Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Oscar Countdown: Documentary feature & short

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 9:35 AM

In advance of the Academy Award ceremony on Feb. 26, Screen Grab will predict the winners in all categories.

Documentary Feature
: Hell and Back Again, If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, Pina, Undefeated. I'll be on firmer ground tomorrow, when I do the screenplay categories. Out of both documentary categories, I've only seen Pina, Wim Wenders' 3D profile of choroegrapher Pina Bausch, who died two days before filming was scheduled to begin. But like Undefeated (a high school football film many of my fellow SEFCA members liked), is Pina's subject matter too "light" for an often heavyweight category? Hell and Back Again, about a Marine suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome after serving in Afghanistan, has the requisite torn-from-the-headlines quality, as does Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's third documentary about the arrest and imprisonment of the "West Memphis Three."
Prediction: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory. Given that Berlinger and Sinofsky have been chronicling the West Memphis Three case since 1996 and the three accused were recently released from prison, an Oscar could recognize the documentarians' persistence and influence on the criminal justice system. And, it would be like the way Return of the King's Best Picture recognized all three Lord of the Rings movies.

Documentary (short subject): ``The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement,'' ``God Is the Bigger Elvis,'' ``Incident in New Baghdad,'' ``Saving Face,'' ``The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom.'' To quote (again) Alison Willmore of The AV Club, "This category has tends to be the most difficult to catch up with, possibly because the films are on the longer side (this year’s range from 25-40 minutes), or because of their uniform earnestness." Yep, pretty much.
Prediction: "The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom." Winner of the Sundance Jury Prize for short fiction, this documentary about survivors of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami features a soundtrack by Moby, and was helmed by Lucy Walker, director of the Oscar-nominated documentary feature Waste Land.

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