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Precious in the Age of Obama

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I have not stopped thinking about Precious since I saw it
almost a week ago.  This is a movie that unleashed many emotions, many
that have been hard to articulate properly.  Here are some of the
things I've been pondering (more on the film's content to come
tomorrow).

Could this film win the Best Picture Oscar?  Now, I'm no Oscar
expert but this film has basically won every award at the film
festivals it has been a part of since the premiere at Sundance last
January.  It wins audience and critics awards.  It gets
standing ovations.  (It was however shut out of the Gotham
nominations).  It seems that lots of folks (at least those who go to
film festivals) love the film. The film rolls out this weekend in
Atlanta, Chicago, NY and LA and will then expand in the coming weeks.

The question is, can Precious become this year's Slumdog Millionaire
It's the same type of hopeful movie that can make people feel good
about themselves when things around them are still pretty shitty.  But
keep in mind Slumdog was about kids from another country.  What they went through is something we can't, and don't, imagine happening here.

But Precious is about US.  It is about this country. 
It is about people here left behind.  Even though it is based on the
novel by Sapphire and set in 1987 NYC, it still feels real and
present.  That's why it is breaking hearts everywhere.  You look at
Precious and see Hurricane Katrina all over again.  You look at
Precious and you see things you don't necessarily want to see but need
to see.

We might be a year into this Obama experiment but the reality of
women's lives - of women who could be like Precious - have not changed.

This is not an easy movie to watch.  And that's one of my big
concerns.  It hammers at you and then it hammers again.  It may end
hopeful, but it is a tough and brutal slog.  You need to come in with
the right mind set and I am just wondering if the Oprah watching
minions are going to take the leap to see this film.  Are they (we)
ready to confront the racism and classism and abuse that happens here
every day? I just don't know.

This film needs women to see it to be successful.  I think it will be
even harder to get men in the door because of the Oprah endorsement. 
Oprah = women.  This is not a slam dunk by any means.

Let's also remember that the writer (Geoffrey Fletcher) and director
(Lee Daniels) of this film are men.  That still so bothers me.  It
wouldn't bother me as much if the film's roll out had not become the
Lee Daniels show.  So much of the press has been about him (especially
the NY Times Magazine piece called "The Audacity of Precious"
which should have been called "The Audacity of Lee Daniels.")  Granted,
the film would not have gotten made without his vision and fortitude,
so congrats to him.  But in lots of the press he comes of as this
Svengali-like character who orchestrated these women into his perfect
picture.  It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  I wonder what the
whole roll out would be like with a female director.  He got the chance
to direct because he secured the financing and got Sapphire to trust
him.  That's a big deal, especially for someone with only one awful
film Shadowboxer under his belt.  The good news is that the
press folks have realized that Gabourey Sidibe is a secret weapon for
them and now she is doing some great press.

The thing about Precious that is important to note is the
conversation that it has created and will hopefully create all over
the country in the coming weeks.  This is a movie about an obese,
black, illiterate, abused, pregnant young woman who refuses to count
herself out even though many people have already written her off.  The
fact that this is getting a mainstream release and is also seriously in
the Oscar hunt makes me hopeful for a business where so much of the
talk is usually about how much money the latest crapfest made the
previous weekend.  So while Precious' story is a hopeful tale for all
of us, the fact that Precious even exists is a hopeful tale for the movie business.

Originally posted on Women & Hollywood

Around the Web

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (2009)

YouTube - 'Precious' Trailer HD

The Audacity of 'Precious' - NYTimes.com