After a full year in which Laura Poitras' THE OATH and Jeff Malmberg's MARWENCOL dominated our Nonfiction Feature Honor Roll with a full slate of festival jury prizes and year-end documentary awards, the onslaught of 2010's various film critics honors have handed the mantle of most honored documentary of the year to Banksy's EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP.
EXIT now has a full 24 mentions on the Honor Roll - a combination of year-end documentary award nominations and critics prizes - which is 8 ahead of the 2nd place film, MARWENCOL and 10 ahead of Poitras' THE OATH and fellow Oscar shortlisted doc, Charles Ferguson's INSIDE JOB.
Three other Oscar shortlisted features - Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger's RESTREPO, Amir Bar-Lev's THE TILLMAN STORY and Davis Guggenheim's WAITING FOR 'SUPERMAN' have 12 mentions each.
After being absent from the list for most of the year (the film played out of competition at Sundance and Berlin), EXIT sprinted to the top of the Honor Roll chart on the basis of a somewhat surprising critical consensus - surprising not on the merits but because critics have tended to award issue-based docs over more entertaining fare. Even last year when ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL was making a strong year-end showing among some critics, in the end the awards tended to favor the eventual Oscar winner, Louie Psihoyos' THE COVE.
More to the point, the consensus critics winner has gone on to win the Oscar in six of the last eight years (the totality of the post-COLUMBINE era). The exceptions were 2004, when Michael Moore decided not to submit FAHRENHEIT 9/11, and 2007, when Alex Gibney's TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE was theatrically released too late in the year to impact most of the critics awards.
That's not to say that EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP is a shoo-in for this year's Documentary Oscar, but it certainly must now be regarded as a favorite, if not the favorite, to take home the award - but first, it must be nominated, which is not quite a certainty.
The four more "issue-y" shortlisted films - INSIDE JOB, RESTREPO, TILLMAN and 'SUPERMAN' - have done quite well in terms of year-end critics prizes, even if it is striking that the critics have not rallied around one of those titles. The fact that they're all basically at the same level in terms of year-end honors is a show of strength for both RESTREPO and THE TILLMAN STORY, while raising questions about the perceived frontrunner status of both INSIDE JOB and WAITING FOR 'SUPERMAN'.
A list of five Oscar nominees that included those films (which would basically match the Critics Choice and Chicago Film Critics nominations) would be a big departure from the Academy's choices in the past decade. I suspect that three of those five films will get nominated, perhaps four. But which ones?
Go here for the full and updated list of nonfiction feature honors for 2010.