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Could the iconic musician Glen Campbell, who currently resides in a memory care facility, land an Oscar nomination? James Keach‘s Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, a deeply moving chronicle of its 78-year-old subject’s “Goodbye Tour” after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, is one of 134 documentaries vying for a spot on the best documentary feature Oscar shortlist of 15 titles, and then to become one of the five eventual nominees — but it has something going for it that few if any of the other contending docs also do: namely, a shot at another nomination.
Only 20 Oscar nominations have ever been accorded to doc features in categories other than the one designated for them. The most famous examples include “best writing, motion picture story” for Louisiana Story (1948), best film editing and best sound for Woodstock (1970), best film editing for Hoop Dreams (1994), best original song for An Inconvenient Truth (2006), best foreign language film for Waltz with Bashir (2008) and, most recently, best original song for Chasing Ice (2012).
The team behind Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me hopes to increase that number to 21 with a best original song nom for “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” the last song ever recorded by the “Rhinestone Cowboy,” which plays at the end of the doc, before the credits roll — and they have a pretty compelling case.
The heartbreaking tune — which, the film shows, was pieced together one line at a time due to Campbell’s memory struggles — is all about his unfortunate predicament (its lyrics begin, “I’m still here, but yet I’m gone”), but, thanks to the familiar voice singing it, remains a thought-provoking pleasure to listen to. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it landed Campbell back on the Billboard charts for the first time in decades (it has gone as high as #21 on the country music charts and #90 on the hot 100) and that its music video has attracted more than 4.65 million views on YouTube. It’s well worth a listen and look.
Here’s where Campbell himself comes into play: when the Academy’s 240-member music branch determines the best original song Oscar nominees, the people who actually receive the nominations and become eligible to win the Oscar on behalf of the song are the writers of the music and lyrics of the songs, not the people who perform them on screen. That would rule out Campbell — except for the fact that Campbell is credited for co-writing “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” with producer Julian Raymond, which means that he himself would be nominated. And I wouldn’t put it past Baby Boomers, who form a large chunk of the Academy, to rally behind this staple of their lives.
The doc itself, meanwhile, seems to be cruising along nicely. In addition to screening as part of the elite “Docs to Watch” sidebar at the recent Savannah Film Festival (where Keach appeared on the documentary filmmakers roundtable that I moderated), it beat out formidable competition such as The Imitation Game and Wild to win the marquee feature audience award at the Austin Film Festival on Nov. 4, and later that same night its subject received the lifetime achievement award at the Hollywood Music in Media Awards.
As we were reminded at the last two Oscars — where the best documentary feature prize was awarded to Searching for Sugar Man (2012) and Twenty Feet from Stardom (2013), respectively — the Academy loves few things more than a music-centric doc about musicians battling against adversity.
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