Best Documentary Feature

Oscar Predictions 2014: Documentary

Documentaries deserve their own category, not jut in order to spotlight nonfiction films additionally but also separately, because they aren’t easily pit against narrative works. Yet while it’s fair to say it’s too difficult to weigh something like 20 Feet From Stardom or The Act of Killing against Gravity or 12 Years a Slave, it’s just as difficult to weigh this year’s nominees for Best Documentary – Feature against one another. It’s one of the few years in which every contender is an exceptional and unique work in this area of filmmaking and not two of them is alike in any way. One may be the most enjoyable of the five, another the most important. Another is the most creative with the art of documentary storytelling, and another is the most necessary at capturing history in the making, another the most moving in telling of a history already made. Let’s give them all an Oscar! Obviously that’s not possible, and so we’re left with a race that’s not easy to predict. To do so, we must look at not only how these nominees are doing with other honors and audiences leading up to the Academy Awards, but we have to consider how they might be campaigned for as well as how they’ll be voted on. I’ve tried to do my best in that regard. Keep reading for a look at all five nominees for Best Documentary – Feature along with my predicted winner in red… READ MORE AT NONFICS

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While we may not see a non-fiction film nominated for Best Picture anytime soon, the Best Documentary Feature has for many risen from a minor category rarely given its due attention to a battleground for some of the most important movies in a given year. 2010 was no exception, and in this year and in this category there are an impressive collection of docs addressing a variety of subjects in unique ways that truly exemplify the personalities of the filmmakers behind them. If no other year has convinced you the documentary is a great art form, this one should. But perhaps more significantly, this year exhibits such a variety of films that it throws the simplistic notion that a documentary should occupy one single mode of address out the window: here we have ambitious and stylish massive doc about a very complex subject, an intimate biographical advocacy piece, some on-the-ground investigative journalism, some trash art, and that film everyone’s been talking about all year that puts the entire notion of artistic truth into question. Only one of these films will take home the gold at the end of the night, but I’ll be damned if they’re not all impressive pieces of non-fiction filmmaking. And the nominees (with my prediction in red) are…

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There has been much hullabaloo over speculation as to what will happen if the Banksy directed doc Exit Through the Gift Shop ends up winning the Academy Award for Best Documentary. Banksy is a popular street artist who maintains a lot of his mystique through hiding his identity. He narrated Gift Shop shrouded in a hood and with voice modulation. Whenever pictures are shown of him, he is usually wearing a ridiculous monkey mask. Most likely, if Banksy were ever to be unmasked, we would all be faced with the stunning realization that he is… some guy. That’s why it’s very important that he maintains his secrecy. Mystery equals intrigue; intrigue equals people shelling out boatloads of cash for his work. The Academy has been around show business for quite some time. They understand what Banksy is doing here. And yet, up until this point, they have made it clear that showing up to the Oscars wearing a monkey mask would be completely unacceptable. Academy president Tom Sherak reportedly told Banksy’s representatives, “We suggested to them that it might be a good idea that if he did win, one of them would accept in his place – that it would not be dignified for the Academy to have somebody come up wearing a monkey’s head.”

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Culture Warrior

With the release of Pixar’s Up, last year saw a great deal of conversation surrounding the ghettoization of animated movies at major awards shows. This debate resulted in something of a minor, qualified victory for animated cinema of 2009, as Up was the first animated movie to be nominated for Best Picture since Beauty and the Beast, but then again it sat amongst a crowded bevy of nine fellow nominations, and animated films remain unthreatening to their live action competitors because of the separate-but-unequal Best Animated Feature Category. I’d like to take this space to advocate for the big-category acceptance of yet another marginalized and underappreciated category around awards time: non-fiction films.

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published: 04.17.2014
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published: 04.17.2014
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published: 04.17.2014
B-
published: 04.16.2014
B+

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