress Award for her moving portrayal of Aibileen Clark, and the movie is worth seeing for her performance alone.  If I learned nothing else from the book and movie, I learned the importance of the mantra Aibileen repeats to the children in her care, “You is kind.  You is smart.  You is important.”

Readers of this column already know how I feel about “Hugo,” as I have previously written about how much my boys and I enjoyed both the book and film.  Another instance of incredible performances by young actors, I again recommend it if you haven’t seen and/or read it yet.

The good news is, this past year was not an oddity where books-made-into-films are concerned.  Those of us who enjoy reading before seeing can look forward to a whole new crop in the coming months.

Led off by the much-anticipated “Hunger Games,” and followed by notable titles such as “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Killer,” “The Hobbit,” and “World War Z,” this next season promises to be epic as well.

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