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« NYFCC Runners Up? | Main | Do the NYFCC Hustle »
Tuesday
Dec032013

Oscar's Docs Down to 15

We will be taking a closer look at each of the 15 contenders for Best Documentary soon, but for now let's look at the films that Oscar's doc branch decided to shortlist from that gargantuan list of 151 contenders. All of the titles are rather high profile with a few left field contenders for fun. I was surprised to not see the likes of A River Changes Course, Let the Fire Burn (the only IDA nominee which didn't make it), At Berkeley, Call me Kuchu, and my personal favourite, The Missing Picture, but this looks like a fairly well representative list of films from what has arguably been one of the strongest years ever for documentaries.

The 15 contenders are:

  • The Act of Killing
  • The Armstrong Lie
  • Blackfish
  • The Crash Reel
  • Cutie and the Boxer
  • Dirty Wars
  • First Cousin: Once Removed
  • God Loves Uganda (Reviewed)
  • Life According to Sam
  • Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer (Reviewed)
  • Stories We Tell, The Square (Reviewed)
  • Tim's Vermeer
  • Twenty Feet to Stardom
  • Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington.

At this stage I'd be expecting The Act of Killing, Blackfish, Dirty Wars, The Square and Twenty Feet to Stardom, although I keep thinking that high-grossing doc will be left off (the Academy already gave an award to a documentary about back-up singers) in favour of something else, but it seems slightly foolish to bet against it. 

For now what are you guys thinking? How many have you seen?

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Reader Comments (17)

When the hell are these idiots going to finally give Frederic WIseman an Oscar?

December 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Man, I wish I had the time in my life to go to more docs. I'm pretty sure we're in a golden age, and I so rarely make it out to them.

December 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Interesting short list. I noticed none of the LGBT themed docs made the shortlist. I thought Call Me Kuchu, Valentine Road and Blood Brother were all Oscar worthy but obviously the committee thought otherwise.

I guess The Missing Picture missed out because the committee probably thought it was going to be shortlisted or nominated in the Foreign Language category.

I guess 'interesting' ommissions were going to happen this year - given the huge number of films entered.

BTW - the press release from the Academy states that 147 - not 151 - films qualified for this category. There are 4 films that were disqualfied for some reason. Anyone know which ones?

It'd be funny if the 4 disqualfied were some of the ones we have discussed here.

December 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

I've seen...

-The Act of Killing
-Blackfish
-Stories We Tell
-Twenty Feet From Stardom

Liked Blackfish and loved the other three. They would all be worthy winners. I would especially love to see Stories We Tell win, since it is such a different type of documentary than what usually wins.

Twenty feet from Stardom is such a fun watch, and a crowd-pleaser, that I can imagine it winning.

December 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBen

I've been a terrible documentary watcher this year as I've only seen Stories We Tell, with Sarah Polley being a powerful incentive.

December 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFlickah

I've seen the same four as Ben and would rank similarly to him as well, with Act > Twenty > Stories >>> Blackfish.

As for what will be nominated, I'm stumped. The Act of Killing and Stories We Tell are both highly unconventional, which doesn't always go over with this crowd, but both seem to have extremely loyal fanbases. I'd go so far as to argue that 'Killing' and 'Stories' have more exuberant critical buzz than any of the 15 films on last year's longlist. Is that enough to get in? Hell if I know!

(Interestingly, it was the 100-something to 15 cut that brought the biggest uproar last year, with West of Memphis and The Central Park Five being culled, as well as in 2011, with The Interrupters, Senna, and Into the Abyss left out in the cold.)

December 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

God Loves Uganda is definitely a gay-themed documentary.

Blackfish is going to get the populist vote but I am tired of the informational issue doc. It's not even muckracking journalism. It's just a vague idea of what a non-fiction film is and what it can do but bludgeon the issue for the audience. Same for nearly all of Gibney's documentaries. Although I haven't seen the Armstrong one (I avoided because of bad word of mouth), the WikiLeaks one felt like such wasted energy. If we must have something polemic, let it be Dirty Wars- although I was just okay with it.

My personal ballot of the short-list:
The Act of Killing
Stories We Tell
20 Feet from Stardom

Haven't seen the others. I did like Manakamana and Leviathan but both films were probably too avant-garde. Don't really care what is 'Oscar worthy' as docs. The choices by the Academy for the category have always been maddening. Lest we forget, the Hoop Dreams fiasco.

December 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

I'm a little surprised, but definitely thrilled, that The Crash Reel made the cut -- it's great. It has a certain energy, buoyancy and exuberance to it that just seems too youthful for the stodgy (as I'm told every year) Academy voters; the soundtrack alone seems like the kind of thing that twentysomethings will gush over while older members might get turned off. That said, it's certainly a tearjerker (like, watching Youtube videos of soldiers reuniting with their families level of tears and ensuing dehydration), and that might swing a few votes its way. Its attention to traumatic brain injuries in sports also lends an immediate relevance to a hot topic of popular discussion, plus director Lucy Walker has been nominated by this branch twice in the last 3 years -- maybe its hopes aren't over yet.

December 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRJ

I saw five of these 15 films:

The Act of Killing
Blackfish
First Cousin Once Removed
Stories We Tell
Which Way is the Front Line From Here?

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

I've seen five, Twenty Feet From Stardom, Blackfish, Dirty Wars, Stories We Tell & The Act of Killing. I'm thinking all except Dirty Wars will be nominated. Definitely looking forward to Tim's Vermeer when in opens next week!

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKelly Garrett

RJ I started to watch THE CRASH REEL, but stopped after not being able to get into it (and at this time of year with so many small films to catch its sadly the way things go), but I will definitely give it another go now that it's on the short list.

Ralph, I'd definitely be interested to hear about First Cousin and Front Line since they'll prove to be the smaller and hardest to get ahold of. Could you perhaps email me on glenndunks [at] gmail [dot] com ?

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Everyone should be aware that a lot of these are fairly accessible this year (yay)!
Blackfish (iTunes)
The Crash Reel (HBOgo)
Cutie and the Boxer (iTunes)
Dirty Wars (Netflix streaming)
First Cosuin: Once Removed (HBOgo)
Life According to Sam (HBOgo)
Pussy Riot (HBOgo)
Stories We Tell (iTunes)
Which Way (HBOgo)
And 20 ft and The Act of Killing will both be on iTunes within the next month.
Anyway, my favs are Stories, 20 ft, and Crash Reel. Sad that Blood Brother didnt make it in.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBilly

Billy--thanks for the list. Docs are rarely in theaters close to me, and only last 1-2 weeks in ones 30 miles away. Most of them do end up on Netflix streaming which has a fairly comprehensive doc library, but usually not for a year or two after they were released in theaters/at festivals.

I wonder if Amazon streaming is going to bundle short films again like they did last year? It was awesome.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPam

It's really a shame that "Bridegroom" didn't make the Final cut. But so glad it's received the attention that it has.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJason

The best doc I saw this year was "I am Divine," about John Waters' muse. Did it qualify? It was such a crowd pleaser.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

SanFranCinema, it was not submitted to the long list.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

No prob, Pam! Also, The Square will be on Netflix Streaming starting January 17th!

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBilly

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