Is there a ‘Precious’ in this year’s Sundance lineup?

Posted by · 7:16 am · January 27th, 2010

(from left) Chyna Layne, Amina Robinson and Gabourey Sidibe in PreciousWhen (at this stage, I think it’s safe to say “when”) “Precious” and “An Education” land Best Picture nods on Tuesday morning, there will be an interesting trivia note to attach to the occasion: they’ll be the first Sundance competition entries since 2001 to make it all the way to Oscar’s top race.

Indeed, “Precious” will be the first Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner ever to score a Best Picture Oscar nod in the festival’s 25-year history.

These are two interesting stats that aren’t mentioned in AP writer David Germain’s story on the relationship between Sundance and Oscar, which casts a more positive gaze on the number of overlaps between the two. And he’s right to an extent: the past decade alone has given Oscar-watchers plenty of reason to keep a close eye on Sundance.

In the eight years since “In the Bedroom” became the last Sundance contender to crack the Best Picture lineup,  Sundance has presented a number of future Oscar contenders in acting and writing categories, including “Maria Full of Grace,” “Hustle and Flow,” “Junebug,” “The Squid and the Whale,” “Half Nelson” and, most recently, “Frozen River.”

It also turns up documentary contenders on an annual basis — in 2008, its two top doc winners, “Man on Wire” and “Trouble the Water” went on to lead the Oscar race.

Meanwhile, the Oscar success out-of-competition Sundance premieres like “Little Miss Sunshine” and “An Inconvenient Truth” further the festival’s strike rate.

Still, the fact that it’s taken this long for a Sundance champion to enter the top Oscar race — and that only three others (“Frozen River,” “American Splendor” and “You Can Count on Me”) have been graced with Oscar attention at all — points up the very different ideals of festival jury members and the so-called “steak-eaters” in the Academy’s ranks.

There’s a world of difference between palatable, star-driven indies like “Little Miss Sunshine” that make the crossover easiest, and no-name, no-budget fringe efforts that struggle for attention even with Sundance gold under their belt. (Raise your hand if you saw “Quinceañera” or “Forty Shades of Blue.” I’m betting few of you are Academy voters.)

In that respect, the manner in which “Precious” — a minority-focused film with some unsavory subject matter, and no prestige names attached — has followed through on its Sundance success does represent a breakthrough of sorts. With the Best Picture field at the Oscars having been broadened, could it pave the way for more modest Sundance hits? (“Frozen River” might well have found its way into a field of 10 nominees, after all.)

Chances are it could be a fluke. So far, some well-reviewed narrative features (“Cyrus,” “Winter’s Bone”) have surfaced from this year’s Sundance crop, but documentary “Catfish” seems to be the biggest talking point so far. Nothing yet is generating the level of crossover buzz that “Precious” or “An Education” enjoyed this time last year. Let’s see.

→ 15 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

15 responses so far

  • 1 1-27-2010 at 8:05 am

    Ziyad Abul Hawa said...

    What about the Winterbottom pic? I heard it’s kind of a Precious + Antichrist + No Country for Old Men?

    I watched 2 minutes from the trailer, couldn’t go on.

  • 2 1-27-2010 at 8:20 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    We’re talking Academy crossover here, Ziyad. (As for what an ultra-violent Jim Thompson adaptation might have in common with “Precious,” I can’t imagine.)

    I can’t wait to see it, mind.

  • 3 1-27-2010 at 8:42 am

    Mr. F said...

    Blue Valentine, maybe

  • 4 1-27-2010 at 8:51 am

    Ben M. said...

    If The Runaways gets good reviews, I could see it getting into a field of ten. After all being a biopic of famous musicians has to help and it has some name actors in it.

  • 5 1-27-2010 at 9:35 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Reviews for “The Runaways” aren’t ecstatic, the film is skewed toward a young female audience, and it’s opening in March. I say no.

  • 6 1-27-2010 at 9:42 am

    Ivich said...

    What about The Kids are All Right? Have been reading good things about it.

  • 7 1-27-2010 at 9:48 am

    Nel said...

    OT some what I know as this movie has no chance of becoming an awards favourite but just been wondering does any one know what the US response to Chris Morris’s ‘Four Lions’ has been?

  • 8 1-27-2010 at 11:01 am

    Amanda said...

    Blue Valentine is the closest movie I can think of.

  • 9 1-27-2010 at 11:56 am

    Fitz said...

    I think everyone is forgetting Howl.

  • 10 1-27-2010 at 12:33 pm

    Andrew R. said...

    Yeah The Kids Are All Right is getting strong reception, some think it’s Cholondenko’s best yet and could be the Little Miss Sunshine of 2010, the ensemble is getting nothing but praise.

  • 11 1-27-2010 at 12:45 pm

    SHAAAARK said...

    God, I hope The Kids All Right is all the critics at Sundance are claiming it is. Mark Ruffalo deserves Oscar attention. After watching You Can Count on Me, I was furious to note he was not nominated.

  • 12 1-27-2010 at 1:10 pm

    The Other James D. said...

    I. Love. Quinceañera.


    I think Howl, being a biopic and all, could potentially land itself in the field of 10, should James Franco’s performance generate awards traction this season. (I’m strongly hoping so, anyway.) I’m so out of the loop though….I must check the list of narrative features, and all the reviews. So behind.

  • 13 1-27-2010 at 2:22 pm

    Dylan said...

    I think The Kids Are All Right has the best shot

  • 14 1-27-2010 at 4:42 pm

    tim said...

    I think Blue Valentine notices have been mixed, but Gosling and Williams are receiving high praise (duh).