The Oscars occur only one night per year (the televised ones, at least), so how does the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences embarrass itself and slight the medium it ostensibly exists to celebrate during the other 364 days? The answer: Shortlists. Of any given year's qualifying documentaries, the pertinent branch of the Academy will ultimately consider only 15 as potential nominees. Perennially it's the Best Foreign Language Film category and its absurd mechanics that yields the most baffling choices and mortifying snubs, but the Best Documentary division is often a close runner-up. This has been a particularly strong year for documentaries both in quality and quantity (there were 101 eligible pictures), effectively guaranteeing that great films would fall on both sides of the cutoff. And as is often the case with guarantees, that's exactly what happened.
To start with a moment of praise and give the Academy credit where credit is due, the usually conservative bunch went out on a limb and included the absolutely terrific Sundance sensation 'Exit Through the Gift Shop,' a particularly bold choice given how hip and elusive the film is, and that Banksy -- its assumed creator -- is virtually anonymous. Whether or not it actually lands a nomination is yet to be seen, but for the Academy to even acknowledge a film so critical of art and its true value is kind of a landmark in its own right.