Oscar Predictions: The Eternal Memory

Two years ago, documentarian Maite Alberdi saw her nursing home expose The Mole Agent nominated for Documentary Feature at the Oscars. Agent was originally unveiled at Sundance and her latest project The Eternal Memory has followed suit. It too deals with aging issues as it’s centered on a Chilean couple and a husband diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

MTV’s documentary film branch quickly snatched up the distribution rights. Based on early reviews, it stands at 75% on Rotten Tomatoes. Some critics are hailing it as a powerful experience. At the last Academy Awards, MTV received their first nod in the competition with Ascension. With a boisterous campaign (which is to be expected), Memory could be a player. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Judy Blume Forever

Judy Blume’s influential and controversial novel Forever… from 1975 was actually made into a TV movie with Stephanie Zimbalist back in 1978. Now one of her best known works, some 45 years later after the cinematic adaptation, serves as part of the title to a documentary about the author that screened at Sundance.

Judy Blume Forever from fimmakers Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok (with Brian Grazer and Ron Howard as producers) chronicles the author and her dealings with fame and censorship. Early reviews out of Utah give it an 88% Rotten Tomatoes rating. While overall positive, a quick glance at the critical reaction leads me to question whether it generates awards chatter. As has been mentioned previously, celeb focused docs (there’s always a bunch of them) need to really stand out for the Academy’s doc branch to take notice. That could be a challenge with Forever. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions – Little Richard: I Am Everything

A flashy rock founder is profiled in Little Richard: I Am Everything which premiered at Sundance over the weekend. The documentary comes from Lisa Cortes, who directed the acclaimed All In: The Fight for Democracy. Her follow-up chronicles its subject’s fight for recognition.

With a handful of reviews in, they are positive across the board. Magnolia Pictures has already picked up distribution rights and an April release is planned. Just as I mentioned with Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, celeb focused docs often get ignored by the Academy. I believe Still has the potential to have staying power in awards season. Everything will need a campaign as spirited as Little Richard to get its own recognition. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions – Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie

I am in the process of finalizing my Oscar Predictions for the 95th Academy Awards which will be revealed Tuesday (my forecast is arriving on the blog either tomorrow or Sunday). Yet it’s already time to pontificate about the 96th since the Sundance Film Festival is underway in Park City, Utah.

Sundance is a known launching pad for documentaries that eventually contend for Academy glory. For the Doc competition in 2021, 3 of the 5 nominees were unveiled at the fest: winner Summer of Soul, Flee, and Writing with Fire.

One of the higher profile debuts is Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, which recounts the actor’s skyrocketing career in the 80s and his Parkinson’s diagnosis. It comes from David Guggenheim. An Inconvenient Truth, his 2006 collaboration with Al Gore, was a Doc Feature recipient. 2010’s Waiting for “Superman” was a buzzy hit and 2015’s He Named Me Malala was shortlisted for Oscar but didn’t make the final quintet. Fun fact: the filmmaker is married to Elisabeth Shue, who costarred with his subject in the Back to the Future sequels. Fox, it should be noted, is scheduled to receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at this year’s ceremony.

Apple TV has distribution rights to Still. Early reviews are quite positive and it’s likely the streamer will mount a campaign. That said, a lot of docs focused on celebs garner plenty of ink and don’t end up becoming major players on the awards circuit. It’s too early to predict the future with this one. Time will tell if it’s still viable months down the road. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Retrograde

Documentarian Matthew Heineman is no stranger to tackling hot button issues and awards voters have rewarded his features in the past. 2015’s Cartel Land was an Oscar nominee for Documentary Feature. Additional acclaim was bestowed upon 2017’s City of Ghosts and last year’s The First Wave, which took us into a NYC hospital at the height of the COVID epidemic. Heineman’s lone fictional work was 2018’s A Private War, in which Rosamund Pike nabbed a Golden Globe Best Actress nod in the Drama competition.

His latest is the Nat Geo produced Retrograde, recounting America’s final nine months in the Afghanistan War. It’s out already on an awards qualifying run prior to a December 11th Hulu bow. Initial reviews are typical for the filmmaker at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Both Ghosts and Wave didn’t make the Academy’s cut. If Retrograde can manage to make the shortlist, it could certainly vie for one of the five spots. Based on recent history, I’m not yet comfortable slotting it there. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions – Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me

Selena Gomez My Mind & Me drops on Apple TV tomorrow after premiering at AFI Fest earlier this week. The film documents six years in the life of the pop singer and costar of Hulu’s hit comedy series Only Murders in the Building. Alek Keshishian is no stranger to the genre. Over 30 years ago, he was behind the camera for Madonna: Truth or Dare.

The streaming service premiering Mind is no stranger to the genre. Last year, Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry made the shortlist of titles in contention for Documentary Feature. It didn’t end up making the final five. Blurry also had the benefit of a limited theatrical release. Unless I missed it, I’ve yet to find evidence that Mind is receiving an awards qualifying run.

While early reviews are uniformly positive (100% on Rotten Tomatoes), it may simply not be eligible for consideration. Even it is, if Billie couldn’t get in, I doubt Selena would. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Last Flight Home

After receiving encouraging word-of-mouth earlier this year at Sundance, Ondi Timoner’s documentary Last Flight Home lands in limited release tomorrow. Focusing on end of life issues involving her own father, Home holds an 87% Rotten Tomatoes rating. MTV Documentary Films acquired the rights in February with eyes on an awards qualifying campaign.

Timoner is a longtime vet of the genre who’s made such acclaimed titles as Dig! (2004) and We Live in Public (2009). This would be her first opportunity for Academy attention. I’ve had Flight both in and out of my top five over the past several weeks. At the moment, I have it in 8th place and we’ll see how it rises or falls in subsequent frames. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: All That Breathes

After winning the Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema Documentary competition at Sundance, All That Breathes has been winding its way through the fest circuit including Cannes and New York. The environmental doc from Shaunak Sen holds a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating. It’s slated for an eventual HBO Max streaming bow after a limited and awards qualifying theatrical run before year’s end.

As I’ve opined about many times on this blog, predicting Documentary Feature is often the trickiest category to nail down. Breathes certainly has the prerequisites to make the quintet, but that often doesn’t matter. Bottom line: this is certainly one that should be in the conversation. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Descendant

Documentary filmmaker Margaret Brown explores her Alabama roots through the tracking of a slave ship in Descendant, which arrives in theaters in limited fashion and streams on Netflix October 21st. This is the latest venture from Higher Ground Productions, founded by former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama.

The company’s critical and awards history has been impressive. In 2019, American Factory won Best Documentary Feature. A year later, Crip Camp made the final five for consideration. Descendant, following its Sundance unveiling back in January, is garnering acclaim. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 100%.

I’ve had Descendant listed in either 2nd or 3rd place in my projections for the Doc derby. I expect it to get in and it could win. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Sidney

After being unveiled at the Toronto Film Festival, Sidney debuts on Apple TV  tomorrow. The documentary focuses on the life and legacy of cinematic groundbreaker Sidney Poitier, who passed in January at age 94. Denzel Washington, Barbra Streisand, Spike Lee, Halle Berry, and Robert Redford are among the interviewees for the project. Oprah Winfrey is a coproducer.

While most critics are deeming it worthy of recommendation (82% on Rotten Tomatoes), several reviews claim it’s only mildly successful. That could hinder its chances for a Documentary Feature nod at the Oscars, where Mr. Poitier received two nominations. This, of course, includes a Best Actor victory for 1963’s Lilies of the Field where he became the first African-American to win that competition.

Perhaps voters will simply wish to honor the late actor one more time. However, I’m doubtful this ends up in the final five. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…