Anyone who has ever watched the Academy Awards® knows that the awards are not given to the most popular films that young people like (with a few exceptions like The Lord of the Rings trilogy). For the most part, the members of the Academy nominate and vote for serious, more high-brow films like the silent black and white film The Artist or The King’s Speech that have more appeal to older filmgoers (I loved them, but I’m older too). If the Academy voters were to consider films as Best Picture nominees that teens really enjoyed that were based on books, then The Twilight Saga, the Harry Potter series, or this year’s The Hunger Games or The Perks of Being a Wallflower would have been selected.
While it’s true that many films nominated for this Sunday’s Academy Awards® are based on books, most are published for adults, not young adults. That doesn’t mean that some of the many nominees based on adult books aren’t entirely without teen appeal. Argo is based on the book The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez. It was one of four films I saw last Saturday as part of AMC Theaters’s Best Picture Showcase 2013 Oscar® Nominees along with Amour, Les Miserables, and Django Unchained. In addition to being based on a preposterously unbelievable true story, Argo is suspenseful with a lot of humor that balances the tenseness of the plot.
It’s a lot of fun to watch, although I’d heard that parts are made up so it’s more of a docu-drama, as is Zero Dark Thirty. SLJ’s Extra Helping e-newsletter just had an interesting Connect-the-Pop blog post a few days ago by Peter Gutierrez. He interviewed media literacy educator Frank W. Baker about showing students Lincoln, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty to encourage them to think critically about how these films aren’t necessarily all true but portray a version of the truth.
I also overheard a number of college-aged guys at the AMC Best Picture Showcase saying they loved Silver Linings Playbook (based on the book by Matthew Quick) and hoped it would win the Best Picture Award.
The main character, played by Bradley Cooper, has bipolar disorder, is divorced, and has just been discharged from a mental health facility. His ex-wife is a high school teacher, and he wants her back so he obsessively reads all the books from the required reading list she gives her students. He reads Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and is very upset by the ending. He’s living with his parents after being released and bursts into their bedroom at 3AM to rant against the depressing ending. He’s so upset he throws the book through a closed window. Who knew that a reading experience could inspire such a dramatic reaction? It’s a great moment in a movie with lots of great moments.
Teens might find a lot of films nominated for Academy Awards® in various categories this year that are also on their required reading lists.
- The Life of Pi by Yann Martel (nominated for Best Picture, Cinematography, Director Ang Lee, Film Editing, Original Score, Original Song, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, and Adapted Screenplay).
- Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor Hugh Jackman, Supporting Actress Anne Hathaway, Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Song, Production Design, and Sound Mixing).
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (nominated for Cinematography, Costume Design, Original Score, and Production Design).
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (nominated for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, and Visual Effects).
Even though the most commercially successful movies probably won’t win any awards (Marvel’s The Avengers, based on the characters created by Stan Lee, is only nominated for Visual Effects), there are still a lot of great films with teen appeal that are based on books, although the books are usually better than the movies they’re based on.
— Sharon Rawlins, currently reading the galley of Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta