So if you haven't been paying attention, the Academy Awards announced their list of nominees awhile back. The Oscars have already been receiving flack for not including fan favorites like It Might Get Loud, Capitalism: A Love Story and Anvil! The Story of Anvil, but at this point, protests won't change anything so audiences must move on with the nominees provided them. In case you aren't up to speed on the films, here's a little bit about each and our early impressions for who might win the award on March 7th.
Burma VJ – Directed by Andres Ostergaard, who is probably only known by documentary lovers outside the United States. Burma VJ profiles the courageous efforts of a renegade band of Burmese reporters who, in the face of a repressive regime and media censorship, refuse to be silenced. A potential favorite for the Oscar award because it’s topic is relevant and hits close to home for audiences worldwide. Though Ostergaard’s film didn’t receive a major theatrical run like The Cove or Food Inc, audiences world wide none the less know his work and the subject it covers.
The Cove – Directed by first timer Louie Psihoyos, who has already established himself within the ranks of freshman filmmakers making waves in the documentary world. The Cove follows a group of animal activists to a scenic cove in Taijii, Japan, where they use surveillance equipment to capture footage of a secretive and heavily guarded operation run by the world's largest supplier of dolphins. The Cove may easily be the front runner for this category as it has cleaned up at every possible venue- including winning the Audience Award at the Sudance Film Festival.
Food, Inc. – Directed by Robert Kenner whose work has been more connected with 'made for TV' documentaries than anything else. Food, Inc explores the food industry's detrimental effects on our health and environment. This is a film that has received a lot of buzz from the Academy and for good reason. Though we found it to be too short in its investigation, the film as a whole provided the right amount of investigation, human interest and engaging special effects to warrant a serious look by the Oscars.
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers – Directed by Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith whose previous work is pretty slim, though Goldsmith has an Oscar nomination to his name for his 1996 documentary Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press. So at the very least, you know these two love the long titles for their films. The Most Dangerous Man in America revisits a pivotal point in American history, chronicling Pentagon insider Daniel Ellsberg's daring endeavor to leak top-secret government papers that disclosed shocking truths about the Vietnam War and Nixon's presidency. Political intrigue is usually a safe bet for a nomination with the Academy, though few actually win.
Which Way Home – Directed by Rebecca Cammisa whose previous work (Sister Helen) received quite a bit of critical success on the festival circuit and with the Directors Guild. Which Way Home follows several unaccompanied child migrants as they journey through Mexico en route to the U.S. on a freight train they call “ The Beast ”. The film has a plot that would pull on anyone’s heart strings and covers a controversial subject (illegal immigrants) in a way most audiences should be able to accept, though it is such an unknown film it's doubtful to win.