Michael Moore

When Steve James' "The Interrupters" failed to make the Academy's shortlist of eligible documentaries this year, fans of the acclaimed feature recalled the similar upset when James' landmark "Hoop Dreams" failed to dent Oscar's consciousness back in 1994. It's clear to many documentary fans that something has been wrong for years with a selection procedure that often fails to recognize work by the likes of James, Werner Herzog, Frederick Wiseman, and other documentary giants in favor of more anodyne non-fiction films that win prizes and are quickly forgotten. Now, however, comes news that the documentary branch is overhauling its rules in ways that (depending on whom you ask) will either broaden the field of movies under consideration or constrict it even further. Some prominent documentarians -- notably James himself and Michael Moore (who proposed the new rules) -- think the changes will open up the process to more underdog movies. Others, however, fear that the changes will still benefit movies with commercial muscle behind them, at the expense of documentaries with less money to spend on Oscar campaigning.