The State of the Race: The 15 Documentary Semi-Finalists


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There was a lot of Oscar-related news yesterday.  Along with the NYFCC giving their best picture award to Zero Dark Thirty, the Academy’s Documentary branch announced this year’s 15 sem-finalists for the Best Feature Length Documentary Oscar.  From this list, the final five nominees will be selected.

Needless to say, I was happy to see that my favorite documentary of 2012, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, made the shortlist.

At the same time, I’m also disappointed that the great ballet documentary First Position was snubbed.

And, finally even though I knew it wouldn’t have been nominated and I’m not saying that it should have been, wouldn’t it have been fun to watch the online critical establishment descend into mass hysteria if 2016: Obama’s America had somehow appeared on the list of semi-finalists?

“Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry”

“Bully”

“Chasing Ice”

“Detropia” 


“Ethel” 


“5 Broken Cameras”

“The Gatekeepers”

“The House I Live In”

“How to Survive a Plague”

“The Imposter”

“The Invisible War”

“Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God” 


“Searching for Sugar Man” 


“This Is Not a Film” 


“The Waiting Room”

 

And here are The Independent Spirit Nominations


The Gotham Awards aren’t the only awards regularly given to films that the majority of filmgoers will never get to see.  The Independent Spirit Nominations are also dedicated to recognizing the best of independent film and they tend to get a bit more attention than the Gothams.  With the early Oscar talk being dominated by mainstream studio films like Argo, Lincoln and Les Miserables, indie films like Bernie and Moonrise Kingdom are going to need all of the help that they can get.

BEST PICTURE

Bernie

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Keep The Lights On

Moonrise Kingdom

Silver Linings Playbook

BEST DIRECTOR

Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom

Julia Loktev, The Loneliest Planet

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Ira Sachs, Keep the Lights On

Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

BEST SCREENPLAY

Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom

Zoe Kazan, Ruby Sparks

Martin McDonagh, Seven Psychopaths

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Ira Sachs, Keep the Lights On

BEST FIRST FEATURE

Fill the Void

Gimme the Loot

Safety Not Guaranteed

Sound of My Voice

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY

Rama Burshtein, Fill the Void

Derek Connolly, Safety Not Guaranteed

Christopher Ford, Robot & Frank

Rashida Jones & Will McCormack, Celeste and Jesse Forever

Jonathan Lisecki, Gayby

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD – (for features under $500,000)

Breakfast with Curtis

Middle of Nowhere

Mosquita y Mari

Starlet

The Color Wheel

BEST FEMALE LEAD

Linda Cardellini, Return

Emayatzy Corinealdi, Middle of Nowhere

Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Smashed

BEST MALE LEAD

Jack Black, Bernie

Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook

John Hawkes, The Sessions

Thure Lindhardt, Keep the Lights On

Matthew McConaughey, Killer Joe

Wendell Pierce, Four

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE

Rosemarie DeWitt, Your Sister’s Sister

Ann Dowd, Compliance

Helen Hunt, The Sessions

Brit Marling, Sound of My Voice

Lorraine Toussaint, Middle of Nowhere

BEST SUPPORTING MALE

Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike

David Oyelowo, Middle of Nowhere

Michael Péna, End of Watch

Sam Rockwell, Seven Psychopaths

Bruce Willis, Moonrise Kingdom

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Yoni Brook, Valley of Saints

Lol Crawley, Here

Ben Richardson, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Roman Vasyanov, End of Watch

Robert Yeoman, Moonrise Kingdom

BEST DOCUMENTARY

How to Survive a Plague

Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present

The Central Park Five

The Invisible War

The Waiting Room

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM

Amour (France)

Once Upon A Time in Anatolia (Turkey)

Rust And Bone (France/Belgium)

Sister (Switzerland)

War Witch (Democratic Republic of Congo)

PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD

Nobody Walks, Alicia Van Couvering

Prince Avalanche, Derrick Tseng

Stones in the Sun, Mynette Louie

SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD

Pincus, director David Fenster

Gimme the Loot, director Adam Leon

Electrick Children, director Rebecca Thomas

TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD (given to emerging documentary filmmaker)

Leviathan, directors Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel

The Waiting Room, director Peter Nicks

Only the Young, directors Jason Tippet & Elizabeth Mims

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD (for ensemble cast)

Starlet Director: Sean Baker Casting Director: Julia Kim Cast: Dree Hemingway, Besedka Johnson, Karren Karagulian, Stella Maeve, James Ransone

Moonrise Kingdom Wins At The Gotham Awards


Well, it’s Oscar season and that means that, over the upcoming month, a bunch of otherwise obscure organizations are going to be handing out a lot of awards to a small group of films.  Last night, the Gotham Awards were awarded to the “best” in independent films.  The Gothams aren’t exactly known for being a reliable Oscar precursor but they do signal start the awards season and I, of course, am an awards junkie.

Here are the winners:

Best Feature: Moonrise Kingdom
Gotham Independent Film Audience Award: Artifact
Best Ensemble Performance: Emily Blunt, Rosemarie Dewitt and Mark Duplass, Your Sister’s Sister
Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You: An Oversimplification of Her Beauty
Breakthrough Actor: Emayatzy Corinealdi, Middle of Nowhere
Breakthrough Director: Behn Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Best Documentary: How to Survive a Plague

Of course, the “best” is in the eye of the beholder.  I, for one, greatly enjoyed Moonrise Kingdom.  However, I also thought (and continue to think) that Beasts of the Southern Wild is one of the most overrated films of all time.  Seriously, didn’t Voltaire end the myth of the noble savage with Candide?  It’s also interesting to note that, despite racking up a lot of nominations and being two of the best films of 2012, neither The Master nor Bernie won any awards.

And like that, Oscar season begins: The Gotham Independent Film Awards Nominations


As I’ve said many times in the past, I am an Oscar fanatic and Oscar season is my favorite time of the year.  Well, I’m happy to say that the 2012 Oscar season has now officially began.  The Gotham Independent Film Spirit Awards have been announced.

“The what?” you my be asking.

Well, okay, it’s true that the Gothams aren’t as influential as the Golden Globes or the National Board of Review.  But, still, for independent filmmakers who are hoping not to be forgotten in the rush to embrace mainstream films like Lincoln, The Great Gatsby, and Zero Dark Thirty, every little bit of publicity helps.

The nominations appear to be dominated by Bernie, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Master.  That’s not a bad thing because I consider each one of those films to be one of the best of the year.

Here’s the nominations.  I’m going to hold off on offering up any commentary, beyond saying that I’m glad to see that Bernie is being remembered.

Best Feature:

Bernie

The Loneliest Planet

The Master

Middle of Nowhere

Moonrise Kingdom

Best Documentary:

Detropia

How To Survie a Plague

Marina Abramowtiz: The Artist Is Present

Room 327

The Waiting Room

Best Ensemble Performance:

Bernie

Moonrise Kingdom

Safety Not Guaranteed

Silver Linings Playbook

Your Sister’s Sister

Breakthrough Director

Zal Batmanglij for “Sound of My Voice
Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky for “Francine”

Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin for “Now, Forager”
Antonio Mendez Esparza for “Aqui­ y Alli¡ (Here and There)”
Benh Zeitlin for “Beasts of the Southern Wild

Breakthrough Actor
Mike Birbiglia in “Sleepwalk with Me
Emayatzy Corinealdi in “Middle of Nowhere
Thure Lindhardt in “Keep the Lights On
Melanie Lynskey in “Hello, I Must Be Going
Quvenzhane Wallis in “Beasts of the Southern Wild
Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You
“Kid-Thing”
“An Oversimplification of Her Beauty”
“Red Flag”
“Sun Don’t Shine”
“Tiger Tail in Blue”