Lately I have been looking at some of my year-end awards screeners, mainly the documentaries. My critics' group votes for the year's best documentary; we each vote for our top five and then vote again from the top five finalists. It's not easy to figure out this year's front-runner as of yet, and most of the contenders have been huge yawners. For several years in a row, the big award-winners have always been about war in some form, either WWII or the more recent wars in the Middle East. But this year I have detected grumblings of ennui from the other critics, an ennui that i started developing years ago. This year the favorites appear to be a bit more lighthearted in tone, as well as more local in theme. Rowdy movies like Anvil: The Story of Anvil, Capitalism: A Love Story (52 screens) and Food, Inc. (5 screens) for example have captured the hearts of my colleagues.
The Academy threw a monkey wrench in the works when they announced their shortlist of 15 films that they would be considering for Oscar nominations. Following their bizarre rules, it was an odd list; it included many titles that no one has seen, and it eliminated many of the favorites, including Tyson (prompting an interesting response from director James Toback), Good Hair (38 screens), The September Issue (13 screens), It Might Get Loud (11 screens), Yoo-Hoo Mrs. Goldberg (10 screens) and More Than a Game (46 screens). The list also eliminated a couple of my favorites, both lively and spirited: Kirby Dick's Outrage and Not Quite Hollywood, about the history of Australian exploitation cinema.