Fences, Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea … why are there no novel adaptations on this year’s Academy Award shortlist?
If La La Land is named best picture at the Oscars tomorrow, it will be the third time in a row a film based on an original screenplay – not a book – has taken the supreme award. And whichever nominee gets the nod, it won’t be a novel adaptation, because there are none on the shortlist – Fences and Moonlight are derived from plays, Arrival from a short story and Hidden Figures and Lion from non-fiction, while Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water and Manchester by the Sea are also original scripts. Tellingly, it’s now a decade since the last time a US novel (Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men) became a best picture-winning movie.
Fifty years ago, books and films enjoyed a happy marriage, basking in the mutual advantages of a relationship reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn’s celebrated apercu on Astaire and Rogers, “he gives her class and she gives him sex appeal”: between 1962 and 1969, every best picture winner had a literary source including works by Fielding (Tom Jones), Dickens (Oliver!) and Shaw (My Fair Lady). Even as recently as the early noughties, four consecutive winners – A Beautiful Mind, Chicago, The Lord of the Rings, Million Dollar Baby – were either directly or ultimately text-based. Now, though, the couple have parted, not yet divorced but on frosty terms. Continue reading...