Friday, 23 October 2009

And so it begins.

A month ago I talked about which film would be the subject to the annual backlash in the run up to awards season.
Every year it is the same old story, one film always gets picked on. This usually happens to a possible front runner, or a film that has broken out bigger than expected (‘Slumdog Millionaire’, ‘Juno’, ‘Little Miss Sunshine’) and the commentators can tend to get really really nasty.

This year we are hardly into the awards season and it has begun. Sadly this time on, as predicted, ‘Precious’ a film that has been on the awards radar since Sundance, and whose buzz has only grown in the nine months since then.

This is also a film that has not even opened to the general public.

Regardless of whether I have seen the film, I do think it is unfair that this has started already. It reeks of white superiority, or perhaps that is just me.

There are pieces trying to damage Mo’Nique saying she refused to promote the film or go to any public appearance without a pay-cheque first (likely from the same publications that proclaimed their surprise that an over the top comic could act in a drama so well – like that never gets old)
Sure if she went out and schmoozed with the Academy they would most likely hand her the award, as the woman has charisma.

But to write articles about her alleged diva behaviour just draws attention away from the film.
Who cares what she does, or why she does it?
People to love to rip people apart - pick up any tabloid or (sadly) newspaper and see if I am wrong.
But what does the eyelash have to do with the butt crack?
I know it is totally na├»ve to think, but shouldn’t these awards in question be handed out because of the talent of a single performance, not because of who the person is, what they do, or where they come from.

Perhaps this is the point Mo’Nique is making.
If reviews and word of mouth is anything to go by, she has given the best performance by a supporting actress this year, so if she is not nominated or does not win, it will be nothing to do with the performance, it will be because she did not go out and kiss the collective asses of the Academy………and everyone will know it.
It may cost her awards, but the uproar will be remembered.

Then there are pieces saying it was shut out the Gotham Awards because of the Opera effect. (I personally believe these awards are a bunch of critics wanting to be seen as far from Oscar as possible. It is as much to do with films merit, as it is to do with not going with the general awards flow).

I think Oprah and Tyler Perry jumping on board has everything to do with getting people to see the film and hopefully educate them. I do not believe is has anything to do with getting the film to win awards.

There are many arguments, all of which can be read over here (pretty wonderful articles) at Ropes of Silicon, and over at Gold Derby

I agree with Brad Brevet when he says:
”Yes, I think there are people carrying torches and pitchforks when it comes to Precious, but the Winfrey and Perry connection is of little concern. Their involvement is going to benefit the film's box-office but it won't move the Oscar dial one bit. Instead, I think the film will be overlooked based on the fact it is a black film, set in Harlem and dealing with some tough, tough issues. To top it off it features two outstanding performances from black actresses that don't fit the Halle Berry mold.”
You could argue neither did Oprah or Whoopie when they were nominated for ‘The Color Purple’, but that was a film directed by Steven Spielberg, from a Pulitzer prize winning novel. The adaptation was high profile from when it was announced it was going into production, and easier to digest as it was a black film adapted by a book written by a black author, but with a white popular voice with director duties – yet that film won nothing.
And that was in 1985.
Since then the beauty standard has gotten so out of reach that the only way to obtain it is to go for major surgery.

Another argument is that apparently ‘Precious’ does not have much in the way of sentimentality.
I have heard the words “bleak” and “tough” constantly, mixed in with “glimmers of hope” which gives the film a sense of reality.
There is no huge sweeping emotional climax, and no fun dance number at the end to lift spirits.
Who wants to be reminded about the people they spend most of their lives trying to forget exist, especially when they have their popcorn and diet soda, sitting down in £8 to £15 seats, waiting to be entertained.
We have not paid this money to be told that the lives we constantly complain about are really not that bad in comparison to others who have it so much worse and who do not win the lottery and get the girl at the end.
I am more concerned with friends, family, my boyfriend or movies most of the time, and let’s be honest…we are all like that to some extent.

Perhaps I should comment on all of this after I see the film (this Sunday – no more peeps from me about it until then).
Who knows I may hate the film, but that will not change the reviews that are out there, the Audience Awards or the general love and respect the film and performances have received.

In the many many reviews and articles and comments I have read, I have seen the ugly side of people come out. From people saying the film is too black, to people saying fat people make them hurl. And those are the reasons people have given for not seeing the movie.

Read this very entertaining article from The New York Times Magazine where director Lee Daniels mentions some of the problems people have with his film, even within the black community.

In the end this backlash is just plain ugly, and I honestly believe hides a deep rooted racism/sexism/size-ism in people, all people, of all races.

I for one and still hoping it does well in the Awards race, but I am resigning myself that a growing smear campaign and peoples prejudices will do its damage. All I can really hope for it that this movie is seen by as many people as possible – which, for those of us who loved the film, would then have to thank Oprah and Tyler Perry for.


Afrika said...

What happened to Color Purple at the Oscars still makes me sick till this day. It was such a shame that they were snubbed like that. Oprah Winfrey's performance as sofia, till date, is one of my greatest cinematic performances of all time. That performance has haunted me for years now. I hope Precious doesn't suffer a similar fate come Oscars 2010.

Michael Parsons said...

I loved Oprah, but was more moved by Whoopie. But still after repeated viewings there are many things in The COlor Purple that are flawed, even in the performances (or should I say some line readings) but still is in my top ten films of all time. The emotional impact of seeing it when I was 13 still resonates with me.

For 'Precious' I simply cannot fault it. I have tried to do so in my head, but I cannot. When I say it has stayed with me, I jest not. I am currently emailing therapists and social workers to get a better understanding.

IF Lee Daniels wanted to educate people, he has certainly done that. I am learning things that shock me (even about myself).