Feature documentary noms push for social change

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Will it be the cows or the dolphins? The race for the best documentary feature Oscar is tough to handicap because it depends on who shows up to Academy screenings. But many believe it's a battle between two tales of animal abuse and threats to human health.

Robert Kenner's "Food, Inc." -- a searing breakdown of the economic and political incentives that have created the nation's unhealthy food system -- and Louie Psihoyos' "The Cove" -- an ambush doc exposing dolphin abuse in Japan -- are exactly the kind of accessible, socially conscious filmmaking the Academy often endorses with the Oscar.

"Food" distributor Magnolia Pictures has been toasting the film for voters at bicoastal parties (featuring organic hors d'oeuvres, of course). But "Cove" took the DGA and PGA honors, possibly positioning it for an Oscar win.

The other nominees also don't shy away from hot-button issues. Judith Ehrlich's "The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers" revisits Vietnam-era politics via one of the country's most famous whistle-blowers; Anders Ostergaard's "Burma VJ" uses smuggled footage to reveal a 2007 protest by thousands of monks; and Rebecca Camissa's emotive "Which Way Home" follows child migrants through Mexico.

Not an unworthy cause among them.
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