For the first time in my movie-watching life I went to an Oscar party to celebrate the 84th Annual Academy Awards. We all gathered around the television with snacks and sparkling beverages, weighing in on who we thought should win and who was inevitably going to win. One of the cool things we did was fill out a ballot beforehand, an informal competition to see who in our group of friends had the best Oscar insight. Unfortunately, unlike like many of my friends, I haven’t seen any of the nominated films so I did rather poorly.
Now that the Oscars are over, I have a big queue of movies to see. And, because I’m an avid reader, I thought it would be fun to find their literary counterparts. Listed below are novels inspired by the 84th Annual Academy Award winners. I like to think of these books as supplementary material for when I find myself in the 89745901st position on the waitlist for the Oscar favourites available on DVD.
Best Actress in a Leading Role – Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
In the summer of 1983, twenty-year-old Nick Guest moves into an attic room in the Notting Hill home of the Feddens: conservative Member of Parliament Gerald, his wealthy wife Rachel, and their two children, Toby-whom Nick had idolized at Oxford-and Catherine, highly critical of her family's assumptions and ambitions. As the boom years of the eighties unfold, Nick, an innocent in the world of politics and money, finds his life altered by the rising fortunes of this glamorous family. His two vividly contrasting love affairs, one with a young black clerk and one with a Lebanese millionaire, dramatize the dangers and rewards of his own private pursuit of beauty, a pursuit as compelling to Nick as the desire for power and riches among his friends. Richly textured, emotionally charged, disarmingly comic, this U.K. bestseller is a major work by one of our finest writers.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
The Sky Below by Stacey D'Erasmo
At thirty-seven, Gabriel Collins works halfheartedly as an obituary writer at a fading newspaper in lower Manhattan, which, since 9/11, feels like a city of the dead. This once dreamy and appealing boy has turned from a rebellious adolescent to an adult who trades in petty crimes.His wealthy, older boyfriend is indulgent of him-to a point. But after a brush with his own mortality, Gabriel must flee to Mexico in order to put himself back together. By novel's end, we know all of Gabriel's ratty little secrets, but by dint of D'Erasmo's spectacular writing, we exult in the story of an imperfect man who-tested by a world that is often too much for him-rises to meet the challenge.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Octavia Spencer, “The Help”
We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg
Having contracted polio at 22 while pregnant, Paige Dunn delivers her baby from an iron lung, and ends up raising her daughter, Diana, alone after her husband divorces her. Able to move only her head, Paige requires round-the-clock nursing care that social services barely cover. Now 13, Diana has taken over the night shift to save them money, sharing her mother's care with no-nonsense African-American day worker Peacie, who is protective of Paige and unforgiving of Diana's adolescent yearning for freedom. Paige is a paragon of kindness and wisdom, even in the face of less-than-charitable charity by petty small-town residents, while Diana and Peacie consistently lock horns. But when Peacie's boyfriend, LaRue, ventures down the perilous path of helping register black voters during this Freedom Summer and trouble follows him, Diana will gain compassion thanks to her mother's selfless aid to LaRue and Peacie. As the novel (based on a true story) is set in Tupelo, the specter of Elvis Presley naturally intrudes, for an over-the-top, heartrending finale.
Best Foreign Language Film – Iran, “A Separation”
Censoring an Iranian love story by Sharhriar Mandanipour
The novel entwines two equally powerful narratives. A writer named Shahriar--the author's fictional alter ego--has struggled for years against the all-powerful censor at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Now, on the threshold of fifty, tired of writing dark and bitter stories, he has come to realize that the "world around us has enough death and destruction and sorrow." He sets out instead to write a bewitching love story, one set in present-day Iran. It may be his greatest challenge yet. Beautiful black-haired Sara and fiercely proud Dara fall in love in the dusty stacks of the library, where they pass secret messages to each other encoded in the pages of their favorite books. But Iran's Campaign Against Social Corruption forbids their being alone together. Defying the state and their disapproving parents, they meet in secret amid the bustling streets, Internet cafés, and lush private gardens of Tehran. Yet writing freely of Sara and Dara's encounters, their desires, would put Shahriar in as much peril as his lovers. Thus we read not just the scenes Shahriar has written but also the sentences and words he's crossed out or merely imagined, knowing they can never be published. Laced with surprising humor and irony, at once provocative and deeply moving, Censoring an Iranian Love Story takes us unforgettably to the heart of one of the world's most alluring yet least understood cultures
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Jean Dujardin, “The Artist” & Best Film – “The Artist”
Sunnyside by Glen David Gold
With the brilliantly realized figure of Charlie Chaplin at its center, “Sunnyside” is novel at once cinematic and intimate, heartrending and darkly comic, that captures the moment when American capitalism, a world at war, and the emerging mecca of Hollywood intersect to spawn an enduring culture of celebrity. The narrative is as rich and expansive as the ground it covers, and it is cast with a dazzling roster of both real and fictional characters: Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Adolph Zukor, Chaplin's (first) child bride, a thieving Girl Scout, the secretary of the treasury, a lovesick film theorist, three Russian princesses (gracious, nervous, and nihilist), a crew of fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants moviemakers, legions of starstruck fans, and Rin Tin Tin. By turns lighthearted and profound, Sunnyside is an altogether spellbinding novel about dreams, ambition, and the dawn of the modern age.