Tuesday, 1 December 2009

'Precious' Spirit Award nominations

It's the beginning of December and I feel like 2009 just flashed by me. Truth be told, I absolutely love this time of year because my version of Christmas is watching the unfolding of the movie awards season. As the year draws to an end, the road to Oscar unofficially begins, even though Oscar nominations aren't announced until early February and the actual ceremony isn't until March 7th, 2010. Actually, for an Oscar fan like me, someone who enjoys handicapping the entertainment industry's highest honors, Oscar season is all year round but it's around this time every year that contenders start to come into focus and pretenders fall by the wayside. On Tuesday, the nominations for the 2010 Spirit Awards were announced. These awards honor achievements in independent, US-funded cinema.

'Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire" and 'The Last Station' lead the field with five nominations each. 'Precious', the story of an abused and illiterate Harlem teenager who struggles to find a better life, is the frontrunner for the Best Picture Oscar. The movie has been collecting accolades and great acclaim ever since it was premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January. 'The Last Station' is an account of the battle over the estate of Russian literary giant Leo Tolstoy between the man, played by Christopher Plummer, and his wife, played by Helen Mirren, who has already won the Best Actress prize at the Rome Film Festival for her performance. Both are nominated, with the latter competing against Gabourey Sidibe, the young lady making her professional acting debut playing the eponymous role in 'Precious', in the Best Actress category.
Because the Spirit Awards specifically recognize lower-budget films, success here doesn't necessarily translate to success at the Oscars...but it certainly doesn't hurt a leading contender's Oscar chances and, if anything, only adds to the momentum of award frontrunners. Furthermore, there tends to be quite a number of overlapping in the acting categories between the Spirit Awards and the Academy Awards, ever since Oscar got more hip and wiser to the quality of independent film, especially in telling stories that are character-driven; the kind of meaty opportunities that every actor craves. Just last year, Spirit Award nominee Sean Penn, for Best Actor for his work in 'Milk', went on to win the Oscar. This year, there are several nominees at the Spirit Awards who will likely contend at the Oscars. They include the aforementioned Gabourey Sidibe and her co-star Mo'Nique, who portrays the title character's abusive mother, one of the most horrific parental figures ever committed to celluloid, for 'Precious', Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer for 'The Last Station', Woody Harrelson and Samantha Morton for the Iraq war on the homefront movie 'The Messenger', Colin Firth in iconic fashion designer Tom Ford's directorial debut 'A Single Man' and the current frontrunner for the Best Actor Oscar, Jeff Bridges for 'Crazy Heart'.
One performance that was surprisingly omitted from these nominations is Mariah Carey's performance as the social worker who helps the title character to confront her domestic hell in 'Precious', which has been generating a great deal of Oscar buzz for the diva, due to the transformative nature of her role and the revelatory potency of her subtle turn. Carey has already won one award for her work in 'Precious', the Breakthrough Performance Award from the Palm Springs Film Festival. I believe that her journey from making one of the worst-received film debut of all time in 'Glitter' to Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for 'Precious' will continue because it is clear that the Oscar momentum for 'Precious' will continue to grow in the next few months. No doubt, Mariah will benefit from all the attention the movie is getting. If there is one thing that the Academy loves more than recognizing a good, deserving performance, it's recognizing a good, deserving performance given by someone with a personal trajectory of redemption and triumph over adversity. Now, that's definitely our Mimi!

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