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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt

Precious: Based on a Novel by Sapphire

The glamour of the Oscars, where Gabourey Sidibewas nominated for her performance in the central role, would fit perfectly into the dream sequences of Precious: Based upon a Novel by Sapphire, from Lionsgate, and the Awards served as a sort of an emotional epilog to the movie, one that to some extent counteracts the greater likelihood of the protagonist’s fate. In the film, her character, pregnant and essentially illiterate, is accepted into a special educational and counseling program with about a half-dozen other girls. Over the course of the 109-minute feature she does indeed learn how to read and to keep a journal, and she betters her life enough that she is able to escape the hold of her extremely scary mother, played with a truly worthy and bestowed Oscar quality effort by Mo’Nique. The narrative of the film is a kind of disorganized jumble of classroom group therapy scenes and vignettes that in some ways could have come straight from To Sir with Love or something, but the film is an emotional construction, not a linear narrative experience, and these sequences supply the relief required to visit the abyss whenever Mo’Nique seizes the screen. It is the power of the interaction between the two actresses and the aria the older one unleashes in the film’s climax that make the movie a satisfying and memorable experience.

The picture is presented in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 1.85:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. The color transfer is okay, in that sequences with weaker contrasts or slightly off colors do not seem out of place in the poverty of the film’s setting. The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound services the late-Eighties musical score and otherwise presents the film’s audio in a competent manner. There are optional English and Spanish subtitles, a trailer, a 15-minute look at the author, ‘Sapphire,’ and her involvement in the film’s creation, a good 18-minute look at the cast, a 9-minute collection of interviews with producers Tylor Perry and Oprah Winfrey, an 8-minute conversation between director Lee Daniels and Sapphire, a 2-minute deleted scene that underscores the plot’s details a little too clearly, 3 minutes of Sidibe’s slam dunk audition, and an additional minute of brief but valid interview clips.

Daniels supplies a reasonably informative commentary track, as well. Although he freely shifts from referring to the people on the screen by their character names and by their performer names, he explains why various scenes were included, how they were staged, what kind of work he did with the actors, how he paid attention to the film’s Eighties period setting, and so on. At one point during a very intense argument scene between Sidibe and Mo’Nique,Mo’Nique pauses for a moment during her haranguing to clutch at her chest. A brilliant dramatic choice? Well, it seems no, it wasn’t, really. “When Mo’Nique grabs her chest right there, people don’t know it, but she’s really having, she’s start-we’re laughing, and it looks like she’s actually, you know, acting, and she’s in the moment, but we coasted through this movie laughing, because we couldn’t believe what was actually happening as it was happening, so there are many moments. Just know that as serious as this is, we were laughing, all three of us, Mo’Nique, Gabby and myself laughed throughout this entire tirade. Many of you won’t find it funny, but we laughed through the pain. It was a way to get to the truth.”

– by Douglas Pratt

Douglas Pratt’s DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter is published monthly.
For a free sample, call (516)594-9304 or go to his website at

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon