Is “Precious” Going to Win An Oscar? Should It?

12/03/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Marie Biondolillo

The Independent Spirit Awards nominations are in, and “Precious”, “Last Station,” “Amreeka,” “Sin Nombre,” and “(500) Days of Summer” are all in the running for Best Feature.

This means that one of these films might be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, since the Spirit Awards best feature winner has been nominated for the best picture Oscar five times in the last six years.

Along with “Last Station,” “Precious” is a top contender for multiple Spirit Award wins. “Precious” already has racked up a number of awards at various film festivals, including Sundance and the Toronto International Film Festival.

“Precious” has received rave reviews from audiences and (most) critics alike, earning the endorsement of cultural powerhouses Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey. While some are critical of “Precious,” Oscar buzz around this film is strong--and it’s only getting louder.

But is “Precious” a truly exceptional film, or will it prove to be another “Crash” or “Slumdog Millionaire”? Both of these divisive Best Picture Oscar winners have disturbing parallels to “Precious.”

“Precious” is the story of an obese, illiterate 16-year-old African-American single mother from Harlem, who is repeatedly physically and sexually abused by her parents. Critical opinion on “Precious” is somewhat divided--most critics feel it is a strong, if flawed, film showcasing powerhouse performances by stars Gabourey Sidibe (who plays Precious) and Mo'Nique (who plays her unhinged, abusive mother Mary.) But other critics have complained that the film is heavy-handed, absurd and even exploitative.

Roger Ebert gave “Precious” four stars, calling it “a great American film,” while New York Magazine’s David Edelstein thought it was somewhat manipulative and the New York Press’s Armond White felt that “Precious” was as demeaning to African-Americans as “The Birth of a Nation.”

There’s an argument to be made that critics are praising “Precious” because, on some level, they think that praising “Precious” is “the right thing to do,” or that it’s “socially progressive.” White contends that “Precious” “offer[s] racist hysteria masquerading as social sensitivity”--and he’s not the only critic who feels this way. Dissenters argue that “Precious” critics are simply unwilling to think about the social injustices that still plague our communities.

This critical reaction is similar to the reception given “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Crash.” Like “Precious,” “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Crash” were praised for taking a hard look at social problems in milieus not normally examined by Hollywood. “Crash” examined latent racism among a diverse group of L.A. citizens, while “Slumdog Millionaire” was set in the slums of Mumbai.

Like “Precious,” both of these films acquired multiple nominations and awards, critical and popular acclaim--as well as almost equal amounts of criticism and controversy. “Crash” was dismissed by some as “manipulative and unrealistic,” while the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle accused “Slumdog Millionaire” of having a “gimmicky narrative strategy.”

Although both films beat out strong contenders such as “Milk,” “Brokeback Mountain” and “Munich,” some felt that the best picture Oscars won by “Crash” and “Slumdog Millionaire” were not quite deserved.

Whether or not the same fate will befall “Precious” will depend on Academy voters--and perhaps upon your point of view. Either way, one is reminded of Shirley MacLaine’s complaint that all the best women’s roles consist of playing “hookers, victims, or doormats.”

The Independent Spirit Awards will take place on Friday, March 5 in Los Angeles.

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Google
  • Reddit
  • Sphinn
  • Propeller
  • Slashdot
  • Netvibes