In Contention‘s Kris Tapley said this morning that Lee DanielsPrecious is “the frontrunner of this year’s Oscar race.” Reading this prompted an involuntary leg-muscle spasm so sudden and fierce that it tipped over my black office chair and sent me crashing to the floor.

Precious is a film to sincerely admire and respect as far as it goes. It moved me more than I suspected it would (based on the first half hour, I mean), but Mo’Nique‘s mom-from-hell performance almost makes it into a kind of grotesque horror film. What she does is a bit like Mary Tyler Moore‘s emotionally frigid mom in Ordinary People not just withholding affection from her sad-sack son (i.e., Timothy Hutton) but talking like Lawrence Tierney and spewing pea soup out of her mouth.

Precious touches bottom and exudes compassion, but it’s nothing close to a masterwork…please. It’s a very good film fortified by strong discussable performances. It’s a contender, sure, but no way in hell is it any kind of front-runner. Not now, not next month or next year…forget it.