Books to Film: 2011 Award Winners – by Charlotte Canelli

Charlotte Canelli is the Library Director of the Morrill Memorial Library. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin this week. Listen to a podcast of this column in the Voices from the Library page of our website.

I am, at times, a bit compulsive. I like to begin new projects and if it weren’t for my compulsive need to see them through, I might never complete them. What might look to some as expansive enthusiasm is sometimes simply born of an impulse to plan.

This year I took on Oscar a few weeks before the awards would be televised. What began as a simple desire to see more than just a few of the Oscar-nominated movies ended in a manic last-minute adventure. In the end, I watched over nine movies in as many days and saw at least fourteen of the 2011 nominated films.

Two of my favorite films of 2011 and nominated for Best Picture, “The Artist” and “Midnight in Paris”, were written as original screenplays. Six of the other nine nominated for the grand award were adapted from stories originally written as books.

There was much buzz about the film, “The Descendants” based on the book by Kaui Hart Hemmins. It is the fictional account of descendants of Hawaiian royalty, the King family. Matthew King, played by George Clooney, attempts to parent his children, say goodbye to his wife and examine his marriage and life. The movie is somehow a poignant portrayal of life and death, and a journey of marriage and family, extended and otherwise.

Another much-anticipated film, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”, is based on the book of fiction by Jonathan Safran Foer. Nine-year old Oskar Schell loses his father in the World Trade Center attacks on 9-11. Oskar’s deceased father is played by Tom Hanks; his mother by Sandra Bullock. Although it is the story about Oskar’s healing journey, I found the movie’s images of September 11 disturbing. During that tragedy in 2001 I had moved and hadn’t purchased cable service for my cable-ready television and only had viewing access to videos or DVDs. This self-imposed bubble was somewhat shattered by the film’s repeated images of the falling man. The story however, is sprinkled with enough humor, punning and wordplay to connect the heartbreaking story with powerful images of restoration and healing.

I saw the film “The Help”, based on the book by Kathryn Stockett, in theaters last year. It was a much-anticipated film after response to the book in 2009. Having grown up in the 60s in the very liberal and very racially-diverse city of Berkeley, California, my experience was very far away from Mississippi. I never witnessed the type of discrimination Skeeter did as her life intersected with the lives of family maids, Abeline and Minny. Even though my head knew the facts, my heart had been sheltered from that storm. I found the powerful story far more emotional on the big screen than on the pages in the book and I suspect that the audience around me held back or shed similar tears.

One of my favorite nominated films of 2011 was “Moneyball” based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis (author of “The Blind Side” and “The Big Short”). I actually thought Brad Pitt should have won the best-actor award for this film. I’ve never been a sportswoman but I can get caught up in a championship game or in the story of players struggling to beat the odds and I was entranced. The New York Times writes that Lewis “could have made a fortune in business. Instead, he makes a fortune writing about it.” “Moneyball” is about how games are won and teams are made – with players who are each a piece of that winning puzzle.

“War Horse” is based on a 1982 children’s novel by Michael Morpurgo. It is the fictional account of an English boy, Albert, whose beloved horse, Joey, is sold to the British cavalry. Joey is sent off to fight in France, Albert enlists and the movie chronicles the tragedies of the Great War. We saw the film in the theater when we were looking for a family film. I thought it was an amazing cinematic feat, much like “Saving Private Ryan”, a film about another war. Watching it, though, I was struck with the idiocy of war in a way that other films have not affected me. (15 million lives were lost in World War I.) The book and movie are based upon real and tragic events and they end on a high note. While war and death are not exactly “family topics”, it is, after all, a Disney film.

“Hugo” (based on the children’s book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick) is another cinematic spectacle. The film won five big academy awards, including Best Cinematography. I dragged two girlfriends to see this movie on the Sunday afternoon hours before the Academy Awards were televised and we were all a bit dismayed to realize that it was in 3D. That said, it only took a few moments after the majestic opening scenes for my eyes and head to adjust. I was most disappointed when I realized that the character played by Jude Law was killed off moments into the film when he tragically dies in a fire. I found that the film dragged in parts but the happy ending and the compelling mystery and visual effects were winners in my book.

Other films released in 2011 and based on fiction or non-fiction were “My Week with Marilyn” based on two books written by British director/producer Colin Clark; “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson; “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte; “Albert Nobbs” based on the Irish short story, “A Storyteller’s Holiday” by George Moore; “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by JK Rowling; “Drive” by James Sallis; “We Need to Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver; “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen; “The Big Year” by Mark Obmascik; “One Day” by David Nicholls; “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” by John LeCarre; and “The Lincoln Lawyer” by Michael Connelly.

If you would like to reserve any of these titles in book or film version please call the Reference or Information desks of the library, 781-799-0200 or reserve them in the Minuteman Library catalog.

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