Oscar History

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Entries in documentaries (258)


IDA Cites the usual suspects as "Best Documentary"...

Though yours truly (Nathaniel) owns and operates this site, I am not really part of its growing documentary beat (thanks Glenn!). But as a known stickler for rules (without rules, games and competitions and awards ceremonies are useless, truly) I plead to the cosmos "Won't anyone join me in being enormously troubled that documentary associations see no trouble in nominated O.J. Simpson: Made in America in both TV and Feature categories?" Shouldn't these organizations have rules on such things. Shouldn't they have executive committees for situations in which rules are challenged or unclear.

The IDA Feature Nominees -- all but "I Am Not Your Negro" are also nominated in the BFCA's feature category

And if there is truly no distinction between TV and Film anymore (something we're willing to entertain even if we don't like it) than shouldn't we have an abrupt end to their separation in category/awards forms? In the past week or two we've had three announcements that effect or reflect the oncoming Oscar race for Best Documentary Film. In all three (BFCA Doc nominees, AMPAS long list, and now IDA) O.J. Simpson: Made in America is included among the features but in two of the three -- the two with TV awards --its parent series is nominated for television prizes. O.J. Simpson Made in America is part of ESPN's 30 for 30 series, if we understand correctly (do we?). Can anyone explain or justify what is happening? The full list of IDA nominations is after the jump...

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Now Streaming (Netflix): A Slim Selection But Jude (!) and Gillian (!!)

Netflix, which initially looked like the 21st Century Blockbuster is well on its way to being the new HBO, so they're cutting back severely on movies now. But there's still a few titles of interest each month. Here are streaming options as of November. We'll randomly freeze frame a handful of titles and share the results. Okay? Okay!

Shop till you drop, girls

Alfie (2004)
The Year Jude Law Was in Every Movie. Also, arguably, the peak of his gorgeousity.

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Doc Corner: Revisiting 'The Loving Story'

For this weeks edition of Doc Corner we are celebrating the release of Jeff Nichols' Loving by looking back at the documentary that was quite clearly a heavy inspiration on it.

That Richard and Mildred Loving often got overlooked for their unwilling but necessary part in the civil rights movement is hardly surprising when you watch The Loving Story, Nancy Buiski’s sober and low-key documentary from 2011. The pair, quiet and dignified, do not make for the sort of protagonists that make traditional narratives – a comment that has come up throughout the festival release of Jeff Nichols’ feature adaptation. Theirs is a story of quiet suffering; their victory an almost anticlimactic ‘duh’ moment that it’s easy to see why it has taken so long to get films made about them.

But it is that very reserved nature that makes their story equally compelling. Mildred, especially, is a woman whose soft-spoken nature so often goes unseen by storytellers throughout moments of great historical upheaval. Buiski’s film doesn’t try to pad it out with flash and narrative diversions. Instead it lets the humanity of its story and the relevance of its themes permeate across wisely assembled talking heads (including the couple’s only surviving child, Peggy) and a treasure trove of fascinating archival footage, newsreels, and family photographs that makes up the bulk of the film’s short yet resourceful runtime.

The entire story of the Loving v Virginia case holds relevance today in the face of race and same-sex marriage. Their story is one of barbaric cruelty where they were subjected to being woken up in the middle of night with flashlights in their faces, their relationship opened up to the inspection and scrutiny of hate-filled bigots in positions of power.

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Oscar: 145 Documentaries to Compete

Glenn here. Despite writing about (at least) one documentary a week since March, it feels like we've barely made a dint in covering the mammoth list of 145 titles that will be competing for the five coveted nominations in Best Documentary Feature category at the upcoming Oscars. Collectively, The Film Experience has reviewed 30 of the list, and we hope to cover a bunch more as we get closer to nominations.

There are a lot of noteworthy titles on this list so even making it to the 15-strong shortlist will be tough. And it's worth remembering that big titles are left off and smaller little-known titles get elevated every year. I have never heard of quite a few of these - and many others only have/had qualifying runs with releases planned for 2017 so it's impossible to really gauge some of them. What big titles will be left off? Will the recent scandals help or hinder Weiner, the year's most zeitgeisty doc hit. Will too many films about race cancel out one of the bigger titles? Will Herzog and Alex Gibney give the race some behind-the-scenes star power?

If I had to take a complete stab in the dark guess of what those 15 titles would be based on what I have seen, what we know of this branch, and the buzz on certain titles, I would probably go with the following:

Audrey & Daisy - Fire at Sea - Gleason - Hooligan Sparrow
I Am Not Your Negro - Into the Inferno - The Ivory Game - Life Animated
Newtown - O.J. Made in America - 13th - Tower - Trapped - Weiner - Zero Days

The only real big names missing seem to be ones we already suspected wouldn't be on the list like Andrew Dominik's One More Time with Feeling, Sergei Loznitsa's found footage doc The Event, Chantal Akerman's swansong No Home Movie, Morgan Spurlock's Rats, the duelling queer festival hits Strike a Pose and Kiki and Albert Maysles' final project, In Transit. Although if someone can explain the absence of Gillian Armstrong's Women He's Undressed that would be nice. And I bemoan the loss of one of my absolutely favourite docs of the year, Here Come the Videofreex, a tiny analogue-doc about the early days of underground political news reporting. I do see, however, that O.J.: Made in America is indeed on the list, but whether the branch chooses to recognise an eight-hour made-for-television episodic documentary remains to be seen. My thoughts on this are known, but we'll wait and see if the branch take the bait before examining it much further.

For now you can read the full list after the break (with links to reviews).

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Academy's Documentary Shorts Shortlist - Watch Them!

When you’re trying to be seen as a short film, it can be difficult to step outside the feature-length shadow. If you’re Oscar-nominated, you’ll eventually be packaged into a multi-film program and play a handful of theaters across the country. Perhaps you’ll be purchased by HBO and find yourself showcased for a premium cable audience – like last year’s Academy Award winner A Girl in the River. Or you may screen at an infinite variety of regional festivals, submitted and curated for a different niche audience. Bottom line: unless you’re being actively scouted, many beautiful short films go unnoticed by moviegoers who would likely be eager to absorb the material if they knew it existed.

So, without further ado, here is the Academy’s ten-wide, recently released shortlist for Best Documentary, Short Subject. You can even watch half of the titles online now. While only half of this list will compete for the gold once nominations are announced in January, here’s hoping the whole group finds a lasting reception that goes beyond the jokes of its category’s presenters at the Oscars.

Oscar-nominated or not, what are some of your favorite short films you’ve checked out recently?


Doc Corner: Michael Moore Goes to 'Trumpland'

Michael Moore in Trumpland is a misnomer of a title. For despite the comically scored pro-Trump vox pop interviews that open the film, and despite the smattering of apparent Trump supporters through the audience, Michael Moore’s has found himself the most liberal of audiences one could hope. “Around here, I ain’t heard nobody for Clinton” says one unidentified woman, but if that were the case then the crowd Moore has amassed are easily swayed because by the end of this brief 70-minute mix of stand-up, pre-filmed comedy sketches, call and response, and personal recollections in monologue, the entire crowd is cheering and whooping for Hillary.

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Interview: 'Fire at Sea' Director Gianfranco Rosi on Blurring the Line Between Documentaries and Fiction

Jose here. Gianfranco Rosi’s Fire at Sea, takes a look at the migrant crisis with completely new eyes. He creates a parallel narrative in which the dangerous journeys of migrants trying to arrive in Europe seem to go almost unnoticed by the people of the island of Lampedusa, where many of them meet their fates. The island vignettes, which pay tribute to the Sicilian lifestyle, mainly focus on the misadventures of Samuele, a little boy who spends his days playing with his slingshot, worrying about diseases he’s much too young to have, and admiring the sea, perhaps unaware of the nightmare it represents to the migrants’ struggle. Rosi doesn’t create a story of ironic contrast, instead he offers a snapshot of the world we live in, and invites us to reexamine our role in the world. The documentary won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival where Jury President Meryl Streep called it “urgent, necessary filmmaking”, it also went on to be selected as Italy’s entry for the Foreign Film Oscar.

As the film opens in New York, I sat down with Rosi to talk about his views on documentaries, storytelling and how the worlds of his films are interconnected.

JOSE: You spend years working on your films and shooting. How do you know when you have a story?

GIANFRANCO ROSI: When I start the film I never know which story I’ll end up doing. I start from something a very simple structure, there’s an island, migrants, this is what happens when migrants arrive, this is where they come from. I have a geometrical idea of what’s going on - when I have this idea of the place I look for elements and people who will become my protagonists...

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Doc Corner: Ava DuVernay's '13th' is Essential

by Glenn Dunks

Sometimes to be a film-lover is to question why we indulge in certain films. It’s a question we have no doubt all asked ourselves at one point or another after a particularly gruelling film. It would have been so much easier to just let it slip passed us and be content within our bubble. It would be easy to see 13th, for instance, the new documentary from Selma and Middle of Nowhere director Ava DuVernay, on our Netflix screens and think that it is not for us – that because we already see the world through a lens of equality without racism that it is not necessary viewing, that it is just preaching to the converted. Why spend 100 minutes feeling as if the weight of misery is bearing down on us?

But 13th is an essential viewing for everybody. It is essential for you and for myself. Essential for Americans and those outside its borders. Essential most of all for white people and black people and everybody else. That its subject and themes still bear immediate relevance make it so. But DuVernay’s best achievement with the thorough and the soulfully searching 13th isn’t that it is just a wake-up call for race relations in America right at this very moment, but that her film will no doubt prove to be invaluable in the understanding of America’s history of racism for years to come.

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