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Movies/TV Last Updated: May 7th, 2010 - 11:35:51

Oscar's 'Precious' Monster
By Esther Editor and Film Critic
Mar 9, 2010, 12:07

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Note #1
Mo'Nique as Mary in "Precious"
The 82nd presentation of the Academy Awards featured, for the first time, a tribute to that loved/hated genre--the horror film. Watching frightening images from decades of films, including "Psycho," "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Dracula," it occurred to me how easily it would be to insert an image of Mary played by the comedian Monique in "Precious," one of the films nominated in the best film category. Mary is a gross, hateful monster who tortures her obese, illiterate daughter Precious physically, mentally and emotionally. She sexually molests Precious, as did her husband. She almost kills her many times over--and she almost kills her grandchild. This is the Black monster performance that won Monique an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, the latest Black monster performance to win, after Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker) for "The Last King of Scotland," Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) in "Training Day" and, in a more pitiful vein, Leticia Musgrove in "Monster's Ball," in which Lee Daniels debuted of his brand of claustrophobic Black horror. Of course, the role of Leticia also won Halle Berry an Academy Award. I have not spoken to any Black person who does not think that "Precious" represents a sickening horror but the film is obviously lauded in other quarters as some unflinching portrait of reality in our so-called post racial society. Monique, a hard-working entertainment hustler, accepted her award with poise and defensiveness, not acknowledging that the "politics" she protests is simply the Black community protesting the continued parade of and awards to Black monsters and horror.

Note #2
The idea that Lee Daniels is the first Black director nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Picture is a joke--and then, maybe not. Maybe Spike Lee should be that director. Or maybe Denzel Washington might even snag a nomination for "Antwone Fisher" or "The Great Debaters." Even if all of Lee's films have not been a home run, he is the Black director from the latest, arguably greatest, generation of Black filmmakers who has most consistently told the story of the Black community in all its many aspects--the good, the bad, the ugly, the defeated and the triumphant. Sure, this year's expansion of the Best Picture category, from five to ten nominated films, certainly helped "Precious" make the cut. With this luck of the draw and with his twisted tales, Daniels comports himself more like the spook who sat by the door and then rushed through it with just what he knew would please White people. So that is why, maybe, given the history and politics of the Academy Awards, perhaps it makes more sense that the process honors their boy rather than a man who not only stands up for his people but does not hate them.

Note #3
The image of producer Elinor Burkett bumrushing the mic when director Roger Ross Williams was accepting his Oscar for the short documentary "Music By Prudence" will ranks up there with the oddest of Oscar moments. According to, Burkett, a producer for the short, was removed from the production a year ago and, after a lawsuit and an out-of-court settlement, owns no rights to the film, yet she was still eligible to be considered for the Oscar. In documentary shorts category, only one person can accept the Oscar. The bumrush was even a hot topic on White talk radio the next day, with some calling it the "Kanye West" moment of the awards show. All I know is that Burkett looked and sounded crazy. And she obviously felt privileged and in a privileged space to do what she did.

Note #4
Finally, let's just face it: "Avatar" was just too fierce and James Cameron was just too on point in his championing of "different" people (of color) and his exposing of war, militarism and greed, for these folks at the Academy. After all, these are the same folks who could not see fit to nominate Michael Moore for his opus, "Capitalism: A Love Story," or nominate any of the aforementioned films of Spike Lee, such as "Malcolm X," "Bamboozled" or "Do the Right Thing." While "The Hurt Locker" was definitely a powerful film, there is no doubt that "Avatar" is the best picture of the year. The Academy just comes off looking like a bunch of haters at that $2 billion box office--and, even with the expanded Best Picture category, it looks as tired as ever.

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