December 16, 2011 9:38pm PT by Scott Feinberg
5 Must-Watch Documentaries for Oscar Nominations
This story originally appeared in the The Hollywood Reporter.
One never really knows what to expect from the Academy’s quirky documentary branch, a portion of which selects the short list from which the five nominees are ultimately selected each year.
Of the 15 on the list this year, I think that five stand apart from the rest: Critics’ Choice Award best doc nominee and Boston Society of Film Critics best doc winner Project Nim, James Marsh’s follow-up to his 2008 best doc Oscar winner Man on Wire, which revisits a decades-long experiment on a chimpanzee to see whether or not he could communicate with humans; Critics’ Choice Award best doc nominee Buck, Cindy Meehl’s profile of famed “horse whisperer” Buck Brannaman; If a Tree Falls, a look at a landmark “eco-terrorism” case from 2005 best doc Oscar nominee Marshall Curry; Boston Society of Film Critics best doc runner-up Bill Cunningham New York, Richard Press’ appreciation of a noted — and eccentric — fashion photographer; and Critics’ Choice Award best doc nominee Undefeated, Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin’s TWC-distributed and celebrity-endorsed look at a high school football team that reverses its fortunes under the tutelage of a new coach.
I would also keep a close eye on Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley’s Battle for Brooklyn, which follows a local activist as he wages a seven-year fight to prevent his home and neighborhood from being demolished to make way for a massive real estate development; Long Way Home: The Loving Story, Nancy Buirski’s look back at an interracial couple’s effort to defeat anti-miscegenation laws during the Civil Rights era; David Weissman’s We Were Here, which recounts the early days of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco; Pina, Wim Wenders’ German-subtitled 3D tribute to the noted dance choreographer Pina Bausch; Hell and Back Again, Danfung Dennis’ powerful portrait of the struggles facing American veterans of the war in Afghanistan; and Sing Your Song, Susanne Rostock’s behind-the-scenes look at the life and times of singer/civil rights activist Harry Belafonte.