Here Are The 15 Semi-Finalists For The Best Documentary Oscar!


Yesterday, the Academy announced the 15 semi-finalists for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar.

I’ve seen quite  a few documentaries this year but I haven’t seen any of the films listed below.  Quite a few of them are on Netflix.  Abacus: Small Enough to Jail can be found on YouTube.  I have a feeling that An Inconvenient Sequel will win, just because Al Gore will probably trash Trump during his acceptance speech.

Anyway, here are the semi-finalists:

Abacus: Small Enough TO Jail,

Chasing Coral,

City of Ghosts,

Ex Libris — The New York Public Library,

Faces Places,

Human Flow,

Icarus,

An Inconvenient Sequel,

Jane,

LA 92,

Last Man in Aleppo,

Long Strange Trip,

One Of Us,

Strong Island,

Unrest

 

What Lisa Watched Last Night: Terra Nova Episode 1.1 — “Genesis”


Last night, I actually put off watching Dancing With The Kinda Stars so that I could catch the first episode of Fox’s much-hyped sci-fi series, Terra Nova.  This show was produced by Mr. Mainstream himself, Steven Spielberg.

Why Was I Watching It?

I was beaten into submission by the nonstop commercials.  Now, I have to admit that the commercials seemed to represent everything that I traditionally dislike in my entertainment: political subtext, “inspiring” speeches, and Stephen Lang.  However, it also had dinosaurs and seriously, who doesn’t love dinosaurs?

What’s It About?

Okay, we’re several years into the future and the Earth looks a lot like Blade Runner.  Why?  It turns out that Al Gore was right and ManBearPig has basically messed up the entire planet.  However, there is hope!  There’s some sort of tear in the whole space-time continuum and stepping through it allows a few lucky citizens to go back to the Island from Lost.  However, since this is the FAR future, nobody remembers Lost so they think they’ve actually gone back to the prehistoric past.  In the prehistoric past, time travellers are living in a small community that is overseen by a vaguely menacing guy who we suspect might secretly be evil because he’s named Nathaniel and he’s played by Stephen Lang.

Anyway, there’s this family that has issues in the future and since Jeremy Kyle is long dead (we can only hope), they can’t go on TV to work it out.  So, they go through the time portal.  The father — who is a fugitive from future law — quickly becomes a part of Nathaniel’s security force.  Meanwhile, the teenage children get all rebellious and there’s these guerillas who live outside the compound and they’re led by a woman who might as well have been played by Michelle Rodriguez but wasn’t.

Oh!  And there are dinosaurs!  Yay!

What Worked?

The show is filmed in Australia and, as a result, it’s really pretty to look at. 

I make fun of Stephen Lang a lot because I honestly believe that he gave one of the worst performances in cinematic history in Avatar.  (Fortunately, he was acting opposite Sam Worthington, who can make anyone look like an Olivier by comparison.)  But, I have to admit, Lang is well-cast here and comes the closest to anyone in this episode to actually being memorable.

The dinosaurs are impressive and fun to watch.  Unfortunately, the fake dinosaurs often displayed more personality than the living actors but still, who doesn’t love dinosaurs?  Hopefully, in a future episode, the annoying and way too English talk show host Jeremy Kyle will come through the portal and get devoured (in slow-motion) by one of the dinosaurs.  I may start a letter-writing campaign.

What Doesn’t Work?

A lot.

My biggest complaint with the show was that this episode really put the sloth into the giant sloth.  Seriously.  Lost took its time as well but the show itself was never boring.  Terra Nova, at least in this episode, seems to feel that elaborate special effects are a proper substitute for interesting characters, witty dialogue, and anything else that might organically create narrative momentum.  I actually ended up falling asleep during the final 30 minutes of the show and had to watch the finale off of the DVR.

The dinosaurs were impressive but the rest of the show’s special effects were rather predictable and a little on the bleh side.  The time portal looked like every other time portal in the history of science fiction and the dystopian future looked a lot like Blade Runner but without any of the small details to make it feel like anything other than CGI. 

I am officially bored with shows that use global warming as a plot point.  Seriously, they’re always so smug about it. 

This show is being compared, by many people, to Lost.  Like Lost, the scenery is beautiful and the plot has the potential for a lot of secrets and mysteries to be uncovered.  However, Lost also had a lot of quirky, interesting characters and that’s something that Terra Nova, on the basis of this episode, is lacking.  The first episode of Terra Nova felt a lot like Lost if Lost had only focused on Jack Shepherd and Michael Dawson.  Terra Nova needs its own Sawyers, Hurleys, and John Lockes. 

Now, I want to make clear — my comments here are strictly based on seeing Genesis and a lot of my criticisms could be due to the fact that it’s just the first episode.  Hopefully, as a series, Terra Nova will — much like Lost and Fringe and other comparable shows — evolve beyond the strengths and flaws of the first episode.

“OMG!  Just like me!” Moments

Much like Nathaniel’s rebellious daughter, I would also go a little stir crazy if I was stuck in that highly regimented, socialistic commune.  Seriously, the commune looked like a really bleh place to live.

Lessons Learned

Dinosaurs are neat and global warming is tedious.

The 2010 Oscars: Best Documentary: The Toadsuckers Are Narrowing It Down


Here’s some more news from the toadsuckers and dumbfugs who make up the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.  These are the people who give out the Academy Awards and who continue to insist that Crash, Titanic, Gladiator, Braveheart, Gandhi, The Sound of Music, Rocky, American Beauty, The Greatest Show on Earth, and How Green Was My Valley were all great films.  Yes, those people.

Anyway, along with giving out Oscars for best picture, best director, and all the other awards that the general public actually cares about, the Academy also gives out an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.  Occasionally, this category does get some notice.  For instance, there’s always the chance that Michael Moore will win another Oscar and start foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog again and Al Gore might give another award-winning power point presentation in the near future.  But for the most part, most people just see Best Documentary as just another roadblock on the journey between Best Supporting Actress and Best Picture.

Which is a shame because Best Documentary is usually a pretty fun category to try to predict.  Since hardly anyone has seen (or heard) of the majority of the nominees, you can simply pick one at random, say something vaguely serious-sounding about it, and people will assume that you’re far smarter than you ever possibly could be.  For me, the best thing about the documentary category is that, since you’ll probably never actually see most of the films nominated, your final opinion on the winner is often based on the acceptance speech.  If the documentarian gives a funny or sentimental speech then suddenly you realize that Gabby: The Girl Who Could Have Been is the greatest freaking documentary ever made.  And if his speech is strident or angry or boring then you’ll spend the next week wondering how the Academy could ever honor a piece of trash like Pelosi: Amazon From The Bay.

Anyway, the Documentary Branch of the Academy announced the 15 finalists for the Oscar for Best Feature-Length Documentary of 2010.  From these 15, the final five nominees will be determined.

Here’s the list:

“Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer,” Alex Gibney, director (ES Productions LLC)
Enemies of the People,” Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath, directors (Old Street Films)
Exit through the Gift Shop,” Banksy, director (Paranoid Pictures)
Gasland,” Josh Fox, director (Gasland Productions, LLC)
Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould,” Michele Hozer and Peter Raymont, directors (White Pine Pictures)
Inside Job,” Charles Ferguson, director (Representational Pictures)
The Lottery,” Madeleine Sackler, director (Great Curve Films)
Precious Life,” Shlomi Eldar, director (Origami Productions)
Quest for Honor,” Mary Ann Smothers Bruni, director (Smothers Bruni Productions)
Restrepo,” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, directors (Outpost Films)
This Way of Life,” Thomas Burstyn, director (Cloud South Films)
The Tillman Story,” Amir Bar-Lev, director (Passion Pictures/Axis Films)
Waiting for ‘Superman’”, Davis Guggenheim, director (Electric Kinney Films)
Waste Land,” Lucy Walker, director (Almega Projects)
William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe,” Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler, directors (Disturbing the Universe LLC)      

If Exit Through the Gift Shop (which is currently my choice for the best film of 2010) had failed to appear on this list, I would have thrown a fit.  Luckily, there it is.  Will it make the final five?  It better.

As for the other finalists, I’ve only seen Restrepo and Waiting for Superman and they’re both deserving of at least a nomination.  However, I’m hoping that the film about William Kunstler gets a nomination just because I’m hoping that whoever presents the award this year will mispronounce Kunstler and get the Academy broadcast fined by the FCA.

It’s also interesting to note that I’ve probably gone to more documentaries this year than any other.  And yet, I’ve only seen 3 of the 15 finalists.  Certainly, I guess I could go see Inside Job this weekend but do I really need a documentary to tell me that the economy is fucked up?  Seriously.  The trailer — featuring Matt Damon interrogating a bunch of Wall Street types — just comes across as being incredibly smug.  Client 9 should be opening up down here in Dallas pretty soon as well and I’ll probably see it but I’m not going to cry if I miss the opportunity to spend two hours with Eliot Spitzer.

To me, the best documentaries of 2010 include — along with Restrepo, Waiting for Superman, and Exit Through The Gift Shop (the best film of 2010, did I mention that?) — Winnebago Man, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, The Best Worst Movie, and (arguably) Catfish

The toadsuckers disagree.