The literary beginnings of award-winning

Posted: January 26th, 2018 | Books, Columns, Featured, La Mesa Reads | No Comments

By Jake Sexton

As I type this, we are headlong into the 2018 movie awards season. We’ve had the Golden Globes, the People’s Choice, the Critics’ Choice, and will soon have the Directors Guild Awards, the Academy Awards, the Your Mom’s Brother’s Roommate Awards, and so on. But the multi-billion dollar movie industry leans hard on the world of books for its scripts, so we’ll look at award-nominated movies that existed first in the realm of literature.

Judi Dench and Ali Fazal starred in this year’s period piece “Victoria & Abdul,” about an unlikely friendship between Britain’s Queen Victoria and an Indian clerk named Abdul Karim. This Golden Globe-nominated film was based on the similarly named non-fiction book “Victoria and Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Confidant” by Shrabani Basu. An intriguing tale of court intrigue and racism, much of this pair’s history was hidden until fairly recently, and the book is based on these revelations.

“The Disaster Artist” is a new film in which Hollywood star James Franco depicts an eccentric outsider who can’t land an acting role to save his life. Franco’s character then partners with another struggling actor (played by Franco’s brother Dave) to make their own movie, which turns out to be truly terrible, before becoming an ironic cult hit. The movie was based on real events, covered in the book “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made” by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell. A combination of tell-all about a mysterious man and a memoir about the making of a legendary cinematic bomb, it’s also a story of unexpected friendship, loneliness and the lure of fame. In one of Hollywood’s greatest ironies, James Franco won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of one of its worst actors.

“Murder on the Orient Express” is an ensemble film directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, and co-starring Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, and Kenneth Branagh’s mustache. It tells a classic locked-door mystery about a shady businessman murdered on a moving intercontinental train in the 1930s. Of course, the movie is based on a book from famed mystery author Agatha Christie. The book was first made into a movie in the 1970s, and its protagonist, detective Hercule Poirot, has starred in a number of British movies and TV series. While the movie has some amazing actors, most of its award nominations are for art and costumes.

And finally, we’ll end with the least likely movie, this year’s animated hit “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.” This silly movie is about a pair of mischievous friends who use hypnosis to convince their school principal that he is their favorite comic book superhero, Captain Underpants. The movie is based on the Captain Underpants book series by Dav Pilkey, with plenty of cartoon illustrations and bathroom humor that hooked a young generation on reading. It is nominated for several “Annie Awards,” for animated films.

If you’re tired of looking at words on a page or images on a screen, come see some live music at our Second Saturday Concert this coming Feb. 10 at 1 p.m., from the piano and horn duo known as the San Diego Chamber Music Society.

— Jake Sexton is librarian at the La Mesa branch of the San Diego County Library. Call the library at 619-469-2152, visit in person at 8074 Allison Ave., or get information online at

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