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And the Oscar Should Go To…

We all know there are no new stories left in the world — hell, Shakespeare himself had trouble coming up with something original 400 years ago when he was writing Romeo and Juliet. But it’s a problem that is running particularly rampant over the movies today. There are the obvious: sequels, reboots, adaptations of the novel based on the Broadway play. But beyond those, every story we’re being told has been told before. Producers just dress them up in different clothes, or reverse the genders, or set it on the moon, and hope nobody notices. So while the Oscars have an official category to recognize adapted screenplays, we’re pulling back the curtain to recognize the debts all the other Oscar nominees owe to literature.

The Master / Going Clear

Zero Dark Thirty / No Easy Day

Django Unchained / The Count of Monte Cristo

  • A man spends years unjustly imprisoned, gains his freedom, then embarks on the single-minded pursuit of the bad dude who stole his woman? Could be Quentin Tarantino's newest genre-skewing blockbuster, sure, but it could just as easily be Alexandre Dumas's classic tale of revenge. While Tarantino's slave Django is freed by Best Supporting Actor nominee Christoph Waltz's German bounty hunter, Dumas's Edmond Dantes is unfairly sentenced to 14 years in prison by... some conniving so-called friends and has to break out on his own. Both set in times of political turbulence, both stories follow our heroes on their epic quests for revenge. But while Django's hunt takes him into a couple of small-time gang fights, Dantes's full vengeance takes years of life under assumed names, accumulating a massive fortune, and ruining the lives of multiple conspirators, driving one to suicide. Even Waltz's character has to acknowledge their mirror-image stories in the film, during a conversation with main baddie Leonardo DiCaprio. Advantage: Dumas.

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No / To Sell Is Human

Frankenweenie / The Island of Dr. Moreau

  • Of course Tim Burton's Best Animated Feature-nominated stop-motion kids' romp is based on Mary Shelley's granddaddy of corpse-reanimating horror stories, Frankenstein. But take a step back and you'll see that this tale of a young boy whose success at reanimating his dearly departed dog, Sparky, leads the neighborhood kids to try their hand at playing god with their pets, creating a pack of mutated monsters who wreak havoc on the town,... owes a lot to H.G. Wells's early grotesquerie, The Island of Dr. Moreau. Rather than by accident, Moreau's half-animal, half-human monsters, the Beast Folk, are created in the cold name of science. But both tales have the same, powerful message: Don't mess with nature, or nature will mess you up. Unless it's to get your best friend back, that is.

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eMusic Features

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Interview: George Saunders

By Amanda Davidson, Contributor

George Saunders's newest story, published only as an audiobook and Kindle Single, is told from the point of view of Fox 8, the title character who pens his tale of friendship and loss by way… more »

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