Friday, December 9, 2011

84th Oscar Documentary Feature Updates (12/9/11)

The National Board of Review has an interesting track record in the documentary category. Their winner has been identical to Oscar’s for seven out of the past ten years, but in the other three years, their winner didn’t even receive a nomination! That places this year’s NBR winner, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, into an interesting all-or-nothing position, and I’m truly torn. Sequels and continuation stories don’t usually do well in this category, and the NBR has shown that they may like this series more than the Academy does, considering that this is the second time the NBR has awarded this series, while Oscar snubbed the earlier works. On the other hand, it does represent over 16 years of work on the series, and one could argue that the films had a real-world impact given the recent release of the West Memphis Three. I’m currently predicting that it will miss out on the nomination, but if it makes the list in January I can easily see moving it into the front runner spot.

In the years when the Oscar winner doesn’t match up with the NBR winner, the film that takes home gold usually still appears in NBR’s top 5 documentary list. This is good news for Project Nim and Buck, and I’m currently predicting the former to win because it also received a Producer’s Guild of America nomination.

Fifteen films made the shortlist for the Documentary Feature race, and I correctly predicted 3 of them (20%), while 7 of them (46%) were in my longer list. While a few of the ones that I missed can be attributed to the fact that I hadn’t updated this category since April, the truth is that some of the shocking snubs would have kept my score down regardless. You can see how I’m doing in the other races on my Tracker Record Page.

Here are today’s rankings for the 84th Oscar Documentary Feature race, with previous ranking shown in parenthesis after each entry.

1. James Marsh for Project Nim (Predicted Winner) (previous rank 11)
2. Danfung Dennis for Hell And Back Again (previous rank 45)
3. Cindy Meehl for Buck (previous rank 7)
4. Wim Wenders for Pina (New)
5. Richard Press for Bill Cunningham New York (previous rank 29)

6. Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky for Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (New)
7. David Weissman and Bill Weber for We Were Here (New)
8. Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman for If A Tree Falls: A Story Of The Earth Liberation Front (previous rank 13)
9. Rachel Libert and Tony Hardmon for Semper Fi: Always Faithful (New)
10. Nancy Buirski for The Loving Story (previous rank 39)
11. Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin for Undefeated (previous rank 41)
12. Susanne Rostock for Sing Your Song (New)
13. Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley for Battle For Brooklyn (New)
14. Martyn BUrke for Under Fire: Journalists In Combat (New)
15. Lorenz Knauer for Jane’s Journey (New)

As always, check the Tracker Pages in the upper right hand corner of this blog for the most updated predictions in all categories!
See Documentary feature predictions for other years HERE.
If you’re really into documentaries, check out the Documentary Shorts also.
See predictions for other categories at the 84th Oscars HERE.
Switch to another year: 84th,  85th,  86th,  87th,  88th,  89th  


  1. Great analysis. I think this year will stop the trend between NBR and Oscars. I think Paradise Lost 3 will get nominated. It has so much buzz because of the resolution of the case. However, I don't think it will win. Also, I think Undefeated can surprise. It has the Weinsteins backing it.

  2. Thanks Ryan! Undefeated is certainly a possibility, but I wonder how much sway Harvey has over the documentary branch, and I think that the special rules where people actually have to see all of the films in order to vote may make it more difficult for him to have an impact. Although I hear that it's a really well done and moving piece, so maybe it will surprise after all!

  3. I didn't even think about it that way, you are probably right that the Weinstein effect doesn't work in this category then.

  4. @Ryan, I thought about whether Harvey might have a little bit of influence if he can convince folks that are already in his pocket to sit through the screenings, but 10 hours of film is a lot. Then again, maybe it's enough to at least pull off a nomination.

  5. Ryan, you may be onto something, since Undefeated just scored a BFCA nomination for best documentary! I'd forgotten about the campaigning power that can still go into the precursors!