Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Precious Bleeding Over

Can you have a pure reaction to a movie if you've already heard a thousand opinions about it? Probably not, as the annual conversation cycles of awards season illustrate. It starts with "my god it's amazing!" which quickly turns to "it's everything you've heard it was and more!". Eventually the "I liked it but..." hedging and the angry "it ain't all that!" begins. Well, you know how it goes. You've probably joined in dozens of these conversations yourself.

So we're already nine (!) months into Precious's pre release buzz and the movie is still nearly a month away from opening. I was practically biting my nails before my first screening of Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire last night. How to have a pure reaction when you feel like the last blogger/critic to see it? To calm my nerves before the lights went down -- I was seriously nervous. How silly is that? -- I sketched Clareece "Precious" Jones on my iPhone.


I don't know how "pure" my reaction is, given all that I've heard and read about the movie, but it's a stunner. I fought back tears several times. I left in a daze still enveloped in the movie (always a good sign).

The two central performances are dazzling and very different; Gabourey 'Gabbey' Sidibe gifts the movie with aching naturalism and Mo'Nique's actorly bravado brings the house down ...almost literally as she's very hard on the furniture. The actors shine but, that said, it's not a perfect film. There's too much in the way of gimmicky flourishes for my tastes and maybe too little in the way of pulling it all together in the end in a way that's fair to its own best qualities. But there's something about Precious that just bleeds with feeling and sincerity, its heart pouring into the cracks and sealing them up before there's any chance of the film breaking.

That's vague I know but you're already going to combating months of hype when you see it and I don't want to add to the problem... except perhaps by saying that Mo'Nique has already won the Supporting Actress Oscar. Someone somewhere will try to pretend it's a contest when 2010 rolls around but they'll only be trying to sell magazines or boost page views. Done deal.

45 comments:

Michael Parsons said...

And Gabby's chances? And what about Mariah??

So pleased you loved it.
I have always found that the imperfect films are the ones you really hold dear.

Joe Reid said...

Well you're certainly not the last blogger to see it. I'm trying to keep myself as pristine as possible for when I have to see it with the other plebes.

Michael Parsons said...

Good for you Joe.
I have gone and damaged myself by over hyping it in my mind, however I am fully expecting to go in and it not to be a perfect film, but one that will stay with me.

That is all I ever want.

11 days and counting.

adelutza said...

I had a similar reaction when I saw the film at Sundance, with no warning. Tears. I am very curious how I would react the second time around , though I'm not sure if I can go through it again.
Mo'Nique is the real deal and if she doesn't win the Oscar this year, the Academy has to rethink the whole process.
Not so sure about Sidibe though.

julianstark said...

Do you think that Gabourey Sidibe and Mo'Nique are the only actors in the film that will get attention? And what about Mr. Lenny Kravitz???

Dorian said...

Be glad you got to see it early at all before the rest of us commoners are allowed to view it for ourselves.

I'm thrilled that Mo'Nique's early praise was really justified. There'll be enough bitching about how she's not the "right" kind of person to win an Oscar, the little worth she's done prior to this, limited future prospects, and all that jazz from now until March, but at least if the performance is that good, it won't matter who she is for the majority of us.

I'm rooting for Gabourey Sidibe too! I like the see newbies blow people away with their performances. It would be crazy if she ended up winning an Oscar too.

Best picture/best director chances?

Seeking Amy said...

I'm glad you loved Precious, but like you, I want a "pure" reaction to it so i'm going to lower my expectations. Though the new trailer did give me shivers.

Slightly OT, but are you going to offer any tidbits on Broken Embraces? Has Pedro finally broken his hot streak with you since you gave it a B-? I'm really curious about your thoughts on Penelope's performance.

NATHANIEL R said...

julian i do. Mariah has the deglam thing going for (and they're suckers for that) but she's not in much of the movie and Paula Patton is sympathetic but not famous enough to combat no Oscar momentum and very very dominating work by Mo'Nique.

I'd bank on:
PICTURE, DIRECTOR, ACTRESS, SUPPORTING ACTRESS, ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
with a solid shot at EDITING and some other random category.

i'm not saying it deserves all of that (i haven't really thought on it long enough and there's so many other films) but i don't think Oscar will try and resist it in those 5 or 6 categories

Michael Parsons said...

More importantly, will it feature in the film bitch awards?

adam k. said...

A little sad that there's no contest for supporting actress, since whatever manufactured/fake "contest" people talk up will be with Julianne Moore. I guess she gets another non-win. But that's how I always thought it would go down.

NATHANIEL R said...

Michael -- yes. where though i haven't a clue just yet (so much left to see)

seeking amy -- i hope to. as you may have noticed i've been short on time lately.

julianstark said...

I agree with adam k. Julianne Moore will lose yet again. Then when her next nomination comes... she'll probably pull a Winslet. And how boring Actress/Supporting Actress will be that year :(

Jessica said...

so every year i wait for AMC's best picture showcase in January-ish, to watch all best pic noms one after the other. it really helps the accuracy of my predictions. with the 10 noms this year tho, i think i'm gonna hafta to see them separately. how are they gonna play 10 movies in one day? besides, there's no way i can sit a movie theater for 10 straight

eduardo said...

i'm so glad to hear Mo'nique's performance (and the movie itself)is not only hype. But at this point i'm extremely curious about Sidibe's performance

NATHANIEL R said...

jessica -- i've been thinking about that, too. Are they just going to scratch that series? I've never heard any numbers on that so maybe it's not lucrative for them enough to work around 10 features.

we'll see.

Lev Lewis said...

I wasn't expecting this. I didn't think you were going to like it much at all, but I'm a little more excited now.

I'm really interested to hear your thoughts on "The White Ribbon". Hope those come soon!

julianstark said...

I work at an AMC and I remember the Best Picture showcasing. I don't remember too many people being there. It was mostly older people too from what I remember. They'll probably spread it over two days or cancel it. More than liekly they'll cancel it

Aaron said...

I saw Precious recently too, and although I thought it was a great movie, I also thought I really didn't have a "pure" reaction to it, generally because I was already familiar with all the buzz around it.

Regardless, I was NOT prepared for the extraordinary emotional impact Mo'Nique had on me. She is absolutely phenomenal in it. Nathaniel, I can't really agree 100% about Gabby Sidibe. I thought she was great, but I almost felt like her performance was too natural. Half the time, I couldn't understand what she was saying. I know the filmmakers were aiming for a realistic approach to her character, but you still have to commnicate what you are saying to the audience.

I'm sure Gabby will receive a nomination, which is worthy, but she won't win.

Alexa said...

LOVE the sketch. DYING to see this.

NoNo said...

You think that your not going to have a pure reaction to the film! I read this book back and 9th grade and most of the people I know are a little bit upset that this is going mainstream.

Also, my friend is in it! I have to ask Nat, how was the girl who plays Consuelo, the mean girl in class?

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel,

You are most always correct when picking Oscar winners but I am very sad that Monique will most likely win over Julianne Moore. She is so much more deserving and has been robbed (Boogie Nights, Far from Heaven) at least twice. But so goes the Oscars. I could add that Streep has been robbed too many times to count.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of supporting actress...just saw "An Education" and damned if Rosamund Pike isn't flat out brilliant in a role that is so easy to dismiss. So much more is going on in the inner life of her "dumb blonde" than one would ever expect...and it isn't in the script, it's in her delicious performance. And compare this woman to her quiet, retiring beauty in Pride and Prejudice. Too bad this work won't be recognized...

Anonymous said...

How is Julianne Moore more deserving than Mo'nique? If Mo'nique's performanes is better ( which it probably is) then she deserves it more. This is based on performances not careers.

NATHANIEL R said...

anon theoretically it's based on performances. Except when it's not ...roughly 1/2 the time ;)

Anonymous said...

If you've been reading all the negative buzz following Mo'Nique's ambivalence about the Oscars than I would say it's not a done deal. She needs to be serious about campaigning.

Anonymous said...

that's true but Mo'nique has major buzz where Julianne doesn't. The academy would give it to Julianne if her performance is very good and the public also agrees on that but if there's a huge margin between the greatness of her performance and Mo'nique's performance then the academy won't be able to get away with it. I'm pretty sure the Academy's ratings can't handle pissed off viewers. Besides Julianne only has buzz cause she's Julianne in a good film, not to mention most of the buzz is going to Colin where as "Precious" could be a very successful film giving Mo'nique even more exposure and fans.

NATHANIEL R said...

anon 7:21. I'm aware of the negative buzz and Mo'Nique's sometimes self sabotaging stuff. But in the end i really don't think it's going to matter. It's exactly the type of performance that seizes awards. Plus it will probably actually deserve them (give or take a performance or two. we'll see... three more months to complete before we know)

Juno101 said...

does Mo'nique in Precious remind anyone of Kathy Bates in Misery?

Nate said...

Glad you liked it,regarding the negative buzz on MoNique (depending on how true it is of course)I sort of like how she doesn't care about campaigning.

Glenn said...

She hasn't been "campaigning" at festivals. Ya know, festivals that don't need her there to sell tickets. I'm sure she'll appear on a chat show or two when the film actually gets released.

Jil said...

Well, just two weeks ago Mo'Nique was on the Today show and Rachel Ray and she talked quite a bit about the film.

NATHANIEL R said...

Jil and Glenn yeah, we'll see a lot more of Mo'Nique come November. She's not stupid. She'll campaign. She just hasn't quite done it in the way people seemed to be expecting I guess.

I'm actually grateful. The film has been overhyped to death. as stated in this post by the time the film is actually seen by the public they'll have been hearing for 10 MONTHS about how good it is. If you ask me that's too much. It's a shame they didn't trust the movie more. It's the type of thing that would have gotten Oscar nominations even if they'd released it in March.

Dorian said...

Mo'Nique has to deal with her own talk show now. That's taking priority over appearing at festivals that don't necessarily need her to be there, unpaid appearances, and nothing that Oscar voters will take notice of. When it's later on in the game, she'll do the campaigning that's required of her. She's no fool. She's playing this game her way, and I dig that.

Bobby P. said...

Saw this yesterday and I absolutely agree with every word of this article.

Chris Na Taraja said...

OMG i saw the trailer yesterday and almost started weeping. I was just seeing BAD HAIR, which was good, and i didn't expect PRECIOUS. having not even seen the film yet, I have a feeling the oscar buzz for acting will be all PRECIOUS this year.

Anonymous said...

I saw the movie last night at the new yorker festival... some parts i dont remember because it was so intense i might have to see it again because im not really sure what happens at the end... but i def think mo'nique should win with out a doubt... and its possibly top 3 performances of all time... it would be a shame is she didnt recieve the award... AND I PRAY to god she does some campaining! lets say if she dosent campain, do you think it will hurt her chances?

Anonymous said...

sorry a couple of more things to add.. i acctually believe the story was great and actually got to the point if im reading what you said before, "it's not a perfect film. There's too much in the way of gimmicky flourishes for my tastes and maybe too little in the way of pulling it all together in the end in a way that's fair to its own best qualities". maybe you can fix the words. you and i know that gabbie's chances of winning this year? and even best movie? do you believe that lee daniels can get a best director for this? amd the most important question is, can anyone really contend with mo'nique for best supporting actress? answer as soon as you can! thanks so much

Anonymous said...

oh wait one more question... was mo'niques performances one of your top 5 performances on screen?

Timothy said...

Ooooh, Gabourey's picture is in your banner! You must really dig her to do something like that! Get your Oscar nomination, Gabby!

NATHANIEL R said...

anon 11:02 (please sign name anonymous people!) Don't believe the drama queen media when they say Mo'Nique won't campaign. It's in her best interests to do so and she seems to be rather career focused, doesn't she? she'd be crazy not to and I would be shocked if she didn't.

as for "fixing my words" i'm not sure what you mean since I stand by everything I said in the post. I just didn't want to explain in too much detail because it'll be a lot more interesting to discuss once a lot of people have been able to see it (so annoying that they're waiting for November)

No, Mo'Niques performance is not in my top 3 of all time. She's pretty great in it but you're talking about 100 years of cinema! But anyway... I never can judge new performances up against old ones like that until a year or two has gone by.

Timothy I don't imagine they'll snub her... one reason being that on the campaign trail it will be very clear to voters that she wasn't playing herself. Looking at interviews with her already she sounds different than Precious, she acts different than Precious and she definitely seems to have a lighter soul. They'll understand it's a performance.

Kurtis O said...

Were we inhabiting the same body during our respective "Precious" screenings? Because here are some details about my experience:
- Extreme pre-show nervousness: check.
- Stunned (at times): check.
- FULLY convinced of Mo'Nique's Oscar win: check.
- Wary of an "impure" reaction: check (and I was in the company of a sea of groupthinkers, all of whom were cheering on Lee Daniels, who was present at the screening).
- Post-show daze: check; however, I'd describe myself as having been in a bit of a fog, as I was through much of the movie.

Overall, though, I was very impressed. I wasn't anticipating the movie having such a strong and imaginative visual style. It felt to me like an auteur's film, for sure. And Mo'Nigue...G-O-D...just astounding.

Joseph said...

I saw Precious at the New Yorker festival as well. Lee Daniels said afterwards in the Q&A that he had many girls in the casting sessions that WERE Precious. He thought if he cast one of them, then he would be using them in some way. He casted Gabby cause she was so unlike Precious - spoke like a "valley girl" and he wanted someone to act the role. She is my favorite to win Best Actress. I was really blown away.

Anonymous said...

I just came back from seeing this movie and Mo'nique was incredible!!! I thought her performance was dead on and Oscar Award-Winning!
The new actress was great, too. But, I don't know how she compares, since she is brand new.

MO'NIQUE SHOULD GET THE OSCAR FOR THIS ROLE! SHE WAS PERFECT!!!

Amanda Pellis said...

I just came back from seeing this movie. Mo'nique is incredible and a definate Oscar winner. The new lead actress is wonderful, too. But, honestly, I was really surprised and stunned at Mo'niques' ability to act. If she doesn't get the Oscar, an injustice will have been served.

Amanda Pellis said...

OSCAR WINNER- MO'NIQUE!!!

I have never seen her act in this way. She was dead on as a welfare abusing mother.

The new actress was also good. Although, I can't compare her acting to anything else because she is new to the seen.

Mo'nique really stole the show. Without her, I don't believe the movie would have had the impact it had on me.