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Peter T Chattaway

Oscars 2013: Best Documentary Feature

  

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Michael Moore’s Doc Problem

As I wrote when the documentary rules were changed 7 months ago or so, the problem with the reverse engineering that Michael Moore is trying to do is that it cannot work… because it seek to solve a problem that is too narrow. It also should not work, in my opinion, because it demands a standard for documentaries that is not imposed on any other films eligible for Oscar solely as a matter of Moore and some of his colleagues’ perception of what a “real” documentary is.

You can’t reverse-engineer what you think deserves to qualify for a nomination.

But let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Box Office Mojo has 90 docs listed as having had theatrical runs in the US through the month of September in 2012. There is another quarter after that, so let’s put the number at 120… pretty close to the 130 that have officially qualified. 16 of those are listed as having only ever been on 1 screen. Another 9 are listed as only having been on 2 screens. The highest grosser of this group of 25 is listed at $39,000 domestic.

So should Paul Williams Still Alive be DQed because Abramorama didn’t get it out on more screens? Would Moore disqualify another doc released on 2 screens by Abramorama, Ondi Timoner’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize winning We Live In Public for the same reason?

Now let’s look at it the other way. Only 3 documentaries this year have been released on more than 161 screens – Katy Perry: Part of Me, 2016: Obama’s America, and Chimpanzee. Those are also the only docs this year to gross over $3.5 million.

Only 2 more docs appeared on more than 100 screens/fewer than 161. And only 10 docs total have appeared on as many as 50 paid theatrical screens in 2012. Only 15 total played on as many as 25 screens. Only 25 played on as many as 10 screens.

So how do you create a proper ghetto when there are only 25 films on as many as 10 paid screens in a year? How can you claim that docs appearing on 2 screens or 4 screens or 6 or 8 are not “a real theatrical docs” and 25 docs, fortunate enough to have a solid theatrical opportunity are are REAL?

Katy Perry’s promotional video, however good, is “real” and Pink Ribbons. Inc is fake?

HBO doc Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present is “fake,” but The Island President is “real?”

Moore claims “Dozens of TV movies & “vanity projects” spend $20K or more to buy a screen for a week to “qualify.” This favors only those with big bucks.”

But what Moore keeps disregarding is that documentaries with theatrical distribution are extremely rare and financial favored films that have, by doc standards, “big” bucks for a theatrical.

Do you know how many docs have earned the $20k “big buck” standard that Moore offers in his tweets this year? 52. So is that where Moore, in his heart of hearts, wants to draw the line? . . .

David Poland, October 3

Moore’s Stunning Comment To The NY Times

Michael Moore – “There really should be no boxes of screeners. Documentary filmmakers, the 160 of us, we watch a lot of documentaries every year, so we know the documentaries that are out there, and we know the ones to watch.”

Wow.

I mean, seriously. This is the Academy Governor of the doc branch.

For me, it’s a confirmation of the worst fear I ever had about the rule changes, which I never allowed myself to believe about Michael Moore. I read it as, “If you aren’t one of us… go away. You’re not wanted.”

And if he doesn’t have time to see 130 films… does he have time to see 80 or 90, a number that would all but eliminate what he claims are not-so-legit doc entries?

That’s why there were committees. So everything would be seen… not just the most popular movies.

And the opposite direction is no fair either. It certainly sucks that many great docs that have been victims of a convoluted committee system. Given the difficulty of getting docs seen by large audiences, on-screen or off, it is somewhat of a cinema tragedy. . . .

David Poland, October 3

Oscar “Disaster”: Controversy Erupts Over New Documentary Feature Rules As Michael Moore Calls For Changes

“Disaster” is the word an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences executive used in describing for me the current state of this year’s competition for Best Documentary Feature. Yes, there’s trouble in River City and this is after new rules were put into place in January that were meant to democratize the process. Every year it seems one branch or another in the Academy creates major controversies, and this year it is again the Documentary branch’s turn in the hot seat. . . .

Pete Hammond, Deadline.com, October 8

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The Producers Guild of America has announced its nominees:

  • A PEOPLE UNCOUNTED
  • THE GATEKEEPERS
  • THE ISLAND PRESIDENT
  • THE OTHER DREAM TEAM
  • SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN

I haven't seen any of these films, though the last one is currently playing in Vancouver. (The Island President played here in September, and The Gatekeepers isn't due here until March. I can't recall if either of the other films have played here at all.)


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I loved Sugarman. Only one I've seen, It and Dream Team played at LAFF this summer. A bit saddened The Invisible War isn't included.


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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The shortlist:

  • "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry," Never Sorry LLC
  • "Bully," The Bully Project LLC
  • "Chasing Ice," Exposure
  • "Detropia," Loki Films
  • "Ethel," Moxie Firecracker Films
  • "5 Broken Cameras," Guy DVD Films
  • "The Gatekeepers," Les Films du Poisson, Dror Moreh Productions, Cinephil
  • "The House I Live In," Charlotte Street Films, LLC
  • "How to Survive a Plague," How to Survive a Plague LLC
  • "The Imposter," Imposter Pictures Ltd.
  • "The Invisible War," Chain Camera Pictures
  • "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God," Jigsaw Productions in association with Wider Film Projects and Below the Radar Films
  • "Searching for Sugar Man," Red Box Films
  • "This Is Not a Film," Wide Management
  • "The Waiting Room," Open’hood, Inc.

Seems only two of these films are among the five that made the PGA's list.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The outrage on Twitter about the Short List is palpable.

I know not every doc can make the cut, but weren't the new rules designed to overcome horribly obvious snubs?


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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The shortlist:

  • "Bully," The Bully Project LLC
  • "5 Broken Cameras," Guy DVD Films
  • "The House I Live In," Charlotte Street Films, LLC
  • "How to Survive a Plague," How to Survive a Plague LLC
  • "The Invisible War," Chain Camera Pictures
  • "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God," Jigsaw Productions in association with Wider Film Projects and Below the Radar Films

Six of those movies you couldn't PAY me to watch.

Well, I guess you COULD pay me to watch the Gibney and gain slamming rights

Edited by vjmorton

Yeah ... well ... I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you there on that one.

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Victor's just upset that the list wasn't cut to one: The Imposter.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Victor's just upset that the list wasn't cut to one: The Imposter.

I'm more cheesed that absent entirely are PLANET OF SNAIL, QUEEN OF EFFING VERSAILLES, JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI and TCHOUPITOULAS. That is ... only one of the year's five best docs (including one of the year's biggest documentary hits) is even in the Top 15 mix, making room for self-righteous, self-lathering, semi-illustrated essays.

Edited by vjmorton

Yeah ... well ... I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you there on that one.

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Jiro would have been nice, but my choices of the bunch (of the one's I've seen) are The Invisible War or Searching for Sugarman. Kind of liked 5 Broken Cameras too, but it's not the same league. I doubt Drought meets the eligibility requirements, but it was excellent.


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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Queen of Versailles is the best film I've seen this year, not just the best documentary.

The Imposter was okay but slight. Of the stuff on the shortlist (I've seen them all except 5 Broken Cameras), I would say The House I Live In was best, though, of course, This is Not a Film would, I think, be a sentimental favorite.

Edit: Oh, I was mistaking Victor's list with the shortlist. Of the films on the shortlist I've also not yet seen The Gatekeepers. But...Chasing Ice? Seriously? Wow.

Edited by kenmorefield

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Ken, I was planning on watching Queen of Versailles tonight, finally, after returning from a screening. But the Redskins game is on, and they're not losing badly. So Queen will have to wait.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Ken, I was planning on watching Queen of Versailles tonight, finally, after returning from a screening. But the Redskins game is on, and they're not losing badly. So Queen will have to wait.

Yeah, I was gonna watch This is 40, but...RGIII...wow!

Edited by kenmorefield

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The Writers Guild of America nominees for "Documentary Screenplay":

  • The Central Park Five, Written by Sarah Burns and David McMahon and Ken Burns; Sundance Selects
  • The Invisible War, Written by Kirby Dick; Cinedigm Entertainment Group
  • Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, Written by Alex Gibney; HBO Documentary Films
  • Searching for Sugar Man, Written by Malik Bendejelloul; Sony Pictures Classics
  • We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, Written by Brian Knappenberger; Cinetic Media
  • West of Memphis, Written by Amy Berg & Billy McMillin; Sony Pictures Classics

Six nominees, not five, eh?

I note that the only film from this list that overlaps with the Producers Guild's nominees is Searching for Sugar Man -- and the only films from this list that overlap with the Academy's shortlist are The Invisible War, Mea Maxima Culpa and Searching for Sugar Man.

The winner will be announced February 17, one week before the Oscars.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Vote!


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I don't know which doc will win, I've only seen one, but Searching for Sugar Man is still, after more than a month, holding the number one position for my Top Ten 2012. As of right now it is the only documentary on my list, and I've seen quite a few (including Queen of Versailles, which is interesting because Ken Morefield is essentially making the same claim about that documentary as I am about this one).

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I regret to say this is probably the only non-short-film category in which I have seen *none* of the nominees -- though I have a screener for one of them at home.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The American Cinema Editors announced their nominees one day after the Oscar nominations:

  • Samsara
    Ron Fricke & Mark Magidson
  • Searching for Sugar Man
    Malik Bendjelloul
  • West of Memphis
    Billy McMillin


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The Directors Guild has just announced its nominees in this category:

  • MALIK BENDJELLOUL
    Searching For Sugar Man
    Sony Pictures Entertainment
    Passion Pictures Production
    Canfield Pictures & The Documentary Company
    Red Box Films

  • KIRBY DICK
    The Invisible War
    Rise Film
    ITVS
    Fork Films
    Cuomo Cole Productions
    Canal Plus
    Chain Camera Pictures

  • DAVID FRANCE
    How To Survive A Plague
    Public Square Films
    Ford Foundation/Justfilms Impact Partners
    How to Survive a Plague, LLC

  • LAUREN GREENFIELD
    The Queen of Versailles
    Magnolia Pictures
    Evergreen Pictures
    BBC Storyville
    Impact Partners
    Candescent Films
    Plus Pictures
    DR
    VPRO
    Queen of Versailles, LLC

  • ALISON KLAYMAN
    Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry
    United Expression Media
    Muse Film and Television
    Never Sorry, LLC

Only the first three films nominated here are also nominated for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The Golden Reel Awards have announced their nominees (Oscar-nominated films in bold):

  • BEST SOUND EDITING: SOUND EFFECTS, FOLEY, DIALOGUE, ADR AND MUSIC IN A FEATURE DOCUMENTARY
  • Bully
  • Climate Refugees
  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi
  • Marley
  • Searching for Sugarman

The winner will be announced February 17, one week before the Oscars.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The Producers Guild of America has announced its nominees:

And the winner is... Searching for Sugar Man!


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The Directors Guild has just announced its nominees in this category:

And the winner is, surprise surprise, Malik Bendjelloul for Searching for Sugar Man.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The American Cinema Editors announced their nominees one day after the Oscar nominations . . .

And the winner is... Searching for Sugar Man.

Seriously, is there any award this movie *hasn't* won yet?


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The American Cinema Editors announced their nominees one day after the Oscar nominations . . .

And the winner is... Searching for Sugar Man.

Seriously, is there any award this movie *hasn't* won yet?

Oscar.....yet.

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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The Writers Guild of America nominees for "Documentary Screenplay" . . .

And the winner is... Searching for Sugar Man.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The Golden Reel Awards have announced their nominees (Oscar-nominated films in bold) . . .

And the winner is... Last Call at the Oasis? But that film wasn't even listed among the nominees.

Still, is it possible that this is the one award Searching for Sugar Man *hasn't* won?


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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