Oscar Watch – All In: The Fight for Democracy

Streaming on Amazon Prime since September, the political doc All In: The Fight for Democracy is establishing itself as a real contender in awards season. Directed by Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortes, the pic focuses on voter suppression and features Georgia’s recent gubernatorial race with Stacey Abrams (who shares a producer credit).

Democracy has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and co-director Garbus is no stranger to Academy attention. She’s been nominated twice for 1998’s The Farm: Angola, USA and 2015’s What Happened, Miss Simone? In this heightened electoral climate, this could easily make the final cut in the Documentary Feature race and I currently have it listed in fourth for possibilities. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Dick Johnson Is Dead

After a warm reception earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, Kirsten Johnson’s documentary Dick Johnson Is Dead is having its streaming premiere on Netflix today. The director is the daughter of the title subject – a psychiatrist who receives a dementia diagnosis. She also made the well regarded 2016 doc Cameraperson. The picture is said to deal humorously and unconventionally with its subject matter. It received a Special Jury award at Sundance and stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The issue of dementia has been a theme for 2020 features. The most high profile is Florian Zeller’s The Father, which appears headed for multiple nominations including its leads Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman. Less likely titles to contend for consideration are Supernova with Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci and The Artist’s Wife starring Lena Olin and Bruce Dern.

On the doc side, I had Johnson listed at #4 for the various hopefuls. This race is obviously quite fluid at the moment, but the acclaim already received puts it as a strong contender. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Boys State

The buzz for Boys State began at the beginning of the year when it won the highest prize at the Sundance Film Festival for documentaries. It follows a Texas event for teenagers who build a representative form of government. The pic comes from directors Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine. The former is responsible for the acclaimed 2014 doc The Overnighters, which didn’t manage to make the final cut in Documentary Feature at the Oscars.

State, streaming on Apple TV since August, has a strong shot at faring better. With a 94% Rotten Tomatoes score, its subject matter could resonate with voters in this highly charged political year. The documentary competition is just starting to formulate at the Academy level. Projects such as Netflix’s Crip Camp and Dick Johnson Is Dead (look for that Watch post shortly) and John Lewis: Good Trouble from CNN Films are already hopefuls and Boys State can include itself in the mix. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch – John Lewis: Good Trouble

CNN Films broke into the Oscar mix two years ago with two documentaries nominated – Three Identical Strangers and RBG, focused on the life and career of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That feature has obviously played over the weekend in the wake of her death.

Their film division should have another possibiity in 2020 with John Lewis: Good Trouble. Chronicling the Civil Rights leader and Congressman’s experiences in his decades of service, Trouble premiered just two weeks before his passing in July.

Reviews were solid and respectful with some critics saying it fell a bit short of expectations. Nevertheless the Rotten Tomatoes rating is 96% and it’s easy to imagine that awards voters will wish to include this in the Documentary Feature race. I am doubtful at this point that it wins. The Netflix doc Crip Camp, which comes from Higher Ground Productions formed by Barack and Michelle Obama, is an already released strong contender. Plus we still have plenty of time for other hopefuls to emerge. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Daily Streaming Guide: March 22nd Edition

Today’s edition of my Daily Streaming Guide centers on two captivating documentaries, which are both available for viewing via Hulu:

The 2014 doc Life Itself is about the life and death of renowned film critic Roger Ebert. From his wilder days in Chicago to becoming sober to his famed partnership with fellow reviewer Gene Siskel, the pic is an all encompassing look at the legendary Pulitzer Prize winning writer. The most touching moments involve his debilitating cancer battle that ended his life in 2013. Emotionally resonant and often funny, Life Itself is a great watch even for people who weren’t tremendously influenced by his work (like me).

2018’s Three Identical Strangers can be filed under the heading “truth is stranger than fiction”. That phrase plays throughout the tale of identical triplets who didn’t know of one another’s existence until they were 19. The less you know about it going in, the better. Just know that you’ll be entertained and consistently surprised.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Oscar Watch: Crip Camp

Now that the Oscars honoring the films of 2019 have aired, I am catching up on some features that screened at the Sundance Film Festival that could attract the attention of 2020 voters. The documentary Crip Camp has a connection with what happened at the Academy Awards on Sunday evening.

In the Best Documentary Feature race, American Factory rode its buzz all the way from Sundance to the Oscar stage. It came from the Netflix owned production company Higher Ground, which includes former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama as its founders. The film achieved front runner status in the fall and that never really let up.

Crip Camp, from filmmakers Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht, has the same credentials. The doc tells the story of Camp Jened, credited with ushering in the disability rights movement in the 1970s. Reviews are strong with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 100%. With its expected Netflix rollout in the near future, Camp certainly has the possibility of following in the footsteps of Factory for an awards run. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Citizen K

In addition to the multiple films vying for Best Picture attention during festival season, we also have documentaries attempting to make their awards chatter mark. Alex Gibney is a director who’s familiar to Oscar voters.

Citizen K is his latest and it focuses on Russian dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his battles with the Putin regime. Early reviews suggest it’s engrossing and it could be a contender in the doc feature race. Gibney was a winner in the category 12 years ago for Taxi to the Dark Side. Two years later, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room nabbed a nod. As one of the nation’s premier documentarians, the Academy may feel the time is right to get him back in the mix (especially considering the movie’s timely subject matter). My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Mike Wallace Is Here

Christopher Plummer didn’t land an Oscar nod as a supporting player for 1999’s The Insider portraying legendary “60 Minutes” correspondent Mike Wallace. In 2014, the same held true for Robert Redford as Wallace in Truth.

So could a documentary focused on the man himself clock the attention of awards voters? Mike Wallace Is Here gets the limited release treatment this weekend as it recounts the work of the tireless and probing newsman. It received its first screening early in the year at the Sundance Film Festival. Reviews have been quite positive with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 95%.

That said, many of the critical write ups have been more in the three star range as opposed to four. And that makes me feel that this doc is probably a long shot at Academy recognition. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch – David Crosby: Remember My Name

The rock doc David Crosby: Remember My Name has hit screens in limited fashion as of last weekend. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival early this year to glowing reviews that have continued upon its theatrical release. Focused on the founding member of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash, it is directed by A.J. Eaton and co-produced by Cameron Crowe.

With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 98%, could Remember hear its name called for consideration in the Best Documentary Feature race at Oscar time? That’s not outside the realm of possibility. I’d say it stands a better chance than the arguably higher profile Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese, which was released to Netflix weeks ago.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch – Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese

The eyes of many Oscar prognosticators will be on The Irishman later this year. The Netflix release comes from Martin Scorsese and the Mafia saga reunites many of his favorite players like Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel. Yet the filmmaker could find himself in contention in another race with another saga featuring a legendary performer.

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese debuts on the same streaming service tomorrow. The concert documentary follows Dylan’s unique 1975 tour and has caught the attention of critics. It stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

This is far from the first time Scorsese has turned his attention to the rock and roll world in this genre. It began over four decades ago with The Last Waltz, his feature about The Band. He’s since made pics centered on The Rolling Stones, George Harrison, and Dylan previously (2005’s No Direction Home).

Concert docs are a rare inclusion for Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars, but perhaps the Academy could decide it’s time to honor Scorsese’s contributions to the genre. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…