15 films shortlisted for documentary feature Oscar

Posted by · 1:04 pm · November 18th, 2010

Cue the annual outcry over what titles didn’t make it — judging from the Twitter reaction, this year’s most-mourned snubee is the Chinese critical darling “Last Train Home.” (I’d join the pitchfork-wielders, but I haven’t had an opportunity to see the film yet.) More surprising, however, is the omission of such widely fancied contenders as “The Oath” and “A Film Unfinished” — yes, folks, hell is experiencing a cold snap and the Academy snubbed a Holocaust documentary.

Beyond that, hoewever, most of the perceived frontrunners are present, including “Inside Job,” “Waiting for Superman,” “Restrepo,” “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer” and “Waste Land.” Joining them on the list, I’m happy to say, is “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” which I suspected would fall foul of the Academy’s usual resistance to crowdpleasing pop-culture docs. (The likes of “Catfish” and “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” took that bullet instead, unfortunately.)

At this stage, I’m afraid I’ve seen only a third of the shortlist — from which Banksy’s shape-shifting, satirical art study is comfortably my favourite. (Come on, Academy: aren’t you a little curious to see who will show up if you nominate him?) “Inside Job,” however, plainly remains the film to beat. Full list after the cut.

“Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer,” Alex Gibney
“Enemies of the People,” Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath
“Exit through the Gift Shop,” Banksy (review)
“Gasland,” Josh Fox
“Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould,” Michele Hozer and Peter Raymont
“Inside Job,” Charles Ferguson (review) (interview)
“The Lottery,” Madeleine Sackler
“Precious Life,” Shlomi Eldar
“Quest for Honor,” Mary Ann Smothers Bruni
“Restrepo,” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger (review) (interview)
“This Way of Life,” Thomas Burstyn
“The Tillman Story,” Amir Bar-Lev
“Waiting for ‘Superman’”, Davis Guggenheim
“Waste Land,” Lucy Walker (review)
“William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe,” Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler

[Photo: Producers Distribution Agency]

→ 39 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

39 responses so far

  • 1 11-18-2010 at 1:07 pm

    Peter Labuza said...

    I didn’t particularly care for “A Film Unfinished.” I think it had a fascinating subject, but instead of really getting into the meaning of what it means to be a documentary and the issues surrounding distortion of facts, it kind of settles on an argument of “See how bad the Nazis were…again!”

  • 2 11-18-2010 at 1:10 pm

    Chase Kahn said...

    Good news for “Exit Through the Gift Shop”, would love to see it make the final cut.

  • 3 11-18-2010 at 1:17 pm

    Michael W. said...

    Too bad the Danish Cannes winner and European Film Award nominee “Armadillo” couldn’t make it. But I don’t think it was even eligible because as far as I know it has not had a US release and qualifying run.

  • 4 11-18-2010 at 1:23 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    Phoenix and Affleck were robbed!

  • 5 11-18-2010 at 1:26 pm

    Graysmith said...

    It’d be pretty amusing to be able to call Banksy an Oscar nominee, but it probably won’t make the cut. I’ll be rooting for it though.

  • 6 11-18-2010 at 1:32 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    …it kind of settles on an argument of “See how bad the Nazis were…again!”

    Which is why its omission is all the more astonishing.

  • 7 11-18-2010 at 1:52 pm

    Lance said...

    “Client 9” and “Inside Job” should be a double feature followed by a stiff drink. I’m scared for our country!

    “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is the best of what I’ve seen this year. I think the publicity for Banksy will really help it. He’s the face of the film and the Academy will love feeling so artsy by voting for it.

    Hopefully, the truth will win out over the Charter School propaganda films!

  • 8 11-18-2010 at 1:59 pm

    Cordy said...

    Exit Through the Gift Shop still remains the most thoroughly entertaining movie I have seen this year. I really hope it makes the final cut, not only to see who shows up, but also because it truly deserves to be there.

  • 9 11-18-2010 at 2:04 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    I am not a fan of Exit Through the Gift Shop at all, although it is the only title that pops out of another uninspiring list.

  • 10 11-18-2010 at 2:04 pm

    Maxim said...

    “I didn’t particularly care for “A Film Unfinished.” I think it had a fascinating subject, but instead of really getting into the meaning of what it means to be a documentary and the issues surrounding distortion of facts, it kind of settles on an argument of “See how bad the Nazis were…again!”

    I really don’t understand how that could be the only take away of a film that is actually very specific. And it seems like Guy has a lot of preconcived notions on these types of movies. Or is, at the very least, taking them for granted.

  • 11 11-18-2010 at 2:17 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    I’m just poking a bit of gentle fun, Maxim. The Academy’s soft spot for Holocaust-themed films — particularly in this category — is well-documented.

  • 12 11-18-2010 at 2:24 pm

    James D. said...

    No Winnebago Man?

  • 13 11-18-2010 at 3:15 pm

    Estefan said...

    I’m also surprised at the lack of Waking Sleeping Beauty and Best Worst Movie, or does the Academy have a history of snubbing documentaries about filmmaking? A shame, since those just happen to be my favourite types of documentaries.

  • 14 11-18-2010 at 4:14 pm

    A.J said...

    Where are Best Worst Movie and Waking Sleeping Beauty?! At least there can’t be any worse snubs on nomination morning…

  • 15 11-18-2010 at 4:46 pm

    j said...

    MC’s 80+’s, from best. Some may not be qualified anyway: 45365
    Film Unfinished
    Last Train Home
    Inside Job
    Gift Shop
    Neil Young
    Boxing Gym
    Change Nothing
    Selma to Soweto

  • 16 11-18-2010 at 5:11 pm

    j said...

    BFCA 80’s:
    Inside Job – 88
    Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer – 86
    Waiting for Superman – 86
    Tillman Story – 81

    These look to be in the best position, and Vulture had these as such over a month ago. Next on their list were Restrepo, Film Unfinished, and Exit.

  • 17 11-18-2010 at 5:41 pm

    red_wine said...

    I liked Inside Job but I found its academic approach a bit stultifying. While it didn’t offer any new perspective or information for those who regularly watch news channels, it was certainly engaging but like I said hardly anything ground-breaking or bold.

  • 18 11-18-2010 at 5:50 pm

    Pete said...

    Was Sweetgrass not eligible?

  • 19 11-18-2010 at 6:20 pm

    Nicolas Mancuso said...

    I’m so disappointed that “Catfish” didn’t make it… It’s one of the best films of the year!

  • 20 11-18-2010 at 6:42 pm

    sosgemini said...

    And I am soo glad the douche’s who made Catfish did not make the it. :woot:

  • 21 11-18-2010 at 8:00 pm

    Andrew F said...

    But I was looking forward to seeing Joan Rivers in the audience… :(

  • 22 11-18-2010 at 8:26 pm

    Faith said...

    Haven’t seen “Exit” yet, but I’m extremely curious about it now (esp. after the Simpsons opener Bansky did). But there are three docs that in my view should have been on the shortlist: Family Affair, 12th & Delaware and The Art of the Steal. I’m also shocked that The Lottery made it; to me that and Waiting for Superman are basically the same film (and I think The Lottery is even more of a commercial for charter schools). But I don’t see both The Lottery and Superman being nominated, and Superman is a lock, so…

  • 23 11-18-2010 at 8:28 pm

    Faith said...

    Also, Guy, I disagree with you on who the frontrunner is: Waiting for Superman has all of the buzz and media attention. I think that’s the film to beat.

  • 24 11-18-2010 at 9:02 pm

    Pete said...

    Faith, you and Guy may be correct about Superman’s chances at victory, but keep this in sight: the film has a basically conservative message that opposes the teacher’s union. The left leaning documentary branch is not going to yield to this point of view lightly. Partisanship has always ruled in this branch which is invariably politically correct. Davis Guggenheim has exposed the corruption within the educational orthodoxy. That is unforgiveable and therefore unnominatable.

  • 25 11-18-2010 at 9:19 pm

    Glenn said...

    I so want “Exit” to be nominated just for the pure chutzpah of it all. Plus, it would erase some of the criminal snubbing of “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work”.

  • 26 11-19-2010 at 12:16 am

    forts said...

    No Oceans? How could you Academy?… I’ll never watch again… No really, no Oceans, Catfish, The Oath, A Film Unfinished, or Joan Rivers seems odd none got shortlisted

  • 27 11-19-2010 at 12:42 am

    Chad Hartigan said...

    Watch out for Waste Land here

  • 28 11-19-2010 at 1:53 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I agree with Chad — I’ve been predicting Waste Land from the beginning.

    Pete: I don’t agree with Faith on Superman’s chances at victory. As I say in the article, I think Inside Job is the film to beat.

  • 29 11-19-2010 at 6:36 am

    Keil Shults said...

    Are Tabloid and Cave of Forgotten Dreams not being released until 2011? Or did they just not make the cut? I’m most curious about Tabloid, but figured I’d ask about both titles while I’m at it.

  • 30 11-19-2010 at 6:38 am

    Keil Shults said...

    Also, Winnebago Man was a letdown. It would have worked much better if it were half as long.

    I haven’t seen any of the 15 docs on the list yet, namely because this has been a financially tight year and I’ve just started waiting for them to hit DVD/Blu-ray. However, I would pay to see Tabloid or Herzog’s 3-D doc in a theater.

  • 31 11-19-2010 at 6:39 am

    Keil Shults said...

    @Guy: Yeah, I haven’t even seen it, but I’d predict Inside Job at this point too.

  • 32 11-19-2010 at 7:23 am

    cineJAB said...

    no “what did you think of Harry Potter”?
    there was one for 127 hours for a 4 theater release…
    i’m just sayin’.

  • 33 11-19-2010 at 7:51 am

    kel said...

    Client 9
    Inside Job
    The Lottery
    Waiting for Superman
    Exit Through the Gift Shop

  • 34 11-19-2010 at 11:44 am

    Joan Rivers said...

    Maybe I didn’t get nominated because I spent so many years trashing the fashion style of my colleagues? SIGH

  • 35 11-19-2010 at 12:17 pm

    Keil Shults said...

    I thought Waiting for Superman was a Flaming Lips documentary until Oprah set me straight. I now have no interest in seeing it, and will be watching Season 4 of The Wire instead. That is all.

  • 36 11-19-2010 at 1:23 pm

    Lance said...

    I agree Keil – Season 4 of “The Wire” is the best possible commentary on our education system.

  • 37 11-19-2010 at 4:53 pm

    Keil Shults said...

    Actually, I was kidding about never watching Waiting for a Superman. But yes, Season 4 of The Wire is both insightful and heartbreaking.