Friday, March 05, 2010

Oscar Predictions 2010

Well folks, the Oscars are just days away, and everyone and their mother thinks they know who is gonna win all the big prizes. I can't claim to be the best at the prognostication game, but I will let my record speak for itself: I have predicted more winners correctly than Entertainment Weekly 4 out of the last 5 years, and done better than anyone at my Oscar party every year except the year my 10-year-old sister guessed her way to a better score than me. For a complete list of nominees, check out the official Academy website here, then keep reading...

Let's start with the big categories:

BEST PICTURE
With new voting rules and double the number of nominees of any other category, this category is a little more difficult to predict than in previous years. However, we can go by process of elimination: The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, A Serious Man, and Up didn't earn Best Director nods, so let's assume they have something close to zero chance of winning. Also, Inglourious Basterds may be too bloody, and Precious too controversial for the typically older Academy voters to stomach. Up in the Air has failed to garner any of the major pre-Oscar awards (the semi-predictive Golden Globes, SAG, DGA, and Producers' Guild Awards). That leaves Avatar and The Hurt Locker. Although Avatar won the Golden Globe, The Hurt Locker has won every other award this season and seems likely to soon add Oscar to this list.
Prediction: The Hurt Locker

BEST DIRECTOR
This is actually much easier than Best Picture. James Cameron is not a particularly well-liked man in Hollywood, and the fact that his film was über-popular doesn't actually help him. Most voters will feel that his film's estimated $2,000,000,000 (that's 2 billion...with a b) gross is more than enough reward. Cameron's ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow, on the other hand, is likable, has made a film people enjoy, and has won several pre-Oscar awards. Consider this a sure thing: Kathryn Bigelow will become the first woman ever to win Best Director.
Prediction: The Hurt Locker

BEST ACTOR
All five actors gave very strong performances, and all are well respected and well liked. Clooney, especially, is considered to be a great guy and is beloved in many Hollywood circles for both his acting and his charity work. However, his role lacks a certain oomph (for lack of a better word) and doesn't have the emotional impact that Jeff Bridges has in Crazy Heart. This is Bridges's fifth Oscar nomination, and he's never won, so he's likely to be seen as overdue. Also, he really invested himself in the role, gaining weight to play the part of the alcoholic washed-up country music star (and showing off that new weight in his shirtless scene). Having won all the pre-Oscar awards, Bridges is definitely considered a lock.
Prediction: Jeff Bridges - Crazy Heart

BEST ACTRESS
This is (finally) a tougher category to predict! Meryl Streep has been Oscar's darling for many years now, garnering a record-breaking 16 acting nominations. This works in her favor as it obviously shows the Academy loves her, but many Academy voters take her for granted by now, even though she hasn't actually WON an Oscar since Sophie's Choice in 1982. So Meryl is probably the most deserving in the category, and although they gave great performances, Carey Mulligan and Gabourey Sidibe are both very young and should be honored just to be nominated in this category. That leaves Helen Mirren and Sandra Bullock. Mirren gave a stellar performance in a very obscure, barely-seen (and with good reason) movie. Sandra Bullock, on the other hand, gave one of her career-best performances, in a well liked, widely-seen film, and has garnered award after award this season. Bullock should be considered the slight favorite, but Streep could upset.
Prediction: Sandra Bullock - The Blind Side

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
There is no doubt in anyone's mind that Christoph Waltz as the sadistic Nazi captain in Quintin Tarrantino's brilliant Inglourious Basterds is the hands-down favorite for this award. His performance was both chilling and entertaining, a 1940's Hannibal Lecter. With the exception of Woody Harrelson, the other nominees just don't quite measure up as far as the impact their characters have on the plot as well as the audience. Harrelson probably deserves this award more, both for how out of character this role is for him and for just how well he pulls it off, but unfortunately almost no one has actually SEEN The Messenger.
Prediction: Christoph Waltz - Inglourious Basterds

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
The biggest surprise on Oscar night would be if the Academy gives the Best Supporting Actress award to anyone besides Mo'Nique. Her powerhouse performance tops all the rest, and she has won every award up until now. The only thing working against her is she has not always showed up to the awards shows to accept, nor is she the most likable or gracious person. That didn't stop the Academy from giving Sean Penn an Oscar last year, and it won't stop Mo'Nique from winning her first Academy Award this year.
Prediction: Mo'Nique - Precious

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
This is a very tough category to call this year, as the voting could go a few different ways. Best Pictures don't just happen, and so the screenplay and director's awards often reflect an acknowledgment of the aspects that have made a picture the best, so that would give the edge to the likely Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker. That said, the Academy occasionally decides to award some slightly more "out there" films in the screenplay categories (think Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). If the Academy tries to spread the wealth around a bit, Inglourious Basterds or even Up could win the prize. However, I give a slight (razor-thin) advantage to The Hurt Locker.
Prediction: The Hurt Locker

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Up in the Air was a great film, which unfortunately will get mostly ignored in the categories it's up in. It is sort of a comedy, and the Academy just never takes comedies as seriously as dramas. That said, the consolation prize for all those losses in the acting categories: a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.
Prediction: Up in the Air

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
This category isn't even fair this year. One film, and one film only, from the category was deemed worthy of a Best Picture nomination (an honor which only one previous animated feature, 1991's Beauty and the Beast, has achieved). Up is the only serious contender, and will win a much-deserved Best Animated Feature award. The film is both sad and funny, both side-splitting and heartwarming. No one can deny that it deserves its Best Picture nomination, and no one with any sense would bet against it for Best Animated Feature.
Prediction: Up

The smaller categories:

ACHIEVEMENT IN ART DIRECTION
Prediction: Avatar
Its visual beauty is the only thing this snooze-fest has going for it, and the Academy will award it accordingly.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Prediction: Avatar

ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN
Prediction: The Young Victoria
Never bet against British period dramas in the costume category.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Prediction: Food, Inc.
As the only film in the category to have a wide theatrical release, and having been a fairly talked about film, this one seems like the front-runner in this hard-to-pick category.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Prediction: The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant
It's topical and got decent press, but this category is anyone's guess and whoever masters the short films is sure to win the office Oscar pool.

ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING
Prediction: Precious
No reason, I just think it's the best one nominated, and once in a while, that should be enough to get you an Oscar.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Prediction: The White Ribbon
It won the Golden Globe, and it's the only one with a nomination in another category. Ajami could upset, as Israel has now gotten three nominations in a row and no wins, but that seems unlikely.

ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP
Prediction: Star Trek

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Prediction: Up

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Prediction: "The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)" - Crazy Heart

BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Prediction: A Matter of Loaf and Death
Hard to predict, but the one with the coolest name seems to win at least half the time...

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
Prediction: The New Tenants
If there were such a thing as buzz for a short film, this movie would have it.

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING
Prediction: Avatar

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING
Prediction: Avatar

ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS
Prediction: Avatar
This whole movie is one big visual effect. This completes Avatar's sweep of the technical categories while leaving all the big wins to the, shall we say, better movies.

I hope you enjoyed my Oscar predictions; feel free to make your own in the comments, and check back the day after the awards to see how I did compared to other critics and prognosticators!

MOVIE REVIEW: A Serious Man

Number of Nominations: 2 (Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay)
Availability in the US: DVD, Blu-ray

A Serious Man is a dark(ish) comedy from the masters of dark comedies: Joel and Ethan Coen. The plot follows Larry Gopnik, a modern-day Job who can't seem to catch a break: his wife is leaving him, his tenure at work is in danger, and his good-for-nothing brother is crashing on his couch and hogging his bathroom.

A Serious Man is more Jewish than my Bar Mitzvah; while I find the humor hilarious and entertaining, the film probably doesn't read to everyone. It succeeds as a niche film, and it certainly has aspects that those who may not understand all the humor will enjoy, but I doubt it has enough wide-scale appeal for even the Academy to award it either of the Oscars for which it is nominated.

The entire cast does an excellent job, though there are two supporting players who really stand out: Richard Kind (best known for TV's Spin City and Mad About You) as the free-loading, bathroom-hogging Uncle Arthur and Fred Melamed as Larry's wife's lover.

The script is both funny and touching, and the dialogue is clever and engaging. Although it is not the front-runner for Original Screenplay, never count the Coen brothers out in an Oscar race.

Grade: B+

MOVIE REVIEW: A Single Man

Number of Nominations: 1 (Best Actor - Colin Firth)
Availability in the US: In Select Theatres (Check Showtimes)

A Single Man is the story of George (Colin Firth), a university professor whose longtime boyfriend died in a tragic accident a year ago. Believing he has nothing left to live for, he has been going through the motions as if he too were mostly dead. The film follows George through a seemingly typical day in his life in Los Angeles.

Colin Firth gives an appropriately low-key performance as the still-grieving George. Though his performance is somewhat muted, his anguish and suffering are quite apparent from just looking at Firth's face when he interacts with people. Firth's inability to move on with his life is somewhat reminiscent of John Cusack in the excellent Grace is Gone.

It is difficult to write much about this film without including any spoilers, but suffice it to say there is some very difficult subject matter dealt with and it is done deftly and sensitively. The sharpest filmgoers will notice that the film's ending is actually foreshadowed in the first five minutes, but most will be at least somewhat surprised by its conclusion. One of the highlights of the film is its cinematography. The camera shots are long and brooding, and the color scheme—which changes according to George's mood—is deliberate and well chosen.

Overall, A Single Man is a sad but satisfying film which, although unlikely to win an Oscar this year, is certainly worth seeing.

Grade: A

Thursday, March 04, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: The Messenger

Number of Nominations: 2 (Best Supporting Actor - Woody Harrelson, Best Original Screenplay)
Availability in the US: None, Available for DVD Pre-Order

Remember when I said that Up in the Air's Ryan Bingham had the worst job in the world? Well, I take it back. The Messenger follows Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster), recently injured in the Iraq War, who gets reassigned as a Casualty Notification Officer and must go to the homes of fallen soldiers to inform their next of kin that they were killed in battle. Captain Tony Stone (Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson), a seemingly hardened Desert Storm veteran and master CNO, is tasked with training Montgomery. Montgomery and Stone clash as Montgomery faces an ethical dilemma: he's started to fall for one of the widows he notified.

Woody Harrelson as the "recovering" alcoholic captain is exceptional. In perhaps his best dramatic performance ever, Harrelson has mastered everything from the accent to the affectations. We can see Stone is a man who takes his job seriously and his life less so. The character's emotional climax is as real and raw as anything in film this year.

The screenplay of The Messenger is an intriguing concept which is almost fully realized. Exploring the lives of two people with such unenviable and yet important jobs is a fascinating twist on war films; while many films before have followed the next of kin of deceased soldiers, I've never seen one which followed the lives of the notification officers. The only thing the script lacks is a clear direction. It veers wildly off point several times and never really comes to a resolution.

Grade: A-

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: Coraline

Number of Nominations: 1 (Best Animated Feature)
Availability in the US: DVD, Blu-ray

In the tradition of Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride comes Tim Burton's latest stop-motion animated feature Coraline. Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) is an adventurous young girl who finds a secret parallel world through a hidden door in her room, but the seemingly ideal world has a few disturbing secrets.

Based on the beloved Neil Gaiman novel, Coraline is at times light and fun, and at others dark and scary. It is neither as good as Nightmare Before Christmas nor as bad as The Corpse Bride. Coraline has unique and interesting visuals and, as his first film to be originally released in 3-D, continues Tim Burton's tradition of pushing the boundaries of stop-motion technology. The voice actors are all quite capable, and the plot is enough to keep even the adults in the audience interested throughout.

Though unlikely to win an Oscar, Coraline is a fun diversion that kids and adults alike should enjoy.

Grade: B

MOVIE REVIEW: The Hurt Locker

Number of Nominations: 9 (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor - Jeremy Renner, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, Achievement in Film Editing, Achievement in Sound, Achievement in Sound Editing)
Availability in the US: DVD, Blu-ray

As the first film about the Iraq War to garner major Academy Awards attention, The Hurt Locker is sure to cause its fair share of controversy; the film is not, however, an opinion piece. The Hurt Locker follows the brave men of Bravo Company whose prime directive is isolating and defusing Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). After their original bomb-defuser gets tragically blown-up with less than a month left in his deployment, SSG William James (Jeremy Renner) is sent in to finish the rotation. James is a bit of a loose cannon who enjoys doing things his own way, which is a bit unnerving to the other members of his team and ultimately could have catastrophic consequences for them.

The concept of following an elite bomb-defusing crew is reminiscent of the excellent Oscar-nominated Israeli film Beaufort, and fans of that film will recognize some of the same outcomes. Jeremy Renner does a good job as James, and keeps you guessing whether he will survive from minute to minute. At one point, his emotions get the better of him and he nearly has a complete breakdown. He is particularly effective in the scenes where he is by himself either trying to understand some new IED or brooding over recent plot developments.

The plot is well laid out and, despite being somewhat of an unoriginal concept, still manages to avoid being too predictable. The other most notable quality of the film is its cinematography. The mise en scene is spot-on; not a frame goes to waste. War films sometimes lack good photography and tend to contain too many quick cuts and not enough deliberate, brooding camera shots. The Hurt Locker manages to intersperse both for a war film that feels more like a drama about people than an action film.

Grade: B

MOVIE REVIEW: The Blind Side

Number of Nominations: 2 (Best Picture, Best Actress - Sandra Bullock)
Availability in the US: In Theatres (Check Showtimes)

The Blind Side tells the inspiring true story about a homeless, emotionally damaged boy who—with the help of a caring woman and her family—pulls his life together and becomes a star football player. Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) is a young black boy from a broken family who is homeless and slowly failing out of school. Leigh Anne Touhy (Sandra Bullock) feels sorry for Michael and takes him in, gets him a tutor (Kathy Bates), and strong-arms the football coach into adding him to the team's roster.

Sandra Bullock is at her absolute best in this film, giving the strongest dramatic performance of her career. Though she's best know for slapstick-style comedies, Bullock's emotional depth is evident here. The audience will genuinely believe in her devotion to, and motherly instincts towards, Michael, and when she cries you will want to cry along with her. Aaron as the traumatized Oher is fantastic; I am not the only person I've spoken to who was surprised that he has received hardly any accolades for his performance.

The film as a whole is inspiring and entertaining. It's impossible not to root for Michael and equally impossible not to feel bad for the troubles he has. Some of the lesser characters' performances come off as a little two-dimensional, especially Tim McGraw as Leigh Anne's husband, who is at times a little too cheesy for the role. Overall, however, the film is thoroughly enjoyable and heart-warming.

Though Bullock is the prohibitive favorite to win Best Actress, I don't believe she is the most deserving. Her performance is, as I mentioned, a personal best but, as anyone who watched the Olympics for the past two weeks will tell you, personal best doesn't always deserve a gold medal. In my opinion, while it is a strong, nomination-worthy performance, Gabourey Sidibe or Carey Mulligan would be a more worthy recipient of the Oscar. As I mentioned though, this is Bullock's year, and she will likely take home the award. A Best Picture Win, however, does not appear to be in the cards for The Blind Side.

Grade: B+

News and Links 3/2/2010

With the Academy Awards just a few days away, a lot has been going on in preparation for the world's biggest awards show. Here are a few recent stories about this year's upcoming Oscars:

Following the announcement that three of last year's acting Oscar winners will be returning to present at this year's ceremonies, the Academy announced this week that past Oscar winners Kathy Bates, Barbra Streisand and Charlize Theron and past nominees Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Queen Latifah and John Travolta will be on-hand as presenters at Sunday's ceremonies. These seven big stars have four Oscars and 16 nominations between them.

Bates, Streisand, Theron, Downey Jr., Jackson, Latifah, and Travolta will be joining other announced presenters including Sacha Baron Cohen, Jason Bateman, Gerard Butler, Steve Carell, Bradley Cooper, Penelope Cruz, Miley Cyrus, Zac Efron, Tina Fey, Tom Ford, Jake Gyllenhaal, Taylor Lautner, Sean Penn, Tyler Perry, Chris Pine, Keanu Reeves, Ryan Reynolds, Kristen Stewart, Ben Stiller, Kate Winslet, and Sam Worthington.


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All of this year's Academy Awards nominees were honored in February at a luncheon held by the Academy. Fourteen of the twenty acting nominees joined over 100 nominees overall to participate in the celebration and receive their official certificates of nomination.

All the nominees in attendance posed for a group photograph, which is available in panorama view on the Academy's website. (Or in non panorama view here)


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The Academy has released its first ever app! The downloadable application is available for the iPhone and iPod Touch and can be downloaded from the iTunes app store. It allows users to watch trailers, access real-time Awards Night results, and make and share their predictions with friends through Facebook and other social media.

MOVIE REVIEW: The White Ribbon

Number of Nominations: 2 (Best Foreign Film, Achievement in Cinematography)
Availability in the US: In Select Theatres (Check Showtimes)

The German film Das Weisse Band (The White Ribbon in English) tells the story of a pre-WWI village where unexplained and disturbing events have begun occurring. The film is enthralling and flies by even though it weighs in somewhat long at nearly two and a half hours.

The White Ribbon is only the ninth predominantly black-and-white film to be nominated for Best Cinematography since the separate category for black-and-white cinematography was eliminated in 1967. It is truly worthy of the recognition. The White Ribbon was actually shot in color and converted to black and white digitally, and the crisp gray-tones are a testament to the painstaking work that was done. The most captivating feature of the film is its long brooding camera shots. The director chooses odd camera angles (outside a room, watching the action through a doorway, for example) to tell the story of the village.

I haven't seen the other Best Foreign Film nominees (I wish I could, but none of them are accessible to me yet) and therefore cannot make a valid comparison. I will say, however, that foreign films nominated outside of the Foreign Language Film category do tend to stand a better chance in the category.

Grade: A

MOVIE REVIEW: Invictus

Number of Nominations: 2 (Best Actor - Morgan Freeman, Best Supporting Actor - Matt Damon)
Availability in the US: In Select Theatres (Check Showtimes)

Invictus tells the story of South African President Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) in 1995, as he attempts to unite the post-apartheid nation behind its national Rugby team, the Springboks, in their attempt to win the 1995 World Cup. The captain of the Springboks, Francois (Matt Damon) meets with Mandela and comes out of that meeting with the mission to win the World Cup.

Freeman shines as the recently elected, previously jailed and oppressed Mandela. Anyone at all familiar with the South African revolutionary would say Freeman was channeling him. He brings warmth and meaning to a film which is on its face about rugby, but at heart about apartheid and reconciliation. Matt Damon gives his best performance in some time as the Springboks' captain. His dedication to the sport and belief in what he thinks is right shine through.

Overall, Invictus is an entertaining film with a good message. I never knew or cared a thing about rugby, but as in any good sports movie, Invictus rises above the sport and gets you rooting for the home team. Now I just need someone to make a film about curling so I can finally pretend to care about it.

Grade: B+

MINI REVIEWS: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen & The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Number of Nominations: 1 (Achievement in Sound Mixing)
Availability in the US: DVD, Blu-ray

The less-exciting sequel to Michael Bay's 2007 Transformers, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen picks up two years after the first film left off. Decepticons have returned to earth to find the remaining shard of the Allspark. The visual effects in this sequel are nothing too different from the original, and neither is the nominated sound mixing. I've admitted before that I don't know the difference between the two sound categories, but nothing in the sound effect of this film strike me as revolutionary or new from the first film. The effects are well done, and the sound is realistic and complements the visuals nicely.


The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Number of Nominations: 2 (Best Costume Design, Achievement in Art Direction)
Availability in the US: None

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus tells the tale of a travelling show set up by the immortal Dr. Parnassus to help him steal souls. The film is both trippy and visually stunning. While the plot takes awhile to grab the audience (I almost turned it off after half an hour), it eventually becomes quite entertaining. The strange costumes at times reminded me of the Oscar-winning costumes from Topsy-Turvy, but not quite as visually interesting. The art direction is gorgeous. The fantasy worlds that Parnassus's victims conjure up are breathtaking, especially on the big screen.

Monday, March 01, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Number of Nominations: 2 (Best Animated Feature, Best Original Score)
Availability in the US: None. DVD to be released March 29

Based on Roald Dahl's novel of the same name, The Fantastic Mr. Fox is a fun, at times overly silly stop-motion animated film. The story revolves around Mr. Fox, whose hobby of stealing chickens and alcoholic cider get him into trouble with the local farmers, who decide to seek revenge. The film is light entertainment that children will enjoy and adults will likely not hate. There is hardly any substance here, and the film is inferior to all the other nominees for this year's Best Animated Feature Oscar. The nominated score is catchy, but it is mostly overshadowed by the use of existing music, including several Disney songs, a couple Broadway standards, and a Beach Boys classic.

Grade: B-

MOVIE REVIEW: Nine


Number of Nominations: 4 (Best Supporting Actress - Penélope Cruz, Best Original Song - "Take it All," Achievement in Art Direction, Achievement in Costume Design)
Availability in the US: In Select Theatres (Check Showtimes)

Nine tells the story of famous Italian film director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) as he plans his next film while trying to balance his professional and personal life. He is unfaithful to his wife (Marion Cotillard) with the emotionally-unbalanced Carla (Penelope Cruz) and attempts to juggle both women and a creative staff for his film, all while trying to keep anyone from realizing he's yet to write a single page of the script.

Nine is overall a disappointing film adaptation of a musical which is mediocre to begin with. The cast aren't really to blame for a poor execution on the part of the director, Rob Marshall (best known for directing 2002's Best Picture winner Chicago). The film uses similar devices as Chicago to place all the singing squarely in the realm of fantasy, an increasing (and, I believe disappointing) trend in film musicals. The art direction is very well done and may be the best thing about this film. During the lavish musical sequences, the varying tones of the scenes are beautifully photographed. The nominated costumes are nothing special, and the nominated song, "Take It All," isn't even the best song written for the movie (that would be Golden Globe nominee "Cinema Italiano").

Penelope Cruz gives a great performance as Guido's mistress, but as the incumbent Best Supporting Actress (for last year's Vicky Cristina Barcelona) her chances are slim; back-to-back wins are rare—the last actor to do it was Tom Hanks in 1993-1994—and no one has ever won Best Supporting Actress two years in a row. Also working against her, Cruz's Carla just isn't that different from the role she won for last year; Academy voters likely won't see the need to give her another award.

Grade: C+

MOVIE REVIEW: Precious

Number of Nominations: 6 (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress - Gabourey Sidibe, Best Supporting Actress - Mo'Nique, Best Adapted Screenplay, Achievement in Film Editing)
Availability in the US: In Select Theatres (Check Showtimes)

The title character in Precious is an overweight, 16-year-old black girl who is pregnant, for the second time, with her father's child. Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) lives with her mother Mary (Mo'Nique) who is both physically and verbally abusive. Though she is not stupid, Precious doesn't do very well in school and ends up in an alternative school where she begins to flourish, despite her tragic circumstances.

Precious is a horribly sad, occasionally shocking film which succeeds instantly at grabbing and holding the audience's attention. There are moments that are almost certain to make most moviegoers teary-eyed. The story is well laid out, and the film seems to go by much more quickly than the nearly 2 hours it clocks in at. The film has a very interesting editing style which, at times, is reminiscent of Requiem for a Dream with its quick-cut camera shots. Interspersed with the action, often after Precious experiences particularly bad abuse from her mother, are dream sequences which have a very different filming style. These flights of fancy are what help to make Precious a likable, relatable character.

While the direction and script are spot-on, what really makes Precious an exceptional film is the acting. Sidibe, in her film debut, turns in a wonderful performance as both the quiet victim and the happy glamour girl we see in her fantasies. Mo'Nique turns in a powerhouse performance that audiences will find unforgettable. Her frequent screaming fits where she swears and throws things at Precious are so real and emotionally charged, audiences frequently gasp during several of her scenes. She is self-centered and oblivious to her own shortcomings; her final scene especially will have audiences shaking their heads.

Precious is without a doubt one of the best films of 2009. The film is everything a Best Picture contender is supposed to be: superbly acted, well written, engaging, and emotionally charged. Mo'Nique is practically a shoo-in for Best Supporting Actress, and Precious could also compete in Film Editing and Adapted Screenplay. Sidibe is likely to lose to one of the more experienced, well-known names in the Best Actress category, and unfortunately the Academy seems unlikely to recognize Precious in the Director or Picture categories.

Grade: A+