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The 2014 Literary Fauxscars: The Results are In!

2014 FauxscarsBy Amanda Festa

The staff at Literary Traveler has spent a busy month reading, watching, and reviewing this year’s selection of adaptations. It’s been a big year for literary films, with a number of award season juggernauts based on non-fiction books (12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips, The Wolf of Wall Street, Philomena).  And, while the Best Picture race is going to be a close one, there are plenty of worthy literary films that you won’t see represented at the Oscars tonight.

So, before tonight’s fanfare begins, join us on our very own red carpet (read carpet?) as we give awards to the very best in literary films. From acting nods for representing much-loved characters to awards for genre films that made source material their own while simultaneously staying true to the books, we are proud to announce the winners of the 2014 Literary Fauxscars…

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Best Character Portrayal by an Actor:

Nominees: Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby), Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort (The Wolf of Wall Street), Chiwetel Ejiofer as Solomon Northup (12 Years a Slave), Tom Hanks as Richard Phillips (Captain Phillips), Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug)

And the Fauxscar goes to… Chiwetel Ejiofer as Solomon Northup (12 Years a Slave)

Chiwetel Ejiofor

“For me, this was a contest between Chiwetel Ejiofer and Tom Hanks, both having their own strengths and weaknesses. Ejiofer’s performance overall was able to be more powerful and dynamic than Hanks’s in the context of their respective films, but his character also relied heavily on extradiegetic material like the moving score and the sudden presence of graphic violence on screen. Hanks, on the other hand, gave an absolutely heart-stopping performance for exactly 6 minutes (the last 6) of the 2 hour movie, but that’s only because for the majority of the film he isn’t given the opportunity to do anything interesting. Ultimately, my vote goes to Ejiofer because, even if Hanks’s 6 minutes was some of the more powerful acting of the year, Ejiofer was given the chance to do more and took it.” ~Wesley Sharer, editorial intern and contributor

Best Character Portrayal by an Actress:

Nominees:  Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), Sophie Nélisse as Liesel Meminger (The Book Thief), Meryl Streep as Violet Weston (August: Osage County), Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan (The Great Gatsby), Judi Dench as Philomena (Philomena)

And the Fauxscar goes to… Judi Dench as Philomena (Philomena)

Judi Dench

“I love Jennifer Lawrence, and I think she does a great job as Katniss, but Judi Dench absolutely kills it as Philomena. She is effortlessly funny and tragic when the mood calls for it. She makes it easy to understand how it feels to lose a son, to care about one, and to worry that he may have never cared for you. She is dynamic and powerful but also lighthearted. She brings her character to life and makes it feel like something we’ve never seen before.  ~Wesley Sharer, editorial intern and contributor

“Dame Judi Dench has become one of those cast-iron British Institutions lately, always cast in the role of the peppery British matriarch. It’s a tradition that’s yawn-inducing, not just because of Dench’s frequent reprisals of it, but because its bric-a-brac British Nationalism feels tired, like it’s being wheeled out for a function. In Philomena, Dench got to step out of the whalebones and breathe through a much more vulnerable character whose dignity wasn’t hitched to her ability to maintain a stiff upper lip.” ~Jessica Monk, contributing editor (Read the rest of Jessica’s review of Philomena here)

Best Portrayal of a Literary Love Story:

Nominees: Romeo and Juliet (Romeo and Juliet), Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan (The Great Gatsby), Adele and Emma (Blue is the Warmest Color), Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), Beatrice and Benedick (Much Ado About Nothing)

And the Fauxscar goes to… Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire)

Jen and Josh“This was a tough category, because there are arguments to be made for each of these couples. Romeo and Juliet are the iconic representation of naive, young love; Gatsby and Daisy, the ugly side of the same coin, but we root for them regardless.  Blue is the Warmest Color is not nominated at the Oscars, and for that reason alone, I want to give it this award because it was such a beautiful film. Beatrice and Benedick as played by two of my favorite Buffy and Angel alums (Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker) in a banter-filled battle of Shakespearean wits are my spirit animal.  And yet, I have to give this category (as I did last year) to Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen.  A relationship forged in the most dire of circumstances, that begins in the innocence of childhood with a burnt loaf of bread and grows in unique and emotionally-complex ways throughout the trilogy. Spoiler Alert: I will vote for them again next year and the year after, because the way their relationship is described in Mockingjay is one of the most beautiful passages I’ve read in a long time despite its ‘young adult’ genre.”  ~Amanda Festa, managing editor

Best Cinematography & Production Design:

Nominees: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugEnder’s GameThe Great Gatsby, World War Z

And the Fauxscar goes to… The Great Gatsby
(Production Design by Catherine Martin and Karen Murphy and Cinematography by Simon Duggan)

The Great Gatsby“The Luhrmannization of Gatsby wounded many an F. Scott Fitzgerald fan, myself included, by going for glitz and glamour rather than allowing some smaller more subtle moments to shine through. The film fell short, for me, for missing the quieter character development and subplot lines that (in my opinion) make the original story great. That being said, I have to give credit where it is due, and Baz Luhrmann, and his take on The Great Gatsby, are well-deserving of this award. This Gatsby film is an experience. It’s big, loud, bold, and beautiful and cannot be confused for not having it’s own unique voice. All literary agendas aside, watching Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is truly a treat for the senses.” ~Antoinette Weil, marketing coordinator and contributor

“While I wasn’t the biggest fan of this adaptation, which is putting it lightly, as anyone could tell from reading my review, I do love what Luhrmann can do visually and musically (see Moulin Rouge). So, 1920s New York by way of Luhrmann could be nothing short of breathtaking.  The Prohibition-era speakeasies, the opulent over-the-top parties, even the destitute slums are brought to life in ways that stimulate all of the senses (and I didn’t even see it in 3D). Ultimately, all feelings on the film aside and removing it from any connection to Fitzgerald’s words, it is an aesthetic success.” ~Amanda Festa, managing editor

  Best “Young Adult” Adaptation:

Nominees:  The Book ThiefEnder’s GameThe Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Warm Bodies, The Spectacular Now

And the Fauxscar goes to… The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Catching FIre

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was remarkably true to the book. It did a great job portraying the dystopian upheaval of Panem and the complicated emotions of Katniss. It’s tough to adapt a series with such a loyal fan base, but this exceeded expectations.” ~Loretta Donelan, editorial intern and contributor

Best Adaptation of a Classic:

Nominees: Romeo and Juliet, The Great Gatsby, Much Ado About Nothing, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, As I Lay Dying

And the Fauxscar goes to… Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About NothingIn an upset of sorts, Joss Whedon’s low-budget adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic play took down the much-anticipated big budget 3D spectacle of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby (which did in fact win “Most Anticipated” in last year’s Fauxscars). What makes this battle of films even more interesting is that the two could not be more different. While Luhrmann’s Gatsby features a star-studded cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role, a soundtrack featuring the biggest names in contemporary music, and all of it in 3D, Whedon’s black and white Much Ado uses Shakespeare’s dialogue verbatim and was shot in 2 weeks in the director’s own house with familiar faces from his iconic TV series Firefly, Buffy, and Angel.

“Fitzgerald’s book is just one that is extremely hard to translate to film. It’s not really anyone’s fault; Fitzgerald just set the bar too high. Luhrmann tried to mirror the success of his previous films like Moulin Rouge by giving Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age the same glittery, over-the-top treatment — the problem is that Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age, while shiny and decadent, is tinged with sadness, regret, selfishness — all blinded in the film with bright lights and loud music. Luhrmann could learn something from Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing — let the classic speak for itself. After all, works like Much Ado and The Great Gatsby may have been written in another time, but the stories are just as relevant today. If you don’t believe me, watch as Beatrice and Benedick banter in modern-day LA.  The film is contemporary, but Shakespeare’s language is intact — and it works.” ~Amanda Festa, managing editor

Best Non-Fiction Adaptation:

12 Years a SlaveNominees: 12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Fifth Estate, PhilomenaLone Survivor, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, The Invisible Woman

And the Fauxscar goes to… 12 Years a Slave

“Captivating story, powerful acting, beautiful cinematography, amazing score. Whether you’ve read the book on which it’s based or not, the film is easiest one of the best of the year.” ~Wesley Sharer, editorial intern and contributor

Best “Guilty Pleasure” Adaptation:

Nominees: Safe Haven, The Host, Austenland, The Bling RingWarm Bodies

And the Fauxscar goes to…  Austenland

Austenland

“While I would not say the film was exceptional, it was an absolutely absurd caricature of the dedication and reverence readers have for Jane Austen, and the idealization of one Mr. Darcy. The fact that a literary character written in the early nineteenth century can still be the quintessential archetype for romantic satisfaction is testament to the power of Austen.  In the film (and book), a thirtysomething single lady ventures to “Austenland” — the Colonial Williamsburg for Austen aficionados looking to roleplay their own Regency Era marriage plot. To the credit of the film (and novel on which it was based), the ending is not as predictable as you think it will be, given the conventional plot devices the film plays with. And, it is amusing to see the line between truth and fiction blurred for both the characters and spectators. Again, don’t expect to love it, but if you are an Austen fan, it’s worth the watch.” ~Amanda Festa, managing editor (Read more thoughts on Austen and Pop Culture here.)

Best “Stand Alone” Film:

Nominees: 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street, Captain Phillips, Blue is the Warmest Color, August: Osage County

And the Fauxscar goes to…  12 Years A Slave

12 Years a Slave cast

“Having never read Solomon Northup’s memoir, this was in fact a stand alone film for me. (That is, if we’re not counting all of the well-deserved media hype and acclaim the film received.) 12 Years a slave not a feel-good film. It is a harrowing tale beyond the realm of nightmares, because we as humans can rarely imagine events as horrible as the ones represented in the film occurring. The fact that the events depicted are true only makes for a more awful post-viewing experience, because we cannot just leave them behind in the theater. If anger, empathy and agonizing guilt are the signs of a truly great film, than we’ve got pure gold with Steve McQueen’s adaptation. It is impossible to be unmoved by 12 Years a Slave. It deserves the title, the glory, and all of the difficult conversations it provokes.” ~Antoinette Weil, marketing coordinator and contributor

Best Literary Film:

Nominees: The Counselor (Screenplay by Cormac McCarthy), Saving Mr. BanksThe Canyons  (Screenplay by Bret Easton Ellis), Kill Your Darlings (Story of Beat writers)

And the Fauxscar goes to… The Counselor

The Counselor“Reviews of this film have been all over the place. Some people hate it because of its wordy ambiguity (how can a film say so much and reveal so little?), and some people love it for the same reason. I am one of the latter group. The film is what it is. It is not an action thriller, it is not a fast-paced drug caper as some of the trailers make it seem. It is not a film that is going to wrap up anything neatly with a bow; instead it continually unravels our conceptions with long, complicated strings of gorgeous dialogue written by Pulitzer Prize winner Cormac McCarthy.  Beautifully constructed and purposefully cryptic, the movie makes you think — about what will depend on the individual — but, in the end, isn’t that the whole point?” ~Amanda Festa, managing editor  (For more on the film, read Amanda’s full review here.)

Most Anticipated Adaptation of 2014:

Nominees:  Mockingjay – Part I, The Giver, Wild, The Maze Runner, The Fault in Our Stars

And the Fauxscar goes to… The Giver

The Giver“As mentioned in our Thanksgiving Post, The Giver is one of my favorite books of all time. Director Phillip Noyce is taking on quite the challenge in attempting to bring this story, with all its subtleties, to life. Beginning the movie in black and white would be an obvious way to demonstrate the lack of color in the community depicted in The Giver, but for the other sensations that are lacking—smell, taste, temperature, pain—it will be far more difficult to convey to audiences all of the alarming facets and implications of “sameness.” But I’m holding out hope. With any luck The Giver will be pulled off brilliantly. This story, if any, deserves the recognition of a mass film audience.” ~Antoinette Weil, marketing coordinator and contributor

“Because my life will not be complete until I see The Dude as The Giver.” ~Wesley Sharer, editorial intern and contributor

“Why haven’t they made a movie out of The Giver yet? The book is such a classic, and it presents a different and perhaps more nuanced view of dystopia than the current trendy teen franchises.” ~Loretta Donelan, editorial intern and contributor

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Let us know if you agree with our choices or if any of your favorites were snubbed. We will be watching (and tweeting) the Oscars tonight to see how our favorites fare with the Academy. If you are watching too, tweet us @LiteraryTravelr and let us know what you think. #Fauxscars