With all the attention in the coming months focused on the campaigns for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar (and if you don't think its a bit of an obsession in our community then you haven't been paying attention as folks keep blowing tens of thousands of dollars on Oscar qualifying runs), we figured we'd launch a new item where we'd check in on occasion to see what's happening in the Oscar Horse Race...
This week, the story is all about Robert Kenner's FOOD, INC.
The film, which we believe is the current frontrunner for the Oscar, is poised to have what could amount to a major week that could solidify its position in the race. By next weekend, the film may have two important wins under its belt: a Gotham Award tonight for Best Documentary and an IDA Award on Friday night in the same category.
Its current, top competition in the Oscar race - THE COVE - isn't nominated for either award.
It may also end the week with a nomination for Best Documentary at the Spirit Awards, when those nods are announced early tomorrow. That would put FOOD, INC. in the same position as MAN ON WIRE last year - the only film to be nominated for the top prize at the Gothams, IDA, Spirits and Cinema Eye.
In addition to its awards prowess, FOOD, INC. has something else going for it. Of the fifteen films on the shortlist, it's the box office champ, by far. The runners-up, EVERY LITTLE STEP and VALENTINO: THE LAST EMPEROR, have less than half of FOOD, INC.'s $4.4 million take. Oscar tradition in the post-Columbine era says that the films that win Best Documentary are either the highest grossing films on the shortlist (BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, MARCH OF THE PENGUINS, INCONVENIENT TRUTH, MAN ON WIRE) or they are films in the midst of high-profile theatrical releases (FOG OF WAR, BORN INTO BROTHELS, TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE).
A week with a couple big documentary prizes plus another major nomination could be very big for FOOD, INC.'s chances.
But the week could go very differently. FOOD, INC. could be bested in both the IDAs and the Gothams (both are voted on by a jury, which could choose to go with a very different, even underdog choice than a larger popular vote) and could come up empty at the Spirits.
A loss at the Gothams shouldn't be seen as a knockout blow (as we noted this morning, it may actually be a good sign - no film has won the Gotham Award and the Oscar). In fact, TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE lost out at both awards (famously at the IDA Awards to A WALK TO BEAUTIFUL, a verdict that still inspires jaw-dropping in some quarters) and failed to get a Spirit nod and still took home the Oscar.
But TAXI was considered the underdog that year (to both SICKO and NO END IN SIGHT), with its Oscar chances building as the year continued. FOOD, INC. is a/the frontrunner, so a week of bad news could change the dynamics of the horse race.