There are two ways to predict the Oscars: what you think should win, and what you think needs to win. The Academy Awards are by nature a bit political and sometimes that results in the best films not always winning. This is not to knock the awards, it's a simple fact that must be understood in making Oscar predictions. So with that in mind, we are making two lists: one ranking the documentaries that will most likely win, and one ranking our favorites of the nominees. So read the lists and tell us your thoughts below!
Documentaries (in order of most likely to win):
1) Exit Through the Gift Shop - This is the odds on favorite to win for numerous reasons. Not only is it a solid film, it fits the Academy's desire to go with unique subjects that appeal to the suddenly new and outspoken movement of nontraditional documentary lovers. Man on Wire and the Cove both received an extra push into victory because of this group (possibly created after King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters was snubbed in 2007). Bansky's film isn't on their level, but it still could pull out a win as the Academy tries to keep this category fresh and interesting in the public eye.
2) Gasland - Josh Fox' film probably wouldn't have this great a chance of winning if it wasn't for recent press coverage as natural gas companies have tried to stifle the film's nomination. It's number two because Fox's relentless attitude to get his film out there, plus it's timely subject on alternative fuels may be enough to pull off an upset.
3) Inside Job - Charles Ferguson is two for two in documentaries with Oscar nominations. That counts for something, and with timely subject matter it would be no surprise to see this win.
4) Restrepo - Though brilliantly directed and receiving rave reviews from everyone who has seen it, Restrepo will suffer from "just another Afghan/Iraq war documentary" syndrome. It's the best film on the list, but won't win because of this public mindset.
5) Waste Land - A well crafted and beautiful film, but few have seen it and those who only read the summary may not be able to grasp its beauty. In the eyes of the Academy, the nomination is more then enough recognition.
Documentaries (in order of our favorites):
1) Restrepo - No other film touches this duel directed documentary: either in scope or execution. Stripping all politics away, they manage to present a group of men just fighting for... well various reasons. It is intense, emotional and extremely powerful. It's a shame people try to twist this into a political film, because it's not. It's about war, and about the men sent to fight.
2) Gasland - Fox takes a simple idea and turns it into something both activist oriented and personal. He doesn't necessarily have an answer (his film is almost a lament), but he's also not Michael Moore-esque- condemning anyone who stands in his way. Though it is certainly biased, it's unique style helps separate it from the pack.
3) Waste Land - As beautiful and touching a film as you can hope for. If you haven't seen this, you may be wondering what all the hype is about, but if you have, you are definitely wondering why this isn't the odds on favorite. Sometimes a director finds a great story with great characters; Waste Land fits that bill.
4) Exit Through the Gift Shop - There's a bit too much hype surrounding Banksy's film. It's very good, but not nearly as amazing as some people make it out to be. It is original and certainly brings out Banksy's talent for holding an audience's attention, but in a year stacked with great documentaries, it shouldn't be winning an Oscar.
5) Inside Job - Ferguson has cemented himself as a talented director able to flesh out details in an engaging way. Unfortunately, his 2007 film is much better then this 2010 effort (which comes off a bit too angry). It's only a matter of time before he receives an Oscar though (see Alex Gibney).