The only thing standing between Mo'Nique and awards-season glory could be Mo'Nique herself.
Portraying a monstrously abusive mom with a shockingly disarming moment of clarity, Mo'Nique has certainly given an award-worthy performance in "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire." Any doubt of that was erased Tuesday morning, when the Baltimore County native and BET talk-show host landed a Golden Globe nomination for her performance. She's already been named the year's top supporting actress by the Los Angeles Film Critics and the Boston Society of Film Critics.
But industry insiders, responding to comments the actress has made on her talk show and in the media, are wondering how willing she will be to get out and campaign for an Oscar, and whether she could win without doing so. Oscar nominations will be announced Feb. 2.
"You're probably going to be at a disadvantage," says David Sterritt, chairman of the American Society of Film Critics. "If everybody else is doing it, you've got to be out there doing it, too. It should not be all about campaigns, but it probably is about campaigns."
So far, Mo'Nique has appeared largely unwilling to stage the sort of promotional campaign that usually precedes Golden Globe or Oscar glory. Unlike her co-star, newcomer Gabourey Sidibe, who has appeared on just about all the late-night talk shows, Mo'Nique has yet to appear on any. She didn't show for the movie's premieres at the New York or Toronto film festivals. Lionsgate, the studio that released "Precious," issued no statement on her behalf after nominations were announced Tuesday morning.
And on a recent episode of her BET show, with past Oscar nominees Terrence Howard ("Hustle & Flow") and Taraji P. Henson ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button") on hand, she seemed less than interested in staging any sort of awards-season campaign. Her performance, she suggested, should stand on its own.
"President Barack Obama had a campaign because he had something to prove," she said on the show. "I'm finished."
Not every Oscar winner has actively pursued the honor. George C. Scott was named best actor for "Patton" after declaring far and wide that he wouldn't accept the Oscar if he did win, and he never did; Scott died in 1999, and the statue remains unclaimed. Both Woody Allen and Katharine Hepburn expressed little interest in showing up for the Oscar ceremony, but won multiple Oscars anyway.
Still, uninterested nominees usually don't hear their names announced from the Oscar stage.
"I think it gets pretty hard" to win an Oscar based on performance alone, says author and film critic David Thomson, whose latest book, "The Moment of Psycho: How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America to Love Murder," was released late last month. "If the public knows that you're not playing the game and you're not likely to attend the event, I think it's unlikely you're going to get the vote."
Then again, there's always the possibility Mo'Nique is on to something.
"Probably there's room for the occasional contrarian," suggests Sterritt, "to get even more attention and popular support by not playing the game, or by seeming to not play the game."