The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences offered up the list of the 15 movies that can be nominated for Best Documentary, and, true to form, there are some great inclusions and some questionable absences. As Reuters put it, "As for what first-round Academy voters did like, the list included a surprising number of lighter docs and portrait films, as opposed to the serious, issue-oriented films that usually dominate the category."
For instance, the Academy did include Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, the third film following the wrongful convictions of three teens accused of murder and sentenced to death (Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's films are considered important to helping the case get more attention and the teens—now men—out of prison), but didn't include Werner Herzog's meditation on the death penalty, Into the Abyss. Bill Cunningham New York, the charming documentary about the NY Times' 80-something style photograph Bill Cunningham was included, but, Page One, the documentary about the Times' media reporters was snubbed.
Jane's Journey, a documentary about beloved primatologist Jane Goodall, could be up for Best Doc honors, but even positive reviews have noted it lacks "intellectual substance," where as nearly unanimously critically-praised The Interrupters, about "violence interrupters" in Chicago trying to take back their communities, was left out of contention. Then again, maybe that makes sense, since of the the directors of The Interrupters is Steve James, part of the trio behind Hoop Dreams, the groundbreaking documentary about high school basketball players, poverty, and the American Dream, which was also snubbed to much uproar by the Academy.
Here's the Oscars shortlist for Best Documentary—according to the Hollywood Reporter, "Now branch members will pare the 15 films down to five nominees, who will be announced Jan. 24 at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater"; after that, the whole Academy can vote on the Best Documentary:"
Battle for Brooklyn
Bill Cunningham New York (First Thought Films)
Buck (Cedar Creek Productions)
Hell and Back Again (Roast Beef Productions Limited)
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (Marshall Curry Productions, LLC)
Jane's Journey (NEOS Film GmbH & Co. KG)
The Loving Story (Augusta Films)
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (@radical.media)
Pina (Neue Road Movies GmbH)
Project Nim (Red Box Films)
Semper Fi: Always Faithful (Tied to the Tracks Films, Inc.)
Sing Your Song (S2BN Belafonte Productions, LLC)
Undefeated (Spitfire Pictures)
Under Fire: Journalists in Combat (JUF Pictures, Inc.)
We Were Here (Weissman Projects, LLC)
And here are a few trailers for some shortlisted—and snubbed—docs:
Bill Cunningham New York (shortlisted)
Bill Cunningham New York Trailer from Gavin McWait on Vimeo.
The Interrupters (snubbed)
Project Nim (shortlisted), about a chimpanzee raised as a human child in NYC
Senna (snubbed), about the Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna, who won the F1 world championship three times before his death at age 34
Pina (shortlisted), about choreographer Pina Bausch
Page One (snubbed)
Hell and Back Again (shortlisted), about a soldier seriously wounded in Afghanistan who returns home
Into the Abyss (snubbed)