Saturday, February 26, 2011

Documentary Oscar Predictions!

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).

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Helvetica/Objectified director wants your money

Gary Hustwit has already directed two well known design films in Helvetica and Objectified, and now he's looking to finish his third documentary, Urbanized. There's just one problem, he needs money- specifically yours. Unlike most documentaries that seek production companies or various grants to fund their projects, Hustwit is trying to keep his project self-funded. This means individuals can pitch in and donate directly to the cause.

Hustwit isn't the first filmmaker to use the wonderful fundraising site Kickstarter, but he's certainly one of the more famous ones. In our current economy, this innovation is probably the best thing going for filmmakers as grants are few and far between and are quite time consuming anyway.

If you are a design fan, head on over to Kickstarter to donate to his cause. There's an added bonus of little gifts for each level of donation (a mere $35 gets you a DVD copy of the film). Or just head over there to learn more about his upcoming film.

According to Hustwit, "Urbanized looks at the issues and strategies behind urban design, featuring some of the world's foremost architects, planners, policymakers, builders, and thinkers."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Trailer: Circo

Who doesn't love the circus? For kids it's full of wonder and excitement, for adults it's witnessing nostalgia and creativity. Sure, it's slightly creepy, but the truth is even the negative aspects of a circus draw us to it. So it's no surprise I was instantly hooked when Aaron Schock announced he was directing a documentary about a century old traveling circus in Mexico.

The trailer for Circo is even more impressive then I'd expect and this appears to have a chance to win over the hearts of audiences worldwide. The story of a family torn between carrying on the father's dream of continuing in his parent's footsteps or protecting their kids from working long hours in a failing business is captivating enough. Combine this with the stunning visuals and you have a documentary worth praising.

Circo will begin hitting U.S. theaters this spring, so head on over to their website to learn more about the film and to catch the trailer for this excellent looking film.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Banksy hits the streets before Oscars

The ever reclusive but world famous street artist Banksy took to the Los Angeles streets Saturday in what would appear to be a marketing campaign for a best documentary award at the Academy Awards (our round up to come sometime this week!). Ok, it's not a marketing campaign, but it's still cool to see he lets a city know when he has arrived.

Spreading numerous graffiti art around the city, Banksy let the city know he has graced their city for the award show. For those not lucky enough to see the art in person before it was taken down, head over to his official site to see some photos (

The real question for Banksy fans is if he will make an appearance or not. Few have seen his face and the Academy recently announced they will not let him accept the award in costume. Needless to say, for one of the few times in the award show's history, the documentary genre is the talk of the festival thanks to this always intriguing artist.

Check out our reviews section to read our reviews of each Oscar nominated film.