Lots of folks were working overtime this morning, trying to reason out why Davis Guggenheim's WAITING FOR 'SUPERMAN' didn't get the Oscar nomination that so many (including us in our final predictions) forecasted.
Andrew Breitbart's Big Hollywood website blames it the politics - arguing Guggenheim is learning "the price a political apostate pays in Hollywood for straying off the liberal plantation". Says John Nolte
"But how could America’s teachers unions not have been thrilled with the news that Guggenheim's damning indictment of the devastation they have brought down upon America’s public school system and millions upon millions of children was snubbed by the Academy this morning?"
The conservative National Review agrees that the omission was "extremely disappointing" (it also opines for the lack of THE LOTTERY as well), but stops short of calling it a liberal blacklisting.
The Washington Post (writing from a hometown in which some of 'SUPERMAN' takes place) said it was because the film "was not good/accurate enough to be selected" and levels a number of truthfulness claims at the film. The AP's Jake Coyle also speculates along that line, saying it went missing "perhaps because some experts deemed it an inaccurate exaggeration of charter schools".
Dave Karger at Entertainment Weekly says it's because the Doc Branch is so "quirky".
And finally, in a conversation with the Washington City Paper's Benjamin Freed, Oscar blogger Scott Feinberg goes to the old saw that Doc Branch voters are "older, retired and perhaps less in touch", even though he acknowledges that that hardly explains the nomination for EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP (or the creatively made GASLAND).
So there's the theories - liberal bias, accuracy and that quirky, old, retired documentary branch.
Wrong on all three counts. Here's why WAITING FOR 'SUPERMAN' didn't get nominated today:
1. People didn't love it.
This was a year for passion in a year with a lot of films to feel passionate about. What makes the nominees - all five, really - stand out are that all have very passionate and engaged supporters. As I wrote the day before the Oscar nominations were announced:
"Every time that the film has had an opportunity to register with peer-based or indie film-centric nominating committees, it's been a no-show. Nothing from the Gothams (that Audience Award doesn't count), the Spirits, Cinema Eye (neither does that Audience Award) or the IDA Awards. And while we've yet to meet anyone who truly dislikes the film, we also haven't met anyone who's head-over-heels in love with it either."
It's precisely because of this that I didn't feel like the film was a frontrunner until very recently when it won both the Broadcast Critics award and the Producers Guild Award. As I said on Monday, you'd have to be a "head-in-the-sander not to view 'SUPERMAN' as the prohibitive frontrunner at this point" and that clearly the wins signified "that this film resonates with viewers and voters in ways that even I can't quite put my finger on".
2. Davis Guggenheim already has an Academy Award.
I had to chuckle a bit when I saw folks predicting that Guggenheim, Alex Gibney and previous Oscar nominee Charles Ferguson were all going to get nominated this morning. It just doesn't work that way. Since COLUMBINE, only Michael Moore has been nominated after he won an Oscar, and Charles Ferguson this year becomes only the second person other than Moore (Gibney was the other) to be nominated twice.
It's not like I believe that the branch thinks, "OK, one and your done". But they are, for the most part, documentary filmmakers, some of whom have never been nominated. You'd be kidding yourself if you don't think that they want to spread the love around.
3. It was not a good Oscar campaign.
One of the quotes that Scott Feinberg gives to Washington City Paper is that "it was as well-run an Oscar campaign as you can have for a documentary". Feinberg had predicted earlier this year that 'SUPERMAN' might even get a Best Picture nomination.
The truth? The folks behind 'SUPERMAN' did not wage a good campaign, not even close. In political terms, they ran a general election campaign while thinking that they could ignore the primary. And if the lack of 'SUPERMAN' said anything today, it was that you can't ignore the primary. And in the Documentary Feature race, the primary takes place on the ground amongst other documentary filmmakers, not on Oprah or with Bill Gates money or in pronouncements from the White House.
A similar thing happened last year when FOOD, INC., which was actually my favorite of the five nominees, lost its early momentum to THE COVE. Louie Psihoyos, a newcomer to the documentary world, made the rounds, told folks about how he was prepping his next documentary. Robbie Kenner, a beloved filmmaker, was sent to dinner parties hosted by Martha Stewart. It raised the PR profile on the film, but it's doubtful that the moves brought the film any votes.
4. A surprise is not a snub.
Yes, it was a surprise that WAITING FOR 'SUPERMAN' wasn't on Oscar's final list of 5, but we figured a surprise was coming (we just picked the wrong one) and just because it was surprising doesn't make it a snub. As I wrote on Monday, voters were looking for a passion pick to "stand as the emblem of the exceptionally great year that we just had".