Tuesday, January 25, 2011

OSCAR NOMINEES 2011: The documentary categories

To much fanfare, the 2011 Academy Award nominations were released today.  You can grab an entire list of the nominations here.  Here's an analysis of the suddenly-mainstream Best Documentary Feature and (less so) Best Documentary- Short Subject categories.  These two little categories, much like some of the other technical categories, might just help you win that office or family pool, so pretend to pay attention.

Best Documentary Feature

Who was snubbed:  The most publically glaring omission is the mainstream-released education reform documentary Waiting for "Superman" from the same documentary director as the previous Oscar winner An Inconvenient Truth.  With talented and headlined-grabbing creators like Michael Moore (Farenheit 9/11) and Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me) and big-name attractions (like Al Gore) doing more than narrating duties (sorry, Morgan Freeman), documentaries have been shared and open to bigger audiences than ever before.  You can thank the internet for increasing awareness of hot-button issues and grassroots marketing.  Like it or not, Waiting for "Superman" easily deserved to be here.

Happy to be there:  Every single nominee.  A big international audience like the Oscars gives these normally-obscure documentaries, their platforms, their supporters, and their causes huge exposure, recognition, and attention.  It should be no surprise that big-issue topics like war and the environment have dominated recent years.

Who will win: With the consensus top-choice of Waiting for "Superman" not in the field, this race could be wide open, but leans to a two-horse race between Restrepo, the outstanding National Geographic-backed look at Afghanistan, and Inside Job, examining the Wall Street crisis of a few years book.  Both boast big inside support and decent national exposure.  My vote goes to Restrepo.

Best Documentary Short Subject

Who was snubbed:  Here's where things go back to being obscure.  These short subject documentaries, much like animated short films, are so rarely seen by anyone other than industry insiders and specialists in the field itself.  There's no telling who was jibbed out of a nomination.

Happy to be there:  Just like with the Documentary Feature, all of them are happy to get their message to an international audience.  It's their 35 seconds of fame.

Who will win:  Aside from putting their names on a dartboard, blindfolding yourself, and throwing a dart, it's anyone's guess.  Again, this category is limited to the insiders and specialists.  Going off of resumes, the team of Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon from Strangers No More have been nominated in this category four times and have never one.  You would think that would make them due.  Watch out for The Warriors of Quigang from 2006 Documentary Short Subject winning team of Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon (no, not the Thomas Lennon who played Lt. Dangle from Reno: 911, good try).