Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Snub! The Story of Snub

Each year the Academy's documentary branch finds a new way to enrage film fans everywhere. This year's big casualty: Anvil! The Story of Anvil, the blissfully reviewed heavy metal documentary (my review). That unforgettable music doc's Oscar snub is unsurprising but in a way it only strengthens the movie, adding yet one more pitiable chord of try-try-try never succeed to the engrossing story -- think The Wrestler by way of Spinal Tap if you haven't seen it. Ewwww, I just pitched a movie as two other movies. I am SO sorry. I hate myself right now.

Other big name docs that got the thumbs down: We Live in Public, The September Issue, Tyson and Capitalism: A Love Story. My favorite doc of the year, Prodigal Sons, was not eligible for some sort of funding reason... I'm a little unclear on why.

Here are the 15 finalists that the AMPAS voters actually did love. Five of these will go on to be [drumroll please] ...Oscar Nominees. [cymbal crash]
  • The Beaches of Agnes Agnes Varda (yay!)
  • Burma VJ Anders Ostergaard
  • The Cove Louie Psihoyos
  • Every Little Step James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo (my review)
  • Facing Ali Pete McCormack
  • Food, Inc. Robert Kenner
  • Garbage Dreams Mai Iskander
  • Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders Mark N. Hopkins
  • The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith
  • Mugabe and the White African Andrew Thompson and Lucy Bailey
  • Sergio Greg Barker
  • Soundtrack for a Revolution Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman
  • Under Our Skin Andy Abrahams Wilson
  • Valentino The Last Emperor Matt Tyrnauer
  • Which Way Home Rebecca Cammisa
I have absolutely nothing to say about the actual semi-finalists because I've seen but one of them. I don't even know what half of them are about. I'll correct that soon. Valentino at least awaits me and I'm anxious to get to it. More on these titles eventually.


Univarn said...

When it comes to the sort of secondary categories (not that they're actually secondary but not the real premier ones) so much seems to happen that lots of the really good ones get lost in the random things here and there. Any idea why Anvil didn't make it through?

Robert said...

I've seen so many docs this year and none of them made the short list. Was Good Hair too...about hair extensions, straighteners, and hair even be a blip on the radar? Oh, I knew it wouldn't be nominated in the end, but I figured it might play out in the bake-off.

Elisabeth said...

Which Way Home is freaking awesome. Short description: it's the doc version of Sin Nombre. I hope it gets through!

I expect Food, Inc. to get through and here's my suspicion about The Cove - they are rah rahing Hollywood every second of the film - why wouldn't it win?

Brian Owens said...

I should brag that Garbage Dreams and Living in Emergency both played at Nashville and so, Nathaniel, you had every opportunity to see them! : )

Seriously though - Garbage Dreams just recently screened in Cairo (where it was shot) and following the screening, Melinda Gates gave a $1 million check to the school for the Recycling School in Cairo that is featured in the doc.

adelutza said...

I actually have seen Garbage Dreams and I wasn't very fond of it. I could never understand this category , myself: is it about the artistry? Capitalism... is a very entertaining film, regardless of the fact that one agrees or not with the subject matter, as well as The Cove, which plays like a thriller. Does is have to be controversial or not? I guess, nobody knows, at least not me.


Brian -- i did see a couple of docs while i was there ;) but not those two (sigh).

i will be seeing a few of these in the next couple of weeks but right now this category is totally over my head because the ones i have seen this year didn't make the finals.

Tim said...

The Beaches of Agnès is the best film I've seen in a theater this year, period, so I'm way less pissed about this year's list than I have been for a while. I've seen only a scattering of the rest, but I will rave about Food, Inc. to anyone who'll listen. Valentino was pretty good - but certainly no Anvil.

Jason H. said...

Isn't it true that the documentary submission rules have a different range of release dates, something like October 1-September 30? I'm almost 100% positive that that's why Capitalism wasn't on the shortlist this year, since its release was too late.

However, there is no excuse for the Anvil snub. Shame on you, AMPAS.

Peter Chan said...

Where!?!! Where is 'The September Issue'!?!?! Another key omission... Ugh.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

Burma VJ is mesmerising and essential viewing for cinema fans and anyone with a remote interest in the lives of people more than six blocks away.

No other movie so dangerously close to insufferable preciousness is as thoroughly delightful as Beaches of Agnes.

The Cove is the only other candidate I've seen (as well as presumably the winner). Much as I admire the sentiment, the guts and the logistics, as a piece of cinema I found it pretty mediocre.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

Oh I forgot - I've also seen Food Inc, aka Preaching to the Converted.

I'm all for September Issue being snubbed (a more pointless, cowering look at the fashion industry I haven't seen), but Prodigal Sons was brilliant (beyond the juicy subject matter, it was quite lucidly, elegantly done - thought-provoking too. It was the anti-September Issue).

gabrieloak said...

I hope The Beaches of Agnes makes the top five. A wonderful film.

I really liked Valentino and Every Little Step but I don't think I'd choose either for the top five.

Bing147 said...

I've only seen Food Inc which I fully expect to see nominated. If only we got more documentaries in my neck of the woods... every late summer my theater seems to book one out of nowhere. Last year it was Man on Wire, this year this. I always catch it to encourage them to continue and the showings are usually pretty full yet they never play more... still, this was terrific.

Glenn Dunks said...

I reckon Beaches will make it as a sort of like Herzog was last year. Sit it alongside Mugabe (cause South Africa is so popular this year, could it win?), Food Inc, The Cove and I'm gonna say Every Little Step because it's about as close to a hit that documentaries got this year.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

More ridiculous snubs - Outrage (too gay?) and Of Time and the City (too good?), which along with Burma VJ and Prodigal Sons were not only the strongest docs of the year, but among the strongest films in general (and no doubt better than most of the inevitable Best Picture lineup).

Guy Lodge said...

There are so many people on the web bitching about this list -- my only question is, how many of them have seen all 15 films that did make it?

I've only seen 7, but based on those, I think the Academy has chosen well. All the ones I've seen are superior to "Capitalism," which is mid-strength Moore at best. The "Beaches of Agnes" mention is particularly thrilling -- like Glenn, I think it'll surprise some people and find its way into the Top 5.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say "Mugabe" will win -- partly because of the current South Africa vogue, partly because it's weightier than the favourites, but mostly because it's an extraordinary. It's hard to imagine anyone seeing it and remaining unmoved.

Guy Lodge said...

* an extraordinary FILM

Christine said...

I want Agnès Varda to go to the Oscars in her potato costume.

I'm also confused why Good Hair isn't nominated. Chris Rock-produced, Oprah-approved and a big enough film to play in even my tiny town.

Brian Owens said...

I'm guessing Good Hair didn't make the cut because it's neither "weighty" nor "showy". They either like their docs to be "about something" (socially significant) or to be about pretty things (Every Little Step) and showbiz.

And Nathaniel - I can get get you screeners of the two you missed. Just email me.

BrianZ said...

I know I am way alone on this one, but I think Tyson may be the best thing I've seen all year. Sad to see it not get a doc nom.

Nick M. said...

I adore the cheeky self-reflexivity and thoughtfulness of The Beaches of Agnes, so it has no chance (fingers crossed for a nomination, though). I heard Food Inc. is underwhelming and redundant to anyone who has ever had an afterthought about the harms of corporations handling food. I'm predicting this award will go to The Cove for its heavy-handed moralizing. The most fascinating aspect is the portrait of a megalomaniac, Mr. Ric O'Barry--but, of course, the film canonizes instead of analyzes.

JJPP said...

Did "Anvil" get a theatrical release? I remember it being in VH-1. That could be the reason it was ineligible.


ANVIL did get a theatrical release yes. And it was eligible. It just didn't make the finalists list.

BoyTommy said...

"Good Hair" wasn't released in time for the eligibility cutoff, just like "This Is It." Too bad since both are great films and won't be remembered for this at next year's Oscars.

Unknown said...

Not sure if you'll get this, but I can't get to my Email...

BUT - Prodigal Sons just got picked up for theatrical and will be released Feb. 2010!

Yay! I love Kimberly and that film!