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'Precious' = Precious metal (Oscar gold)

September 12, 2009 |  3:01 pm

Precious toronto film festival

Based upon its awards sweep earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival and its buzz today after screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, "Precious: Based Upon the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" emerges as a serious Oscars contender.

Watch out for a lead-actress Oscar nomination for Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe and — possibly — one in the supporting slot for Mo'Nique. And maybe a bid for best adapted screenplay. Even best picture? That's not out of the picture considering Oprah Winfrey is executive producer and this movie is a knock-out — literally — as in it knocks the wind right out of you.

The crowd at the press and industry screening this morning was wowed by the film about an obese ghetto teen beaten by her mother and raped by her father (resulting in two children). I overheard lots of whispers of "Oscar! Oscar!" as we exited the theater, but, strangely, more for Sidibe than Mo'Nique. That's a surprise.

At Sundance, "Precious" won three awards: grand jury and audience prizes for best picture plus a special jury award for Mo'Nique's performance as the girl's vile momma. The latter laurel has sparked major Oscars buzz for Mo'Nique. But wait! She portrays a monster so scary that Oscar voters may resist embracing her. However, Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe cries out for a hug and her performance is so shattering and unshakable as a viewing experience that she's a serious contender for best actress — even to win.

Normally, gritty ghetto flicks like "Precious" get ignored by snooty Oscar voters, but this one has not only proven itself already as a trophy-grabber at Sundance, but it has top-notch campaigners behind it now, including awards strategist Lisa Taback and New York PR guru Jeff Hill. Distributor is Lionsgate, which pulled off the best-picture shockeroo for "Crash." All that plus Oprah! For an underdog Oscar contender like this film, nothing is more precious than that kind of team.

Photos: Mo'Nique (left) and Gabourey Sidibe. Credit: Lionsgate

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