Chiwetel Ejiofor and Paul Giamatti in ’12 Years a Slave’/Image © Fox Searchlight
When the 2014 Golden Globes nominations were announced last week, we at Word & Film were tickled to see adaptations showing some major muscle among the competition. In a year that some are calling the best for movies since the “Gone with the Wind” era, these films are proving that when it comes to source material, the library or bookstore is a screenwriter’s best friend — and a television writer’s too. In anticipation of the awards, which will be held January 12, here are a few categories we’re going to be watching.
Best Motion Picture: Drama
In the prestige category, we’ve got a trio of adaptations in the mix. This fall’s “12 Years a Slave,” based on the autobiography by Solomon Northup, seems a good bet, given that the film raked in seven nominations, tying with “American Hustle” for the year’s most nods. But in addition to “Gravity” and “Rush,” the Steve McQueen-helmed drama will have to beat out fellow adaptations “Captain Phillips” (based on Richard Philips’ A Captain’s Duty) and “Philomena,” based on The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, by Martin Sixsmith, which has been picking up steam in the awards season (and also picked up a best screenplay nod for its star Steve Coogan).
Best Actress: Drama
If we stick to strict definitions of adaption, this category sees two actresses from across the pond vying for the prize — Judi Dench as the title character in “Philomena,” a woman searching for a son she put up for adoption decades before; and the dark horse, Kate Winslet, who earned the sole nomination for Jason Reitman’s film version of Joyce Maynard’s novel Labor Day as a depressive single mother. But if we’re a little more creative in our view of adaptations, we might also include Emma Thompson’s nomination as Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers in “Saving Mr. Banks” or Cate Blanchett as the title role in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” which may not have been adapted from A Streetcar Named Desire, but certainly found inspiration in Tennessee Williams’ classic.
Best Actor: Drama
“Captain Philips” and “12 Years a Slave” take their Best Picture rivalry to the actor race with Chiwetel Ejiofor and Tom Hanks respectively both favorites in this category. They’re joined by fellow adaptation star, Idris Elba, who was something of a surprise nominee for his turn as the recently departed South African leader in “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” based on the late president’s 1994 autobiography.
Other Film Races to Watch
The “Captain Philips”/“12 Years a Slave” showdown continues in the categories of Supporting Actor (Barkhad Abdi versus Michael Fassbender) and Director (Paul Greengrass versus Steve McQueen), and “12 Years” scribe John Ridley will be giving Coogan and his “Philomena” writing partner Jeff Pope a run for their money in the Best Screenplay race. Though it scored a best ensemble nod from the Screen Actors Guild, “August: Osage County,” based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tracy Letts, garnered only nods for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical for Meryl Streep, and a Best Supporting Actress nod for Julia Roberts.
The Best Foreign Language Film category sees a pair of comic books adapted for the big screen, with the controversial critical darling “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” based on the comic book Le Bleu Est une Couleur Chaude by Julie Maroh, leading the pack. “Blue” is joined by the Japanese entry “The Wind Rises,” a semi-historical animated film, about a pre-war aircraft designer, which Hayao Miyazaki adapted from his own manga.
And rounding out the big screen’s Golden Globes Adaptation Watch 2014, we can’t forget “Frozen,” the Disney cartoon musical inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, which is up for Best Animated Feature, or the two nominations for “The Wolf of Wall Street” — for Best Motion Picture — Comedy or Musical and Best Performance by an Actor in a Comedy or Musical for Leonardo DiCaprio.
Over on the small screen, upstart Netflix, which became the first non-TV network to win an Emmy earlier this year, continues its impressive awards season march, bringing in six nominations, five of which were for adaptations. The dramedy “Orange Is the New Black,” adapted from the memoir by Piper Kerman, took one for lead actress Taylor Schilling, and the dynamo “House of Cards” based on the British series that was in turn based on the novel by Michael Dobbs, tied for the most nominations of any series or program, raking in nods for Best Television Series: Drama, and a trio of acting noms for Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, and Corey Stoll.
Tying “Cards” in the Golden Globes pool was “Behind the Candelabra,” the Liberace biopic, based on the memoir by his young lover Scott Thorson, which garnered a nomination for Best Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television, as well as a nod to supporting actor Rob Lowe, and a pair of Best Actor nominations for its leading men, Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. Rounding out the small screen adaptation action, “Masters of Sex,” Showtime’s freshman drama about the sex studies of Masters and Johnson, inspired by the book of the same name by Thomas Maier, got a nod for Best Television Series – Drama, beating out favorites like “Mad Men” and “Homeland.” And “White Queen,” the Starz miniseries based on Philippa Gregory’s novel series The Cousins’ War, raked in a triumvirate of nominations with nods for the miniseries and actresses Rebecca Ferguson and Janet McTeer.