Friday, October 23, 2015

A Look at the 124 Titles on the Best Documentary Shortlist

L. Ron Hubbard in Going Clear
Last week marked the release of the shortlist for the Best Foreign Film nominees for this year's Oscars. Today marks the latest shortlist, this time for Best Documentary. Featuring an impressive 124 selections (the highest total was 151 nominees in 2013), the list is an eclectic bunch of titles, including a few name grabbing films ranging from the highly successful Amy to the controversial Going Clear and The Look of Silence. The following is a rundown of every nominee on the list, which will be followed by a few opinions on the various titles featured.

Above and Beyond
All Things Must Pass
The Armor of Light
Ballet 422
Batkid Begins
Becoming Bulletproof
Being Evel
Beltracchi – The Art of Forgery
Best of Enemies
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Bolshoi Babylon
Brand: A Second Coming
A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story
Call Me Lucky
Cartel Land
Censored Voices
Coming Home
Dark Horse
Deli Man
Dior and I
The Diplomat
(Dis)Honesty – The Truth about Lies
Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll
Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant, Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon
Eating Happiness
Every Last Child
Evidence of Harm
Farewell to Hollywood
Finders Keepers
The Forecaster
Frame by Frame
Gardeners of Eden
A Gay Girl in Damascus: The Amina Profile
Godspeed: The Story of Page Jones
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
He Named Me Malala
Heart of a Dog
How to Change the World
The Hunting Ground
I Am Chris Farley
In Jackson Heights
In My Father’s House
India’s Daughter
Ingrid Bergman – In Her Own Words
Iraqi Odyssey
Janis: Little Girl Blue
Karski & the Lords of Humanity
Killing Them Safely
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
Lambert & Stamp
A Lego Brickumentary
Listen to Me Marlon
Live from New York!
The Look of Silence
Meet the Patels
The Mind of Mark DeFriest
Misery Loves Comedy
Monkey Kingdom
A Murder in the Park
My Italian Secret
My Voice, My Life
Of Men and War
One Cut, One Life
Only the Dead See the End of War
The Outrageous Sophie Tucker
Peace Officer
he Pearl Button
Pink & Blue: Colors of Hereditary Cancer
The Prime Ministers: Soldiers and Peacemakers
Prophet’s Prey
Racing Extinction
The Resurrection of Jake the Snake
Ride the Thunder – A Vietnam War Story of Victory & Betrayal
he Russian Woodpecker
Searching for Home: Coming Back from War
Seeds of Time
The Seven Five
Seymour: An Introduction
A Sinner in Mecca
Something Better to Come
Song from the Forest
Song of Lahore
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine
Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans
Stray Dog
Sunshine Superman
Sweet Micky for President
Tab Hunter Confidential
The Tainted Veil
Tap World
Thao’s Library
Those Who Feel the Fire Burning
3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets
The Touch of an Angel
TransFatty Lives
The True Cost
Very Semi-Serious: A Partially Thorough Portrait of New Yorker Cartoonists
The Wanted 18
We Are Many
We Come as Friends
We Were Not Just…Bicycle Thieves. Neorealism
Welcome to Leith
What Happened, Miss Simone?
What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy
Where to Invade Next
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom
The Wolfpack

Unlike the Best Foreign Film category, I have seen a handful of these. In order to save some time, I will lump them together by general subject. First, I will address the biopic portion. Among the list, I have seen Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck. It's about Nirvana's front man and is at very least a unique experience with experimental imagery and a lot of home videos of the star. It's enjoyable if you're a fan, but it is also a little overwhelming. Among the documentaries I haven't seen is Amy, which is about the late Amy Winehouse. The film garnered a significant box office (for a documentary) and is likely to be remembered for its problematic portrait of fame. Hitchcock/Truffaut may be fun for film lovers, but I don't know that it will stand much of a chance in the final run. Listen to Me Marlon is one that I intend to see when it airs next month, in which Marlon Brando tells his life story in his own words. Among all of these, I have heard the most positive things about this, even if I don't know that it will stand a chance. Finally, Ingrid Bergman - In Her Own Words is similar to Listen to Me Marlon, though I don't really know the feedback that the film has received. Of these, Marlon Brando seems the most likely to stand a chance.

As you know, I am a fan of Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act of Killing, so I am disappointed that I have yet to see The Look of Silence, which many are arguing is actually a far better film. Considering that the former is a masterpiece, that's exciting. I would be shocked if it doesn't make the final list based on reviews. I hope to see it before the final nominations are announced, but no guarantees. Going Clear is a great documentary about Scientology that I feel is at least one of the most buzzed about documentaries of the year. It's, at very least, the most watched documentary in HBO's history. I personally would consider it among my favorite for its engrossing and shocking look into the religion/cult that is Scientology. I also know that Michael Moore has a new one called Where to Invade Next, but I haven't heard anything about it. Of these, I would like to think that The Look of Silence and Going Clear are shoe-ins, the latter because of its popularity and how it still lingers in public conversation.

There are a ton of others that I could likely drop opinions on, but I have only seen a handful of these, all of which I have previously listed. If nothing else, it's exciting to know that there's a final list with a lot of great, familiar titles. I don't know which ones will stand out, especially as awards season kicks up. However, I do think that it's going to be an interesting year in which hopefully a nice variety of titles get into the final race. What titles on here are you most excited about? I feel that I need to be more aware of these, so please provide recommendations if you feel that I overlooked one of the best titles on here.

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