2019 Oscar-nominated Movies Based on Books
Some of the year’s best films lived on the page before the screen.
By Jessica Ferri
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
Moonlight writer/director Barry Jenkins adapted (and directed) James Baldwin’s 13th novel, If Beale Street Could Talk, earning him an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. The story centers on Fonny (Stephan James), who is wrongfully accused of rape and sent to prison; his pregnant fiancée Tish (KiKi Layne) who decides to stick by him; and the different reactions from the community, namely Tish’s mother (Regina King). Already a Golden Globe-winner for Best Supporting Actress, King is nominated again for an Oscar in the same category.
Update: Winner, Regina King for Best Supporting Actress
BlacKkKlansman: A Memoir by Ron Stallworth
The story is extraordinary: A black detective, posing as a white man, infiltrates and sabotages a Colorado chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. Based on Detective Ron Stallworth’s memoir, writer/director Spike Lee ‘s movie casts John David Washington as Stallworth—who responds to a Klan classified ad looking for new members—and Adam Driver as Detective Flip Zimmerman who acts as Stallworth’s in-person surrogate after he receives an invitation to join “the cause.” Lee is nominated for Best Director as well as Best Adapted Screenplay along with Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott. Adam Driver received a nod for Best Supporting Actor.
Update: Winner, Best Adapted Screenplay
The Wife by Meg Woltizer
There’s a lot of buzz around Lady Gaga’s performance in A Star is Born, but seven-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close walked away with the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama for her role as Joan in the movie adaption of Meg Woltizer’s novel, The Wife. Joan is married to one of the world’s laureled literary men (played Jonathan Pryce). As she accompanies her husband so that he can accept a major prize, Joan looks back on her life as a series of sacrifices and humiliations in service of “a great man.” With the #metoo movement in full swing—and the Academy still failing to recognize the achievements of female directors—Woltizer’s novel feels even more relevant than when it was first published in 2003.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? by Lee Israel
Lee Israel was a washed-up biographer who devolved into a life of crime—literary forgeries of letters from famous authors like Dorothy Parker and Noel Coward—and lived to tell the tale. Israel published her own memoir on which Nicole Holocefner and Jeff Whitty based this script, nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. Melissa McCarthy is nominated for Best Actress for her performance that captures both the tragedy and comedy of this touching real-life caper and the woman at the center of it. Israel died in 2014, and many wondered if she should have been able to profit off of her crimes by way of this memoir. But one of her victims admitted he’d forgiven her: “She’s really an excellent writer,” he told The New York Times. “She made the letters terrific.”