By no means are my ears privy to insider Oscar talk, nor do I pretend to be a qualified Academy prognosticator, but I've been talking with some people and I think James Longley's lyrical portrait "Iraq in Fragments" has an outside chance of beating Al Gore's climate-change lecture juggernaut "An Inconvenient Truth" for the Best Documentary Oscar.
Global warming certainly made big headlines recently, but the war in Iraq remains American's number one concern. And it certainly was on Academy voters' minds when they turned in their ballots on Jan. 31, just a week after 25 U.S. soldiers died in a single day in Iraq, one of the bloodiest for the U.S. military since the war began.
With the Academy having some track record of political votes, I could see "Iraq in Fragments" pulling a surprise victory in a couple weeks. Not that Academy voters know a good film if it bit them in the ass (see last year's "Crash" win over "Brokeback Mountain"), but the fact is that "An Inconvenient Truth" -- despite Paramount Vantage's impressive marketing -- is a bit of a bore. "Iraq in Fragments," beautiful, complex, even more urgent and the first movie to come along that touches on the current war with a deep, emotional power, is simply a stronger, more memorable film.
Sure, "Iraq in Fragments" only made $88,900 in ticket receipts, compared with "An Inconvenient Truth"'s $24.1 milllion gross, and box-office is historically a major factor at the Academy Awards. But I'd make an outside bet that politics could trump commerce this time around.