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Documentary Nominations Roundup: Which Films Are Leading the Pack?

Thompson on Hollywood By Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood November 29, 2013 at 2:53PM

Heading into the critics group voting next week, what are the documentaries leading the pack in terms of nominations? We assess based on nominations from the Indie Spirits, the IDA, the Cinema Eye Honors, the Gothams and the PGA.
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Cutie and the Boxer

Heading into the critics group voting next week, which documentaries are leading the pack in terms of nominations? The Academy doc branch has already filed their ballots for the top 15 shortlist (our TOH! predictions for the 15 Oscar docs are here). Based on nominations from PGA, the Indie Spirits, the IDA, the Gothams and the Cinema Eye Honors, here's what we got.

Joshua Oppenheimer's harrowing yet mesmerizing "The Act of Killing" (review) appears to be the clear frontrunner: it has picked up Best Documentary nominations from the Indie Spirits, the Gothams, the IDA and Cinema Eye.

Sarah Polley's "Stories We Tell"
Sarah Polley's "Stories We Tell"

Meanwhile, Sarah Polley's family mystery "Stories We Tell" (interview) is sitting strong with top honor nominations from IDA and Cinema Eye. Same goes for third-trimester abortion documentary "After Tiller" (review), with nods from the Indie Spirits and Cinema Eye. Ditto Egyptian revolution doc "The Square" (interview), with noms from the Indie Spirits and IDA.

Also in the mix are Zachary Heinzerling's brilliant portrait of Japanese artist couple Ushio and Noriko Shinohara "Cutie and Boxer" (interview), which is leading the Cinema Eye honors with six nominations. Gabriela Cowperthwaite's SeaWorld expose "Blackfish" (review), which we think will have good chances at the Oscars, has an IDA nod, as does portrait of backup singers "20 Feet from Stardom" (interview). Jason Osder's found-footage thriller on the 1985 bombing of radical group MOVE "Let the Fire Burn" has landed a Gotham and IDA nomination, while Lucy Walker's "The Crash Reel" (interview), on the rivalry between snowboarders Shaun White and Kevin Pearce and Pearce's subsequent disastrous injury, also has a Gotham nod..

Dawn Porter's "Gideon's Army," Alan Berliner's "First Cousin, Once Removed," Penny Lane's "Our Nixon" and Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel’s "Leviathan" are all sitting with one nomination in a top category from either the IDA, the Spirits, the Gothams or Cinema Eye, though these titles might have more of an outside chance in gaining awards traction.

The PGA Documentary nominations vary pretty drastically from the above awards groups. Of the six titles nominated by the Producers Guild, Alex Gibney's "We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks" (interview) is the most likely to make it to the Oscar shortlist:

  • A PLACE AT THE TABLE
  • FAR OUT ISN’T FAR ENOUGH: THE TOMI UNGERER STORY
  • LIFE ACCORDING TO SAM
  • WE STEAL SECRETS: THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS
  • WHICH WAY IS THE FRONT LINE FROM HERE? THE LIFE AND TIME OF TIM HETHERINGTON

This article is related to: Awards, Awards, Documentary, Documentaries, International Documentary Association , Producers Guild Awards, Indie Spirits, Cinema Eye Honors, Awards Season Roundup


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.