Friday, January 18, 2019

Oscar Predictions: Best Documentary

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 22nd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories.

Last year’s nominees: Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Faces Places, Icarus, Last Men in Aleppo, Strong Island

My choices: Coming in February!

This year’s locks: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Three Identical Strangers

Very likely: RBG, Free Solo

Possible: The Silence of Others, Of Fathers and Sons, Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Shirkers, Dark Money, Minding the Gap, On Her Shoulders, Crime + Punishment

Unlikely: Charm City, The Distant Barking of Dogs, Communion

The rundown: In the past, I’ve seen at most a few of the fifteen documentaries on the December-announced shortlist when nominations are unveiled. Often, I don’t encounter most or any of them until I catch up on the five nominees. This year, however, I’ve managed to see all fifteen, so hopefully having actually watched them will give me a leg up on guessing which ones will make the cut. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? should be safest, earning bids from both the International Documentary Association and the Producers Guild, as well as universal acclaim from critics and audiences alike for the heartwarming portrait of Mr. Rogers. The only other film on this list cited by both those groups is Free Solo, an intense and engaging exploration of a very dangerous type of climbing that should be able to make this list but isn’t guaranteed. Three Identical Strangers is a popular and fascinating look at unexpected history and reunions, while RBG is a hot, relevant look at the oldest justice on the Supreme Court. Other surefire vote-getters are the experimental look at the South in Hale County This Morning, This Evening, the filmmaking adventure movie, Shirkers, a heartfelt look at poverty and friendship in Minding the Gap, an inspiring portrait of survival in On Her Shoulders, and the police corruption exposé in Crime + Punishment. I wouldn’t expect Charm City, a very worthwhile picture of the city of Baltimore, The Distant Barking of Dogs, a spotlight of those living minutes from war in Ukraine, and Communion, an intimate look at a troubled Polish family. I’m betting that there are two films that will particularly impress audiences to earn a place in the top five: a Syrian documentarian spending time with a jihadist family in Of Fathers and Sons and Spanish citizens reflecting on the unresolved past crimes of their nation in The Silence of Others. This is undeniably competitive, and I’m hopeful that the best in this field will be honored.

Forecasted winner: It could be “Three Identical Strangers,” but I think that Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is far enough in front of that and anything else.

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