The St. Louis international Film Festival, which opens Thursday and continues through Nov. 22, includes three movies that are expected to be among the ten Oscar nominees for best picture: “Up in the Air,” the corporate comedy that was largely filmed in St. Louis; “An Education,” the coming-of-age romance that opens the fest; “Precious,” which won the audience-choice awards at the Sundance and Toronto film festivals.
Locals are understandably excited about “Up in the Air,’ and “An Education” is my pick for the best film of the year; but it’s “Precious” that is shining brightest this week. In limited release in selected cities, it earned 1.8 million last weekend, setting a record for per-screen average.
It’s a harsh drama about an obese, illiterate teen mother, yet it’s been embraced by audiences, starting with Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, who saw it at Sundance and pledged their support as producers/promoters.
On Friday I spoke with director Lee Daniels (a Philadelphia native who attended Lindenwood College in St. Charles). Although he produced the Academy Award-nominated “Monster’s Ball,” Daniels’ previous and only other film as a director was “Shadow Boxer,’ a hitman movie that died a quick death at the box office. So Daniels said he’s not ready to rent a tuxedo for Oscar night; but with the best-picture field expanded from five to 10 this year, I think he’s got nothing to worry about. Ditto for co-star Mo’Nique, the bawdy stand-up comic who plays the mama from hell. The bookies are saying she’s virtually guaranteed the best supporting actress prize. (Judi Dench, you’ve been served.)
“Precious” screens for the fest on Saturday night at 7:30 at the Hi-Pointe and opens its regular run in St. louis on Nov. 20. Here’s the trailer: