Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thoughts on the 15 Documentaries on the Oscar short list

This week the Academy announced the 15 films short listed for Best Documentary consideration. I’ve seen 12 of the films and I’ve talked to people who’ve seen the rest and this is probably the first year where I can’t really complain about the choices. They got it right, even if a couple are over hyped.

For those curious as to what my take on the films are here’s a quick rundown.

Art and Craft-this story of an art forger and the man who has devoted his life to chasing him is a very good little film. Completely enjoyable it’s a good time at the movies. Its chances of actually winning are tiny, but its worth seeing

The Case Against 8- I haven’t seen this yet

Citizen Koch- Hubert saw this and based on his and other people’s reaction to it this is a must see wakeup call about money destroying our rights.

CITIZENFOUR-movie of the moment that has quietly went away. The story of Edward Snowden from the time he contacted people to get his story out until his exile in Russsia. Over hyped, over praised and under done, this film has almost nothing new if you’ve been paying attention. Worse it says very little about the man himself which makes making a decision on what he did and why very hard to gauge.

Finding Vivian Maier- one of the best films I saw in 2013 is a kick ass mystery and really cool portrait. How wonderful that we now have a new artist we can argue about. One of the best of this bunch

The Internet’s Own Boy- moving sad story of a young man who fought the system and then… I need to write this up

Jodorowsky’s Dune- The story of what might have been. A glorious tale of how a movie that was never made influenced everything that followed it. One of the truly great film on films you’ll ever see. The end of the film had me crying. I need to write this one up-and ponder why I didn’t put this on my Best of the year list (All I can think is I think about it so much it’s timeless)

Keep On Keepin’ On- I’ve heard very good things about this but I haven’t seen it yet.

The Kill Team-a good look at a guy who did the right thing and got slammed for doing so. Weakest of this bunch of films, its lacking in some ways-we never hear from the villain of the piece and his take is severely lacking. While it is an important film, it’s not a very good one.

Last Days in Vietnam- I haven’t seen this yet.

Life Itself- Over hyped eulogy for Roger Ebert. This is a bear hug for a dead man rather than an objective look at a man and his legacy. Its also way too long. It’s a good film, but is in no way the best of anything

The Overnighters- Fantastic look at a community and the pastor who decided to help those needing help. This just missed being on my best of the year list.

The Salt of the Earth-Its all about the photographs and this portrait of Sebastião Salgado is awesome in the truest sense of the word. When it ended at DOC NYC we all staggered out into the night. You MUST see this in a theater. One of the best films of the year.

Tales of the Grim Sleeper-Nick Broomfields deeply troubling film about how serial killer remained hidden in a community who first said he was a nice guy only to admit-maybe he wasn’t. Its also a portrait of a police department who saw the victims as non-human and of a small group of women who never stopped trying to find the truth.

Virunga- Portrait of a wild life reserve in Africa is cherished by many. I’m not a fan of this film which is glorious in moments but isn’t particularly well put together. I know why people love it (it has cute animals) but I really wish it was better organized and didn’t have 7 credited editors

What would be my ideal  5 nominees?

Tales of the Grim Sleeper
Salt of the Earth
Finding Vivian Maier
The Overnighters
Jodorowsky's Dune

I don't expect that to happen- at least one of those will not be there because the Ebert lovefest Life Itself will be an Academy nominee.  I also am reasonably sure that CITIZEN FOUR will get a nominee.

Which two will fall from my list? I would think The Overnighter but I can't guess what the second one will be.  I know we'll find out January 17th.

Until then I recommend any of the films you can see.

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