Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Documentary Feature

The competition: Citizenfour, Finding Vivian Maier, Last Days in Vietnam, The Salt of the Earth, Virunga

Previous winners: Twenty Feet from Stardom, Searching for Sugar Man, Undefeated, Inside Job, The Cove, Man on Wire, Taxi to the Dark Side
My winner: Announcing shortly after the Oscars!
The facts: The last two films to win this prize have been about underacknowledged musicians, and there’s nothing like that nominated this year. There are, however, two films about photographers, two more about regional conflicts, and one about a whistleblower. There are two returning nominees this year: Laura Poitras, recognized for “Citizenfour,” was previously nominated in 2006 for “My Country, My Country.” Wim Wenders, who directed “The Salt of the Earth,” was nominated in 1999 for “Buena Vista Social Club” and in 2011 for “Pina.”

Who should win: I was very disappointed by “Citizenfour,” which I had heard so much about before seeing it a while after it came out. I found its subject matter to be very interesting but its documentary style to be uninventive and counterproductive. I watched “Finding Vivian Maier,” “Last Days in Vietnam,” and “Virunga” over the course of a weekend, and while all three were good, none gripped me in the way that they should have. Most of my AFT Award nominees, which will be announced starting next week, contain films from among the fifteen finalists that didn’t get nominated and were much better. Fortunately, one film I did find to be extremely engaging and worthwhile is the fifth nominee, which opens in New York at the end of March. “The Salt of the Earth,” an extraordinary exploration of a photographer and his photography, should definitely be the winner of this bunch.
Who will win: I’m not sure even a better film can take down the juggernaut that is Citizenfour.

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