"Are You A Racist If You Don’t Like Precious?"
The National Board of Review yesterday named Up in the Air as the best movie of the year, and released a fairly good top ten list–which does not include Up in the Air, because I guess that’s just how they roll–to accompany it. As much as I hated (500) Days of Summer, any list that includes An Education, Inglourious Basterds, and The Hurt Locker is solid and eclectic enough to earn my respect.
What’s most upsetting this year: the absence of Lee Daniels‘ Precious. It’s not a total surprise. The NBR is not a multicultural organization. They completely ignored Dreamgirls in 2006. Snubbing Precious fits in with Schulhof’s track record perfectly. Let’s just say it: They do not like black movies, period.
To get the obvious out of the way, ignoring Dreamgirls is not indicative of not liking black movies. It’s indicative of not liking bad, horribly overwrought melodramas. The fact that a film with only one watchable scene was seriously considered during award season was a travesty, and good on NBR for resisting.
I can’t personally comment on the artistic merits of Precious, as I haven’t seen it, but clearly there are plenty of reasons short of racism to exclude it from a best-of list. Indeed, it’s more than possible to dislike it out of concern for race issues. Dana Stevens, for example, hated it precisely because she viewed it as exploitative of the experiences of its characters, “something uncomfortably close to poverty porn.” What’s to say that NBR did not share that critique? As Irin notes, the list also includes Invictus, a Nelson Mandela biopic, and a parallel list on documentaries highlights Good Hair. Assuming racial motivation in excluding Precious, then, seems more than a little hard to defend.