It's no surprise that "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire" won the people's choice award as best picture at the Toronto International Film Festival — just like "Slumdog Millionaire" did last year. The movie starring Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe as a physically and sexually abused ghetto gal had the most mega-buzz at the fest and swept several awards at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year — both the audience and jury awards for best picture (a rare accomplishment) plus an acting laurel for Mo'Nique as Sidibe's vicious momma.
Now the question is: Can "Precious" repeat "Slumdog's" Oscar success? Maybe, yes, but it doesn't have the same upbeat, joyous spirit of "Slumdog," which also tracked its lead characters out of ghastly ghetto life. "Precious" inspires hope, but doesn't make your feet fly with a rousing dance number at the end — that's the key difference. However, "Precious" will certainly be nominated for best picture now that the Oscar list has been expanded to 10, best screenplay and acting bids seem to be assured for Sidibe (lead) and Mo'Nique (supporting). Both gals have a terrific shot at winning. "Precious" may reap a bid for best director too.
"Precious" has some strong Oscar pluses: Veteran awards soldier Lisa Taback is managing its Oscar campaign; producer Oprah Winfrey is behind it, pushing hard; and its distributor is Lionsgate, which staged "Crash's" upset victory over "Brokeback Mountain" as best picture.
Futhermore, "Precious" has such a knock-your-block-off effect upon viewers that it's guaranteed to get quite a few number-one-ranked votes among the Oscar electorate. That's all that counts, of course, the way Oscar voting works. Doesn't matter if most other voters snub it completely.
Winning the people's choice award at the Toronto film festival doesn't always equal Oscar success, as past champs like "Bella" and "Zatoichi" proved, but it helped to push others in top derby races: "Amelie," "American Beauty," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "Eastern Promises," "Hotel Rwanda," "Tsotsi," "Whale Rider."
Photos: Lionsgate, Fox Searchlight, DreamWorks