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Oscar Watch: Documentary Branch Snubs Capitalism: A Love Story

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 19, 2009 at 12:14AM

The Academy documentary branch has named their short list of fifteen films (full list on jump), which will be narrowed down to five on Oscar nominations morning February 2.
Thompson on Hollywood

The Academy documentary branch has named their short list of fifteen films (full list on jump), which will be narrowed down to five on Oscar nominations morning February 2.

Winning the Oscar would seem to have been a disqualifier this year, as the doc committee snubbed this year's highest-profile documentary, Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story as well as It Might Get Loud, whose director David Guggenheim won the Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth. This group tends to lean toward social activism like The Cove or Food Inc. (the only film to score top noms at the Gotham, Cinema Eye, and IDA Documentary Awards) more than music movies. Showbiz doc Every Little Step did score a slot, along with the Civil Rights era Soundtrack for a Revolution, but Anvil! The Story of Anvil did not. There was room for one fashion world portrait (Matt Tyrnaur's Valentino the Last Emperor) but not two (R. J. Cutler's The September Issue). And ex-heavyweight champion Mike Tyson's recent news appearances, telling Oprah he wanted to "sock" Robin Givens, or his brawl with airport paparazzi, did not help the cause of James Toback's Tyson. Instead, Facing Ali, a tribute to another champion, made the list.

Check out the latest Gurus 'O Gold Oscar poll.

[Photo: Burma VJ]

So many docs were in contention this year that there were bound to be some disappointed high-profile hopefuls, including such fest hits Ondi Timoner's We Live in Public, Joe Berlinger's Crude and Chris Smith's Collapse. Only six of the fifteen films were theatrically released, which suggests that the committee is trying to help movies that still need a boost. The rest did qualifying runs, which will likely be the extent of their theatrical release, despite Academy exec director Bruce Davis's protestations in that regard. The future for documentary releases --if not all releases--is digital, and I hope the Academy will recognize that when evaluating their eligibility rules for next year.

“The Beaches of Agnes”
Agnes Varda, director (Cine-Tamaris)

“Burma VJ”
Anders Ostergaard, director (Magic Hour Films)

“The Cove”
Louie Psihoyos, director (Oceanic Preservation Society)

“Every Little Step”
James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo, directors (Endgame Entertainment)

“Facing Ali”
Pete McCormack, director (Network Films Inc.)

“Food, Inc.”
Robert Kenner, director (Robert Kenner Films)

“Garbage Dreams”
Mai Iskander, director (Iskander Films, Inc.)

“Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders”
Mark N. Hopkins, director (Red Floor Pictures LLC)

“The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers”
Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, directors (Kovno Communications)

“Mugabe and the White African”
Andrew Thompson and Lucy Bailey, directors (Arturi Films Limited)

Greg Barker, director (Passion Pictures and Silverbridge Productions)

“Soundtrack for a Revolution”
Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman, directors (Freedom Song Productions)

“Under Our Skin”
Andy Abrahams Wilson, director (Open Eye Pictures)

“Valentino The Last Emperor”
Matt Tyrnauer, director (Acolyte Films)

“Which Way Home”
Rebecca Cammisa, director (Mr. Mudd)

This article is related to: Awards, Genres, Oscars, Documentaries

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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.