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December 30, 2008


Michael C.

Great observation, A.J., and one that I completely agree with. Now anyone would tell you that our Awards are not the Oscars, but the Chlotrudis Society for Independent Film have been honoring their own picks for the best in independent film each year for nearly fifteen years, and recently documentaries have started to show up in the Best Movie category. In 2004 it was SPELLBOUND, and last year, PROTAGONIST was nominated in both the Best Movie and Best Documentary category (it won the latter category). Our nominating committee are starting to get used to the fact that when they're thinking of the Best Movie of the year, quite often that movie was a documentary.

Sean O'Connell

You nailed it. Great job, A.J.

MAN (as well as WALL-E) belong in the race. They are both superior to the films supposedly in the "running" for the top Oscar.

Otherwise, the Academy needs to change the name of the Best Picture trophy to, as you say, Best Narrative Feature ... or something more appropriate.

Conor Pewarski

YES! We should nominate the Best Pictures, not the Best Live Action Narrative Pictures in the English Language. Thank you for taking an analytic approach to the problem of non-fiction films getting snubbed in the Best Picture category. The fact that docs are never taken seriously in this category is a large impediment to the progress of the artform. There would be an explosion in great documentary films if investors thought that a project had Best Picture potential. Doc filmmakers could finally make a decent living instead of having to take a vow of poverty.

This is an important issue and one that doc filmmakers and fans should take seriously. We should have a gameplan for future award shows. AJ, as one of the biggest bloggers on doc films, you definitely have influence here. Long pieces like this one need to be written, not just tiny sidenotes in top ten lists.

Unfortunately, I don't think that 'Man on Wire' deserves it. It's a very very good documentary film, but not spectacular.

(1. There's much to be said on the role of 9/11 in 'Man on Wire'; the images in the film are loaded because of that event. But I don't think that reason makes it any more worthy of a Best Pic award.)

2. The recreations were nothing spectacular. They were your pretty standard Errol Morris / tv docudrama recreations. Nothing fancy, didn't set a new standard for recreations or anything like that. Say what you will about the story and acting in "Benjamin Button", the filmmaking special effects were impressive and worthy of praise.

3. Not to take anything away from the 'Man on Wire' producers, but rounding up the crew from the wire coup was a small task compared to Morris getting together almost every player in the Abu Graib photographs or Alex Gibney rounding up all the players in "Taxi". (Many of the interviews in 'SOP' were paid for, but if we want to even the playing field of docs, maybe we should overlook this possible ethical problem.) If this is what makes a film more Oscar-worthy, we should take a closer look at 'SOP'.

6. Just because it was one of the best-reviewed doesn't mean it deserves to be nominated. It's hard to say anything bad about this film. Part of the problem is that critics don't know enough about docs to properly critique them. (See Thom Powers' recent post: http://stfdocs.com/blog/comments/wanted_documentary_critics/) Half of the top 20 reviewed films are documentaries. All of the top 5 are. This definitely was a weak year for fiction films and many in the talks wouldn't deserve it if they were released in years past, but I don't think that metric is the best for determining who should be nominated.

While I don't think that 'Man on Wire' is the best doc of the year, I do think that it's important for the doc community to get behind a doc and push for it to be included in the conversation.

Maybe it would be better to also push for "Bashir" and "Winnipeg"? They're likely to get snubbed by the Academy because they're not non-fiction enough by traditional standards and would definitely be a step in the right direction.

low budget movies

It is sad to say that I've not seen any movie mentioned in this article.

joanne Feinberg

Great food for thought here AJ!


did you today's NYT Oscar special section? The Man listed Werner Herzog on her personal ballot for Best Actor! It's a greater stretch than MAN ON WIRE for Best Pic, but i thought you'd appreciate the symmetry.

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