5 Must-Watch Documentaries for Oscar Nominations

11 REV Bill Cunningham

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.