TORONTO (Reuters) - "Precious: Based on the Novel Push
by Sapphire" won the top award at the Toronto International
Film Festival Saturday, giving the Oprah Winfrey-produced film
some early momentum heading into Oscar awards season.
The film, a gritty tale of the abuse and redemption of a
teenage girl in Harlem, captured the festival's People's
Choice award, which is voted on by filmgoers. Last year it
went to best picture Oscar winner "Slumdog Millionaire."
Critics have roundly praised "Precious" since its debut at
the Sundance Film Festival in January, and audiences in
Toronto warmly received the film, which is directed by Lee
Daniels and will hit theaters in November.
"I made this film for every person out there who ever
looked in the mirror and felt unsure about the person looking
back," Daniels, who is traveling in Spain, said in a statement
read out at an awards reception in Toronto.
In addition to "Slumdog Millionaire," past winners of the
award that have gone on to win the best picture Oscar include
"American Beauty" and "Chariots of Fire."
The festival, which wraps up later Saturday with a
red-carpet screening of "The Young Victoria," a look at the
British queen's early years, was notable this year for a lack
of distribution deals signed as the independent film industry
remains mired in a near two-year funk.
More than one-third of the more than 330 films screened
entered the festival without distribution deals, and barely a
handful were announced during the event's 10-day run.
Festival co-director Piers Handling said he expects more
deals involving Toronto-screened films to soon be announced,
but said the days of festival bidding wars were likely over.
"It's a combination of just an increasingly conservative
marketplace in North America, the recession, as well as a glut
of product," he told Reuters after the awards presentation.
"I think there will be fewer films being made."
Other winners included critics' awards for "The Man Beyond
the Bridge," an Indian production featuring the little-used
language of Konkani, and "Hadewijch," a French film that looks
at the possibilities and consequences of a devoutly religious
The audience award for top documentary went to "The Topp
Twins," which tells the story of a New Zealand lesbian country
and western singing duo.
(Reporting by Cameron French; Editing by
Susan Boyle chases Swift in
U.S. album chart nail-biter
Reuters, Dec 30,
2009 12:00 pm PST
Scottish singer Susan Boyle
narrowly failed to claim honors
for the year's best-selling
album in the United States on
Wednesday, but still has another
sales week to wrest the title
debut album "I Dreamed a
Dream" already the year's
best seller in
Britain, has sold 2.98
million copies after five
consecutive weeks at No. 1,
Nielsen SoundScan said.
"Fearless," the No. 3 seller in
2008, has sold 3.16 million
copies this year, giving the
20-year-old a margin of about
175,000 over Boyle. Nielsen
SoundScan's sales week ends on
Sunday, but it will include the
first three days of 2010 in a
53rd week for 2009.
Christmas shoppers snapped up
510,000 copies of Boyle's album
during the week ended December
27, giving it a wide lead over
the rest of the field.
R&B star Mary J. Blige's
"Stronger debuted at No. 2 with
330,000 copies. Swift's
"Fearless" rose one place to No.
5 with 224,000 copies.
of both Boyle and Swift, as well as
dance-pop singer Lady Gaga -- whom
Boyle replaced atop the year's
album-sales tally in Britain --
shows how heavily the music industry
relies on fresh blood to drive
overall U.S. album sales are on
track to end 2009 down about 13
percent, marking the eighth drop in
nine years. The recorded music
industry has failed to come to grips
with piracy as well as competition
from other forms of entertainment,
such as videogames.
rocketed to fame in April when she
appeared as a contestant on the
British talent show "Britain's
Got Talent." Shy and homely,
she wowed the skeptical judges and
audience with a stirring rendition
of "I Dreamed a Dream," a tune from
the musical "Les Miserables." Tens
of millions of people watched the
Youtube, and Boyle became a
worldwide star, her every move
dissected by the media.
she lost the final to a dance troupe
the following month, and was soon
admitted to a psychiatric clinic to
deal with exhaustion.
track listing on her album includes
the hymns "Amazing Grace" and "How
Great Thou Art," a cover of the
Rolling Stones ballad "Wild Horses,"
and a version of "Daydream
Believer," a tune first
popularized by the
released by Sony Corp's Columbia
Records label in partnership with
British music impresario Simon
Cowell's Syco Music. (Editing by