Best Documentary Shortlist Announced by Academy

11/19/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

The awards season draws ever closer, and today the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences released their shortlist of the 15 documentaries that may be one of the five nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar in February.

The list, alphabetically, from the AMPAS press release (included are the directors and production companies):

  • “The Beaches of Agnes,” Agnès Varda, director (Cine-Tamaris)
  • “Burma VJ,” Anders Østergaard, director (Magic Hour Films)
  • “The Cove,” Louie Psihoyos, director (Oceanic Preservation Society)
  • “Every Little Step,” James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo, directors (Endgame Entertainment)
  • “Facing Ali,” Pete McCormack, director (Network Films Inc.)
  • “Food, Inc.,” Robert Kenner, director (Robert Kenner Films)
  • “Garbage Dreams,” Mai Iskander, director (Iskander Films, Inc.)
  • “Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders,” Mark N. Hopkins, director (Red Floor Pictures LLC)
  • “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers,” Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, directors (Kovno Communications)
  • “Mugabe and the White African,” Andrew Thompson and Lucy Bailey, directors (Arturi Films Limited)
  • “Sergio,” Greg Barker, director (Passion Pictures and Silverbridge Productions)
  • “Soundtrack for a Revolution,” Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman, directors (Freedom Song Productions)
  • “Under Our Skin,” Andy Abrahams Wilson, director (Open Eye Pictures)
  • “Valentino The Last Emperor,” Matt Tyrnauer, director (Acolyte Films)
  • “Which Way Home,” Rebecca Cammisa, director (Mr. Mudd)

I actually haven't seen any of these yet, though "Food Inc." has definitely been on my radar. I'm also somewhat interested in "Soundtrack for a Revolution" (a film that tells the story of the Civil Rights Movement through the popular music of the time) and "The Most Dangerous Man in America" (about one former Pentagon insider revealing secret information about the Vietnam War to the New York Times).

The nominations for this and the rest of the categories will be announced on February 2, and the ceremony, hosted by Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, will be held on March 7.


And this from our guest blogger, Matt Jussim

I love this time of year. The NFL makes its push towards the postseason, Christmas time is just around the corner, and best of all, it’s the start of film awards season. Academy Award speculation runs rampant around this time, as fans and critics wonder who will get nominated and who will be snubbed.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences documentary committee has watched the 89 eligible docs that were submitted and narrowed the field down to 15. The Academy announced the 15 films on the shortlist for Best Documentary, and there were quite a few glaring omissions.

The most notable is Michael Moore’s documentary "Capitalism: A Love Story." Moore’s documentary “Bowling For Columbine” won the award in 2002, and while his other films also have been controversial, but they are some of the best quality documentaries out there.

Another film that was noticeably absent was the critical darling “Anvil! The Story of Anvil.” The film has been one of the best reviewed documentaries of the year, and according to Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 98% approval rating--the best of any documentary. To put that number in context, last year the documentary “Man on Wire” held the same distinction, and went on to win the award.

Other noteworthy omissions: critical hits "Tyson" (about controversial boxer Mike Tyson), and "The September Issue" (about Anna Wintour and Vogue’s massive fall issue).

Sometimes, I think the Academy can be too methodical for its own good. Between specific rules, and eligibility guidelines, many times the best films (or songs) don’t receive nominations when they absolutely should. A good example of this was last year when Bruce Springsteen’s song for “The Wrestler” wasn’t even nominated, even though there were only three nominees up for the category of Best Song.

Of the 15 finalists, some notable titles include “Food Inc.,” which examines large-scale agricultural food production in the U.S., and “Soundtrack for a Revolution,” which tells the story of the American civil rights movement through its powerful music.

Also on the list was one of the most interesting and shocking movies I’ve seen a long time, “The Cove.” Using state-of-the-art equipment, a group of activists infiltrate a cove near Taijii, Japan to expose both a shocking instance of animal abuse and a serious threat to human health.

The 15 finalists will be narrowed down to five when the Academy Award nominations are released on February 2nd, 2010.

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