As a general rule, the book always beats out the movie. Then there are those exceptions when the right cast, a visionary director, and a talented screenwriter team up to make a film that surpasses the book it’s based on. A large number of this year’s crop of Oscar contenders have been adapted from books, both fiction and nonfiction. Wondering which version to tackle first? We’ve got verdicts for ten of them:
Remember how difficult it was to watch Leo, your teen crush, freeze to death in the North Atlantic, hot tears coursing down your cheeks as icicles formed in his beautiful blonde hair? Why did Kate Winslet get a spot atop that buoyant piece of ocean liner debris while Leo had to swim? If you’re still mad at James Cameron for the way Titanic ended, stay away from the movie version of The Revenant, in which Leo’s character suffers hardships that make that ice-cold swim look like a pool party.
Verdict: Read the book.
Carol is an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt, a cult classic about a taboo mid-century love affair between two women. While the book is well worth a read, we’d say that Carol is one of the rare instances in which a movie manages to improve on its source material. Critics have described it as “frictionless beauty.” And then there’s those amazing ’50s-era costumes…
Verdict: See the movie.
With six Oscar nominations and a big win in the Best Comedy (huh?) category at the Golden Globes, Ridley Scott’s The Martian is our favourite thing the director’s done since Blade Runner. Matt Damon’s performance as a stranded NASA astronaut is funny and touching at the same time. While the source material is excellent, the film edges out in front by its ability to really show us how Damon’s botanist character manages to survive on Mars, bringing the science of it to life for an audience that may not get as much out of the novel.
Verdict: It’s a tough call, but we’re siding with the movie.
A coming-of-age story set in 1950’s New York and starring Saoirse Ronan? Thanks Hollywood, you’ve made our decision an easy one. Not only is Brooklyn well acted, it’s also gorgeous to look at.
Verdict: See the movie.
The work the investigative staff of the Boston Globe did to bring to light the rampant child abuse that existed within the Catholic church—including the church’s extensive efforts to cover it up—is so important that it deserves a book and a movie. If you can’t get to both between now and the Academy Awards, we recommend seeing the film which, through its excellent and nuanced performances, succeeds in giving a voice to the victims while making a case for the necessity of traditional journalism in a media landscape dominated by tweets and retweets.
Verdict: Check out Rachel McAdams’ Oscar-nominated performance in the movie.
The Big Short
The Big Short: Inside The Doomsday Machine author Michael Lewis (The Blind Side, Moneyball) has penned a trio of books-turned-movies which have found success at both the bookstore and the box office. However, Ryan Gosling is not in Lewis’ book.
Verdict: See the movie.
The Danish Girl
Nominated for four Oscars, The Danish Girl boasts standout performances by both its leads (we’re still confused about Alicia Vikander’s Oscar nod coming in the Supporting Actress category) and costumes to swoon over. To its detriment, the pace of the story is quickened in an effort to wedge it into two hours’ worth of film. Redmayne’s character’s transition, the emotional and psychological aspects of it, end up feeling a bit rushed.
Verdict: Take your time and savour the book.
Upon finishing her novel, Room, Canadian writer Emma Donoghue instantly envisioned a movie version—so she immediately set out to write a screenplay. The result is a film that remains very true to the bestselling book… and both are great.
Verdict: It’s a tie! You’re going to have to tackle both. Start with the book.
Hollywood can’t seem to get enough of Apple founder Steve Jobs. In this latest movie about the personal computing pioneer’s life and career, Michael Fassbender plays Jobs while Kate Winslet tackles a supporting role as Job’s right hand, Joanna Hoffman. Both actors received attention from the Academy for their work but as a whole, the film is a bit dull.
Verdict: Check the book out of your local library as an act of defiance against the screen-dependant era Jobs ushered in. No e-books allowed.
Trumbo is a Hollywood movie about a time when Hollywood behaved very badly—turning on itself to hand too-far-left-leaning colleagues over to The House Un-American Activities Committee during a Cold War witch-hunt for the Communists lurking on every movie set. Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was among them. The film tells the story of his exile from and return to Hollywood, with an exceedingly charming Bryan Cranston playing a title character who does his best work in the bathtub.
Verdict: Watch the movie—because not seeing Cranston on television every week has been rough on all of us.