Book to Movie

From the Page to the Screen: The 2013 Oscars Edition

Hello everyone! For this edition of From the Page to the Screen, we celebrate Oscars style.

Each year, film adaptations of books seem to be increasingly prevalent. Case in point: this year, a whopping 10 Oscar-nominated films were originally books. Now, you may know that Ana and I are huge book lovers and voracious readers – but you may not know that we are also pop-culture junkies, television addicts, and movie lovers.

Book Smuggler Venn Diagram

With the Oscars coming up this Sunday, and with all of the wonderful adaptations this year, what better way to celebrate the intersection of our passions than with a Big Ol’ 2013 Page to Screen Oscars Book x Film Bonanza? Here’s our roundup (and take) on the books turned into films celebrated at this year’s Oscars – the five big contenders for Best Picture, and then a quick look at the 5-6 titles inspired by the written word in various other categories.

Life of Pi

Nominated for 11 Awards: Best Picture, Cinematography, Directing, Film Editing, Music – Original Score, Music – Original Song, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, Writing – Adapted Screenplay

The Book: Life of Pi by Yann Martel was originally published in 2001 by Knopf Canada and has since won the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction and become an international bestseller.

Life of Pi (Book)


New York Times Bestseller * Los Angeles Times Bestseller * Washington Post Bestseller * San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller * Chicago Tribune Bestseller

“A story to make you believe in the soul-sustaining power of fiction.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review

After the sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a wounded zebra, an orangutan—and a 450-pound royal bengal tiger. The scene is set for one of the most extraordinary and beloved works of fiction in recent years.

Universally acclaimed upon publication, Life of Pi is a modern classic.

The Movie: In 2012, Life of Pi was released (in 3D), directed by Ang Lee, based on an adapted screenplay by David Magee, and stars actors Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Gérard Depardieu, Tabu, and Adil Hussain.

Our Take: I actually was not a huge fan of the book (too wordy, boring, and slightly pretentious for my tastes – your mileage may vary), but was intrigued when I learned that Ang Lee would be adapting this book to film. Three hours of an internally verbose kid and a Bengal tiger floating out at sea? It doesn’t exactly lend itself easily to a commercial blockbuster film. When I saw the first trailer (above), though, my excitement for the film grew.

This is a beautiful film in so many ways: Cinematically, with its gorgeous reflective sea indistinguishable from an endless expanse of sky and clever editing transitions (my favorite: the playful initial scenes with Pi’s broad-shouldered, barrel-chested uncle swimming in the most beautiful swimming pool in the world). Musically, with the rousing original score and deserving nominated original song “Pi’s Lullaby” (sung by Bombay Jayashri, and the first ever song in Tamil to be nominated for the Oscar). Visually, with the stunning, breathtaking visuals of Richard Parker (the tiger) adrift on a cruel ocean (and I can safely say that this is a movie that I did not mind forking over the extra cash for in 3D).


Of course, so much of the success of the film lies with its amazing direction, steered by Academy Award winning director Ang Lee and the earnest and memorable portrayal of Piscine Molitor Patel from debut (!!!) actor Suraj Sharma. But the real magic, in this book lover’s opinion, lies with David Magee and Ang Lee’s adaptation of a very difficult, un-filmable, introspective book to the big screen. My favorite diversions from the book? The fact that in the film, Pi never actually trains or controls Richard Parker – he is a wild animal after all, not a cuddly domesticated animal. The optimism of the film and moments of glorious, stunning beauty are also welcome pluses.


In this Smuggler’s opinion? The movie exceeds the book in so many ways, and while I know it probably won’t win any of the heavy hitter awards, I’m giving it Best Cinematography, Visual Effects, and Sound Mixing. The optimist in me also wants to give it Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, too.

Get the Film: Thanks to Fox’s Digital HD program, the film is available to instantly download now in HD via Amazon, Cinema Now, Google Play, iTunes, NOOK, PlayStation, VUDU, and Xbox 360.

The BluRay and DVD will be available on March 12, 2013.

Silver Linings Playbook

Nominated for 8 Awards: Actor In a Leading Role, Actor In a Supporting Role, Actress In a Leading Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Picture, Directing, Film Editing, Writing – Adapted Screenplay

The Book: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick was originally published in 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

The Silver Linings Playbook

Meet Pat Peoples. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure him a happy ending—the return of his estranged wife, Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent several years in a mental health facility.)

The problem is, Pat’s now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he’s being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he’s being haunted by Kenny G!

As the award-winning novelist Justin Cronin put it: “Tender, soulful, hilarious, and true, The Silver Linings Playbook is a wonderful debut.”

The Movie: Silver Linings Playbook premiered in September 2012 at the Toronto International Film Festival (where it won the People’s Choice Award). The romcom-drama is directed by David O. Russell (who also wrote the adapted screenplay) and stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, with Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, and Julia Stiles.

Our Take: It’s kind of impossible to watch or think about this film without a silly grin plastered on your face (just watch that dance scene – wait for the awkward amazingness of Tiffany’s crotch to Pat’s face. Then watch it again. And again.).

Silver Linings Still

Jennifer Lawrence never fails to blow me away – and I know everyone says it, but she’s so young and yet has such a strong presence in all of her roles. Here, she is amazing with her frank delivery, Bradley Cooper has never been so vulnerable (and appealing), and both Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver do an amazing job and deserve their nominations. In fact, I’m giving Robert De Niro the Best Supporting Actor award. That’s right. I said it. A fun, funny, moving, and heartfelt film, Silver Linings Playbook is a darkhorse for Best Picture. Even though I think Jessica Chastain will likely win Best Actress, I would pump a fist in the air with joy if JLaw took the award.

Get the Film: The BluRay, DVD, and digital download will be available on April 30, 2013.


Nominated for 7 Awards: Actor In a Supporting Role, Best Picture, Film Editing, Music (Original Score), Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Writing – Adapted Screenplay

The Book: Ok, technically Argo was based on a selection from The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez and the Wired Magazine article “The Great Escape” by Joshuah Bearman. In 2012, Mendez came out with Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History:

Argo (Book)

The true, declassified account of CIA operative Tony Mendez’s daring rescue of American hostages from Iran that inspired the critically-acclaimed film directed by and starring Ben Affleck, and co-starring John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and Bryan Cranston.

On November 4, 1979, Iranian militants stormed the American embassy in Tehran and captured dozens of American hostages, sparking a 444-day ordeal and a quake in global politics still reverberating today. But there is a little-known drama connected to the crisis: six Americans escaped. And a top-level CIA officer named Antonio Mendez devised an ingenious yet incredibly risky plan to rescue them before they were detected.

Disguising himself as a Hollywood producer, and supported by a cast of expert forgers, deep cover CIA operatives, foreign agents, and Hollywood special effects artists, Mendez traveled to Tehran under the guise of scouting locations for a fake science fiction film called Argo. While pretending to find the perfect film backdrops, Mendez and a colleague succeeded in contacting the escapees, and smuggling them out of Iran.

Antonio Mendez finally details the extraordinarily complex and dangerous operation he led more than three decades ago. A riveting story of secret identities and international intrigue, Argo is the gripping account of the history-making collusion between Hollywood and high-stakes espionage.

The Movie: Argo was released in October 2012, and is directed by Ben Affleck, starrings Ben Affleck, with Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, and John Goodman.

Our Take: I’m kind of biased when it comes to Argo. Let me start by saying that I think the real life story is amazing. The audacity of the cover story! The brilliance and muster of Tony Mendez! AMAZING.

Argo Still

What pisses me off about this movie: Ben Affleck is a great director. He is. He’s super connected and talented, and I respect that. But he’s actually not a very good actor. And the fact that he – a caucasian man – plays Tony Mendez, a multiethnic latino and one of the most important CIA operatives in US history? It is troubling in the extreme. It is troubling because Argo had the opportunity to portray a latino character in a non-stereotyped way, in a major film role. In the words of Jonathan Wynn and Teresa Irene Gonzales (via the Everyday Sociology blog):

Argo could have expanded this understanding of the U.S. and this Mexican-American history. This missed opportunity is particularly important, as noted in Slate, because it is increasingly dangerous to be of Mexican descent within the U.S. Deportations have increased during the Obama administration , Mexican-American and Ethnic Studies have come under fire in many states, brown bodies are profiled in Arizona, and, as Professor Otto Santa Ana notes, the network news constantly broadcasts negative racial depictions of Latinas/os.

Who should care? Well, minority representation in the media matters a great deal in the real world. Seeing positive portraits of Latinas/os, or African American men and women resonates with children and, when there are limited options on television and in film, the stakes are much greater. One example we can think of is Nichelle Nichols as the character Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek television show. Nichols actually wanted to quit the show after the first season, but Martin Luther King came to her and thanked her for being a role model for the African American community. She stayed, and groundbreaking NASA Astronaut Mae Jemison cites Uhura as her inspiration for wanting to be an astronaut. (She even returned the favor and appeared in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.)

It’s incredibly awkward during the credits of the film when there are side-by-side pictures of the actors and their real-life counterparts because it is clear that Argo took great pains to make sure the actors looked very similar to the real people they were playing… except for Ben Affleck and Antonio Mendez. Glaringly, there is no side-by-side picture comparison for the two in the credits, but here’s what you would have seen:

Tony Mendez x Ben Affleck

Why not use one of the many outstanding Latino actors we have in Hollywood? How about Michael Peña, for example?

On its own, Argo is a good movie. The sets and attention to ’70s/’80s detail is fantastic, the historical context and recreation (and integration of clips and photographs from the Iran Hostage Crisis) is amazing, Affleck/Mendez aside. That said, the tension in the film is largely manufactured (the team gets to the airport and JUST in the nick of time the tickets are approved! A scene is filming preventing Alan Arkin and John Goodman from getting back to the Producer’s Office, where they pick up the phone to save the day! The team passes through the airport AND THEN two seconds later the phone rings with the news that they are Americans! The Iranian military CHASES A PLANE DOWN THE RUNWAY but the plane lifts off JUST in the nick of time!). And I just don’t think it’s a deserving film for Best Picture – but because this is a Movie about Movies made by the popular kids (aka George Clooney and co), my guess is that it will win Best Picture.

Get the Film: The BluRay, DVD and digital HD download were released on February 19, 2013. The film is available to rent and instantly download now in HD via Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, NOOK, PlayStation, VUDU, and Xbox 360.


Nominated for 12 Awards: Actor In a Leading Role, Actor in a Supporting Role, Actress In a Supporting Role, Best Picture, Cinematography, Costume Design, Directing, Film Editing, Music (Original Score), Production Design, Sound Mixing, Writing – Adapted Screenplay

The Book: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin was originally published in 2005 by Simon & Schuster.

Team of Rivals

Acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin illuminates Lincoln’s political genius in this highly original work, as the one-term congressman and prairie lawyer rises from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals of national reputation to become president. On May 18, 1860, William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates, and Abraham Lincoln waited in their hometowns for the results from the Republican National Convention in Chicago. When Lincoln emerged as the victor, his rivals were dismayed and angry.

Throughout the turbulent 1850s, each had energetically sought the presidency as the conflict over slavery was leading inexorably to secession and civil war. That Lincoln succeeded, Goodwin demonstrates, was the result of a character that had been forged by experiences that raised him above his more privileged and accomplished rivals. He won because he possessed an extraordinary ability to put himself in the place of other men, to experience what they were feeling, to understand their motives and desires.

It was this capacity that enabled Lincoln as president to bring his disgruntled opponents together, create the most unusual cabinet in history, and marshal their talents to the task of preserving the Union and winning the war.

We view the long, horrifying struggle from the vantage of the White House as Lincoln copes with incompetent generals, hostile congressmen, and his raucous cabinet. He overcomes these obstacles by winning the respect of his former competitors, and in the case of Seward, finds a loyal and crucial friend to see him through.

This brilliant multiple biography is centered on Lincoln’s mastery of men and how it shaped the most significant presidency in the nation’s history.

The Movie: Lincoln was released in October 2012, and is directed and produced by Steven Spielberg, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, and Tommy Lee Jones.

Our Take: Lincoln, probably more than any other film, is probably the favorite to take home the Big Time awards. Daniel Day Lewis is pretty much amazing in any role he chooses, and his portrayal of Lincoln is a shoe-in for the Best Actor Oscar. Sally Field’s awesome performance manages to make Mary Todd Lincoln a sympathetic and relatable character, and Tommy Lee Jones is another strong contender in the Best Supporting Actor space. This is a dense film, that covers dense topics, and an incredibly important turning point in American history. To us? This is probably going to win Best Director and perhaps Best Picture, if Argo should fall.

Lincoln Still

Get the Film: The BluRay, DVD and digital HD download will be released two days following the Oscars, on February 26.

Les Miserables

Nominated for 8 Awards: Actor In a Leading Role, Actress In a Supporting Role, Best Picture, Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Music (Original Song), Production Design, Sound Mixing

The Book: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, originally published in 1862.

Les Miserables

Few novels ever swept across the world with such overpowering impact as Les Misérables. Within 24 hours, the first Paris edition was sold out. IN other great cities of the world it was devoured with equal relish.

Sensational, dramatic, packed with rich excitement and filled with the sweep and violence of human passions, Les Misérables is not only superb adventure but a powerful social document. The story of how the convict Jean-Valjean struggled to escape his past and reaffirm his humanity, in a world brutalized by poverty and ignorance, became the gospel of the poor and the oppressed.

The Movie: Les Miserables was released in December 2012, based on the musical (which is based on the book), and is directed by Tom Hooper, starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, and Amanda Seyfried.

Our Take: Les Miserables is a great yet flawed adaptation of the stage musical and it brings to screen the tragic epicness of Jean Valjean et friends and the heart-breaking misery of a failed revolution. There is some excellent acting and singing here although not necessarily at the same time: Hugh Jackman ,while excellent portraying Valjean, was about to burst a vein in some of the more demanding songs like the operatic Bring Him Home and Russell Crowe was the wrong choice for Javert, period (Javert’s voice should be booming across the theatre, Crowe could not carry it out). This is of course, a huge problem when it comes to adaptation a musical and probably one of the reasons why the movie is not a resounding success for us despite the fact the young actors/singers were excellent. Special kudos to Samantha Barks and her soul-crushing Éponine and the adorable Eddie Redmayne as revolutionary Marius. No mention to Amanda Seyfried’s Cosette as that character remains a non-entity (which is a problem in the story, not the adaptation, but let’s not dwell as therein fury lies).

Les Mis Still

Les Miserables is probably the Dark Horse here, alongside Silver Linings Playbook. That said, for all the meagre 20 minutes she was on screen, Anne Hathaway totally deserves the Oscar nod (and maybe even a win) as her I Dreamed a Dream was a heartfelt, sob-inducing rendition of a wrecked yet rebellious soul.

Get the Film: The BluRay, DVD and digital HD download will be released on March 22, 2013.

The Other Book-to-Film Contenders

While Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook, Argo, Lincoln, and Les Mis are the big ticket contenders for the Academy’s ultimate prize, there are a couple of other book-to-film adaptations in the Oscar pool this year! These include:

The Hobbit
Nominated for Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, Visual Effects / Based on THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkien

Our Take: Fun and visually cool, The Hobbit was one of our most highly anticipated films of the year. And, for the most part, it delivers an entertaining moviegoing experience – despite the fact it’s needlessly long, and the filming choice makes it feel kind of video game-y.

Anna Karenina
Nominated for Cinematography, Costume Design, Music (Original Score), Production Design / Based on ANNA KARENINA by Leo Tolstoy

Our Take: To be honest, we haven’t seen this film yet. And personally, I’ve always been a fan of the French over the Russians, and have never been a big fan of Tolstoy’s Karenina. That said, the film certainly looks beautiful and we’ll be sure to catch it once it’s available for digital download or DVD.

Other adaptations: Snow White and the Huntsman (beautiful costumes, terrible story/acting/writing), Mirror Mirror (didn’t see it), The Sessions (on the to-watch list), and (even though it’s not based on an actual book, but the character created by Ian Flemming) Skyfall (awesome movie, and I’m not a big Bond fan!).

The Book Smugglers’ Oscar Picks for 2013:

Because now that we’ve talked about all the books-to-film, we of course HAVE to share the movies we think will win this year.

Thea’s Picks:

The nominees I *think* will win (and I’m betting on in my Oscar pool) are listed first – the ones I *want* to win are in parentheses!

Best PictureArgo (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Director – Steven Spielberg, Lincoln (Ang Lee, Life of Pi)
Leading Actor – Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Leading Actress – Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty (Toss-up between Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook and Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Supporting Actor – Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Supporting Actress – Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Cinematography – Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi
Costume Design – Colleen Atwood, Snow White and the Huntsman
Documentary FeatureHow To Survive a Plague (PLEASE watch this documentary, I beg you!)
Original Score – Thomas Newman, Skyfall (Mychael Danna, Life of Pi)
Original Song – Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth, “Skyfall” from Skyfall
Visual Effects – Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott, Life of Pi
Animated FeatureBrave (Wreck-It Ralph)
Foreign Language FilmAmour
Original Screenplay – Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty
Adapted Screenplay – Chris Terrio, Argo (David Magee, Life of Pi)

Ana’s Picks:

Best PictureLincoln (Lincoln)
Director – Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Leading Actor – Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Leading Actress – Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild (Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook)
Supporting Actor – Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Supporting Actress – Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Cinematography – Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi
Costume Design – Paco Delgado, Les Miserables
Documentary Feature – No pick
Original Score – Thomas Newman, Skyfall (Mychael Danna, Life of Pi)
Original Song – “Suddenly” from Les Miserables
Visual Effects – Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White, The Hobbit
Animated FeatureBrave (Wreck-It Ralph)
Foreign Language Film – No pick
Original Screenplay – Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty
Adapted Screenplay – Chris Terrio, Argo (David Magee, Life of Pi)


PHEW. So there you have it. A Page-to-Screen Oscar Bonanza! Which books-to-films (or just films!) are you rooting for this year? You can check out all the nominees and categories HERE.

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  • janicu
    February 22, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Of these movies I’ve only seen LES MIS and SILVER LININGS – loved SILVER LININGS but felt the same way you did about the performances in LES MISERABLES. I saw an interview were the director said he decided to make all the singing live so the performances would be more emotional. I think that worked better in some cases than others.

  • janicu
    February 22, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Oh whoops, I saw THE HOBBIT too. *smacks self*. But not in the high frame rate, so I didn’t have the issues with that a lot of other people seemed to have.

  • de Pizan
    February 22, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Snow White is always a problematic story, but I would say stay away from Mirror Mirror. I was expecting it to be incredibly stupid and shallow, which it was; but there was some really infuriating stuff. The prince spanks Snow White with his sword several times when they engage in a sword fight (funny how that’s cut out of any of the official clips of that scene online); he uses ableist slurs, repeatedly, towards the little people, constantly compares them to children or jokes about their size (and since this is one of the few Snow White films which actually uses little people, it makes it more infuriating that they didn’t correct this). For much of the film, the prince shows zero sympathy for the starving villagers, and approves of the queen’s draconian methods and her opulent court. And this is the dude we’re supposed to want for our heroine. Add in lots of icky stuff about women and beauty and conflict with each other–which is par for the course with Snow White stories, but still it reinforces it rather than subverts or provides any interesting commentary on it. Also, at the end, Snow White goads the Queen into suicide by forcing her to eat the poisoned apple. So there’s also that.

    Wow, sorry for the long rant, clearly I still have feelings about this.

  • joe moe
    February 22, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    the hobbit is … well i’m really PISSED OFF to even think about it. but if you look up the articles on “racebending” online, before actors where chosen for the cast, the audition details said that only — i quote — accepts “caucasians”. a non-caucasian auditioned for an extra (not even an important mini-part of the cast!) and they didn’t take her because tolkien’s world is “white” not colored.

    hollywood and racism as well as whitewashing in its purest form, go hand in hand. i’m not overly optimistic that it’s gonna change soon.

  • de Pizan
    February 22, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Joe Moe, not denying the racism in Tolkien’s universe or how white the movies are; but the casting director who called for Caucasians only was fired. And Jackson and co claim no such directive ever came from them.

  • Linda W
    February 22, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    Oh man! Love this look at the Oscars/books inspiring the movies. Love your Oscar picks!!!

  • joe moe
    February 23, 2013 at 5:14 am

    good for him (peter jackson). maybe he can sleep better at night knowing he fired the casting director of the hobbit. doesn’t change the fact that we see nil non-caucasians/poc! so there. the result seems to be pretty much the same.

  • Lisa (Book Blab)
    February 24, 2013 at 10:13 am

    This is excellent, thank you!!

    “Argo” was a good movie, but infuriating in its portrayal, or lack-there-of of Canadians in the rescue mission. Jimmy Carter a few days ago admitted that the movie was extremely inaccurate, and that 90% of the execution and planning were the Canadians, and the true hero of the mission was the Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor, who was reduced to a mere door opener, and was, at one point, mocked by Ben Affleck for saying he was not quite dressed as a g-man. And then in the meetings after the successful mission, in the CIA offices, they made it sound like the US HAD to give all the credit to the Canadians due to the chance of retaliation. Which is probably true, but the way they said it and then cut to the ceremonies and press coverage of Canadians, quite frankly, made us look like merely puppets.


  • Movie Ramblings, with a Side of Headaches | Calico In Transition
    March 1, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    […] ANYWAY. It’s been a productive weekend so far: Friday, the hubby and I watched Argo, which I really liked, but I find myself disappointed now that I’ve learned that Ben Affleck’s character, Tony Mendez, was actually latino. It’s especially painful since, in the credits, the film makes a big deal to compare the real life counterparts to the actors, and honestly, the resemblance was uncanny for most of them. Except they didn’t do it for Mendez/Affleck. The Book Smugglers, in their post devoted to the Oscars, have the comparison picture here. […]

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