Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Biopics—Movies Based on Real People

1st Academy Awards 1929
1st Annual Academy Awards Presentation, May 1929
So, you’re working your way through the Academy Award nominees list in order to be prepared for the Oscars on February 22, and, in order to stay ahead of the curve and dazzle your friends, now is the time to read the books on which these movies are based. This year you’ll find lots of interesting movies based on real people, or at the very least, a combination of real people.

Imitation Game chronicles Alan Turing’s struggle, not only with the famous code that broke Germany’s unbreakable Enigma Machine, but also his post-war struggle with the law concerning his homosexuality. To find out more about his work, check out The Man Who KnewToo Much by David Leavitt and Alan Turing the Enigma by Andrew Hodges (the book that inspired the film).

Cover of Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon, follows Cheryl Strayed as she decides to walks the Pacific Crest Trail after her life falls apart following the death of her mother. Witherspoon wore the same backpack (nicknamed Monster) that Strayed used, so she literally felt her pain. Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed is the book the movie was based on and graphically describes Strayed’s travels and travails, such as her feet and her toenails (or the lack of them) by the end of the hike. It is definitely a page turner and the reader will look forward to finding out if Strayed's life turns out the way she hopes it will.

Unbroken is based on fighter pilot Louis Zamperini’s life and especially his internment in a Japanese POW camp during WW2 where he is driven to the limits of endurance by a guard obsessed with making Zamperini’s life a living hell. The movie is based on Laura Hillenbrand’s book of the same name. The reader will be put to quite an endurance test himself while following Zamperini’s trials, but, if you finish it, there will be a new word for his life: unbroken.

The Theory of Everything is based on the life of English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author Stephen Hawking who accomplished so much after a debilitating, degenerative disease robs him of his abilities to walk and talk, but not think, communicate, or live. Read Stephen Hawking : an unfettered mind by Kitty Ferguson or Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Hawking (the book  that inspired the film), which is available through Interlibrary Loan.

Cover of Then They Came For Me by Maziar BahariRosewater, featuring the directorial debut of Jon Stewart, is based on the fallout after Stewart’s 2009 interview on The Daily Show with Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-Canadian journalist. Bahari was arrested by the Iranian government citing this interview as proof that he was in direct communication with an American spy (Stewart). He was held for 118 days in the notorious Evin Prison and was blindfolded during the severe interrogations. The only way he could describe his interrogator was that he smelled like rosewater. Rosewater is based on Bahari’s memoir Then They Came for Me: a family's story of love, captivity,and survival, which offers a window into those turbulent times of student unrest in Iran.

Foxcatcher, another nominated biopic, stars Steve Carrell, in a departure from his usual comedic roles, and tells of the murder of an Olympic wrestler by the wealthy philanthropist and wrestling trainer, John du Pont. This film was based on Foxcatcher: the true story of my brother's murder, John du Pont's madness, and the quest for Olympic gold by Mark Schultz, with David Thomas.

Selma, nominated for best picture, chronicles the great 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. MCPL has many books on the Civil Rights era, including: The Civil Rights movement by Elizabeth Sirimarco; Down to the Crossroads: civil rights, Black power, and the Meredith March Against Fear by Aram Goudsouzian; and At Canaan's Edge: America in the King years, 1965-68 by Taylor Branch.

Seems like you have a lot to do before February 22… see all these movies and read all the related books. And don’t forget to ask your friendly librarian or consult our website for more information.

by lisa n

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