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Top Oscar bloggers respond to backlash against 'Precious'

October 21, 2009 |  7:35 pm

The shocking omission of "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" from the list of Gotham Awards nominees has triggered an uproar. Does this mean that there's a backlash against the likely Oscars contender since it swept top awards at the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals? Will it reverberatePrecious reax oprah winfrey tyler perry Oscars at the Oscars? Or is this just one of those ridiculous, irrelevant side shows we should all just ignore because it's a fluke — a case of huffy film critics acting stubbornly against a popular trend when permitted to decide the nominees of an awards group?

Lou Lumenick of the New York Post expands the puzzle further, wondering if this slap against "Precious" might even be a potshot aimed at its executive producers Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry. Read Lou's full noodlings here. Read more about the whole "Precious" flapdoodle in this Gold Derby overview article plus in comments from posters in our forums.

Gold Derby asked other esteemed Oscarologists what they thought about this possible "Precious" backlash. Here's what they wrote back published in the order in which I received the emails:

JEFF WELLS, HOLLYWOOD-ELSEWHERE.COM — If there's a "Precious" backlash — "if," I say — it's due to the oppressively ugly, emotionally sadistic vibe generated by Mo'Nique's "mom from hell" character. It's a movie about compassion and, at the end, a ray or two of light breaking through the clouds, but the cruelty we are obliged to endure (along with poor Gabby, of course) is quite awful to absorb.  Mo'Nique sells malicious monsterhood like a champ.  So if — IF — there's a certain hesitancy or resistance to "Precious," it's that.

STEVE POND, THE ODDS, THEWRAP.COM — I suppose there might be a slight film-snob bias that says a movie loses some of its indie credibility when it's embraced by figures as mainstream as Oprah and Tyler Perry. But unless that bias is backed up by some kind of feeling that the movie doesn't deliver the way its staunchest admirers insist it does, I don't see it affecting the Gotham voting. Hell, even film critics could handle Oprah loving the movie if they really loved it too. I don't think any of the critics on the Gotham panels have yet gone on record about "Precious"; my guess is that when they do, we'll see some qualms that have nothing to do with Ms. Winfrey.

If Oprah does devote a full week to the movie, and if those shows come across as heavy-handed overkill, then we might legitimately see an Oprah backlash. Then again, since when do film critics and academy members watch Oprah?

Oprah precious

SASHA STONE, AWARDSDAILY.COM — I agree that the backlash is so miniscule it won't really matter in the long run.

I think sometimes bloggers and journalists get caught in a vacuum when a film has been seen by many who cover this stuff but not yet seen by, much less released to the general public.  Once the movie is seen and there is actual buzz instead of fake buzz it will be easier to tell how the film will do overall, and with the academy.

As far as Oprah goes, I don't think Oprah's word and Oprah's word alone can ever really push a film in or out of the Oscar race. It doesn't matter how much breathless coverage there is, how many great reviews — and in some cases, bad reviews — if it strikes their fancy, they vote for it. If it doesn't, they don't.  

Although I suppose the case could be made that since Oprah has delivered a few bombs that people might think, oh great, here comes another bomb — but the truth is, "Precious" is NOT "The Great Debaters," which was schmaltzy and went nowhere.  "Precious" has already won the audience award at Sundance AND at Toronto.   That is why it isn't at the Gothams — they seek to be unique. 

BOB TOURTELLOTTE, REUTERS -- There's probably a bit of a snub and may well be tied to Oprah and Perry signing on. I don't "know" that, but I'd believe it. And I understand the logic. Gotham has consistently awarded the "truly independent," which as you know is raising money on your own and working outside the mini-majors and specialty wings. At first, "Precious" or back then "Push" would fall into that vein, but along come Sundance and then Oprah and Cannes and Perry and Lionsgate and it begins to have the feel of a bigger movie, one that has a certain amount of cache and name value and departs from the "truly independent" arena. So, yes, if you or Lou told me it was snubbed because Oprah and Tyler Perry signed on, I'd believe it.

"Precious" is good enough, I think, to rise above any negative impact the reverse Oprah Effect might have.

GREG ELLWOOD, HITFIX.COM — Ludicrous, I would suggest he take a serious look at the previous winners in this category. The Gotham Awards are hardly a barometer on who will or won't get nominated for an Oscar. More importantly, "Precious" plays. You don't win the audience award at both Toronto and Sundance and the grand jury at Sundance without winning people over. Can you remember the last film that played at all four major festivals?  Backlash?  Please. Another four weeks and someone will be stupidly proclaiming "Avatar" will win best picture. Ridiculous.

SUSAN WLOSZCZYNA, USA TODAY — This is much ado about an award that really only represents whatever is the mindset of the critics who nominate the contenders. It might be weird they decided to overlook "Precious." But unless you watch "Oprah" everyday — and I think most still-working journalists and critics are probably too busy doing their jobs to do so — and have kept a tally of how many times she has touted "Precious," I don't see how having Oprah and Tyler Perry back the film is a minus. I thought they were getting involved not so much to win the film Oscars, but to make sure America, especially their particular constituencies, would want to see a film that on the surface sounds like a real downer. Box office, in other words.

This is also an indication that there is little to write about the Oscars right now besides wondering if Adam Shankman is going to make John Travolta wear his Edna fat suit again and pretend he is one of the muses from "Nine." Basically, "Australia" stunk and no amount of Oprahizing could change that. And I believe "Precious" has the goods and especially the performances to get recognized by the awards that truly count. Critics are not Oscars voters and that is that.

Besides, I thought the early bird National Board of Review was the suspect group used to project a film's chances at the Oscars, not the Gothams.

SCOTT FEINBERG, AND THE WINNER IS ... — I think the folks behind "Precious" need to worry less about an Oprah-backlash than a violence-backlash. I guarantee you that a large segment of the Academy -- much of which is still comprised of older and more conservative folks -- will leave screenings, turn off screeners, or not ever check out the film at all because of its shocking violence, vulgar language, and upsetting scenarios. The thing that attracted Oprah, Tyler Perry, and others to the film is the message that the film leaves you with: that no person is bound by their circumstances and every person has the power within themselves to rise above them. That's a message that nearly voter would embrace... the problem, I suspect, is that they may not ever get far enough into the film to hear it.

Photo: Lionsgate

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