The books that took the Oscars

Oscar winners "Crazy Heart," "Precious," "The Blind Side," and "The Secret in their Eyes" all took their inspiration from books.

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    "That is Bad Blake," author Thomas Cobb says he thought the first time he saw Jeff Bridges portray the character he created.
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They may not have been clutching golden statuettes last night – or anywhere near Hollywood, for that matter – but there is a another set of Oscar winners this morning and they have as much reason to celebrate as do the stars you saw on the stage. They are the authors whose books – "Crazy Heart," "Push," "The Blind Side," and "La pregunta de sus ojos" – inspired four of last night's winning films.

Behind each book-to-film transition lies a different story.

– The novel "Crazy Heart," written by Rhode Island college professor Thomas Cobb, had been out of print for 22 years before the film version of the book was released late last year. The novel, originally published in 1987, was Cobb's doctoral dissertation. (Cobb's adviser on the project: famed postmodernist author Donald Barthelme.) Cobb said in an interview last month that the process by which his book was made into a film was "a kind of remote mystery." But when it came to Jeff Bridges's Oscar-winning portrayal of Cobb's main character, Bad Blake, Cobb knew long before the Oscar judges that the performance was a winner. When showed a YouTube clip of Bridges at work, Cobb says he immediately thought, "[T]hat is Bad Blake."

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– "Push" is the novel behind "Precious," the film for which Mo'Nique took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. "Push" was the debut novel of American author Sapphire, who said she based her book on the true story of an abused young woman she met during the seven years that she worked as a literacy teacher in Harlem and the Bronx. Mo'Nique played the role of the young woman's mother. Published in 1996, "Push" won several literary awards.

– "The Blind Side" was inspired by Michael Lewis's 2006 nonfiction work of the same title. Lewis's book, however, had two points of focus. One was the story of Baltimore Ravens player Michael Oher, which inspired the film and allowed Sandra Bullock to create her Oscar-winning portrayal of Oher's mentor and adopted mother. The other was a consideration of changes in offensive football strategy, which fascinated football fans but – to no one's surprise – didn't make it into the film.

– The 2005 police drama "La pregunta de sus ojos" by Argentine writer and history teacher Eduardo Sacheri was the basis for "El secreto de sus ojos" ("The Secret in their Eyes"), the film that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film. Sacheri co-wrote the screenplay of the movie with director Juan José Campanella. The whole experience of seeing your novel made into a film, Sacheri said in a recent interview, is "strange, extraordinary ... difficult to express in words."

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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