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Doc Oscar Noms Stir Rancor, Rumors

ReelPolitik By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik November 18, 2004 at 4:57AM

Doc Oscar Noms Stir Rancor, Rumors
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After the Academy announced its short-list for best documentary, the questions began: Where was "Tarnation"? Where was "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster? Where was "Control Room"?

Further reflecting New York's disconnect with the rest of America (secession is our only hope now), the Academy's eligible docs shared only a single entry with the Gotham Awards' 5 top docu picks: Jessica Yu's "In the Realms of the Unreal."

The rest of the Academy lineup features some expected entries -- from "Super Size Me" to "Riding Giants" -- but the full list taken as a whole ignores some of the year's most potent nonfiction work.

"Whatever the restrictions, whatever the guidelines, it's not a fair
representation of the caliber of docs from 2004," one distributor told me via email. "Maybe DIEBOLD should work in conjunction with the Academy to come up with a better approach."

Should we really be suprised that one of the only studio-produced nonfiction films, Paramount Pictures's "Tupac: Resurrection," made the cut, whereas smaller pics like Ross McElwee's "Bright Leaves" did not?

To be fair, a number of independent films -- that have not been distributed -- did make the Academy shortlist, such as Kirby Dick's "Twist of Faith" and "The Ritchie Boys." While the recognition should reward these deserving films, their inclusion has pushed out some worthy pics that did have distribution this year.

Like the Academy's faulty foreign language rules, the documentary guidelines are also less than perfect. But should this really shock anyone: AMPAS has a history of failing smaller films: trying to excise the short documentary category, picking inferior foreign films, and ignoring ground-breaking filmmakers like Errol Morris whose work doesn't fit into a neat and definable category. And yes, they finally acknowledged him in 2004.

And someday they'll catch on to "Tarnation." But I don't expect the Best Experimental Film Oscar to be announced anytime soon.