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…

Oscar Predictions: Good Night Oppy

Ryan White’s documentary Good Night Oppy centers on the Mars rover Opportunity and its decade and a half long journey through the red planet. It played the Telluride and Toronto film festivals and is slated for limited theatrical release on November 4th and Amazon Prime streaming on November 23rd.

Early reviews are mostly solid as it holds a 79% Rotten Tomatoes rating. While that’s certainly decent, there will be plenty of other docs with stronger critical reaction. Yet if it strikes a chord with viewers, perhaps the Academy will put it on their shortlist and maybe even final five. Oppy is also the rare true life tale that could theoretically be a contender for Best Visual Effects. I doubt that will materialize, but it’s at least worth mentioning. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Moonage Daydream

Exploring the world of the late David Bowie through previously unreleased sounds and visions, Moonage Daydream hits various IMAX theaters this Friday. Directed by Brett Morgen, the domestic release follows screenings at Cannes and Toronto.

Morgen is no stranger to Academy attention though it’s been a bit. His 1999 On the Ropes was nominated as best feature in the documentary race. Various follow-ups have been high profile including The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002), Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015), and Jane (2017). In particular, Jane (focused on primatologist Jane Goodall) was expected to make the Academy’s final cut, but didn’t.

Daydream is receiving plenty of raves with a 96% Rotten Tomatoes score. Yet musical docs often face a tough road to make the doc quintet and that could apply here. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

Eight years ago, documentarian Laura Poitras won the Oscar for her Edward Snowden centered Citizenfour. Her 2016 follow-up Risk (about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange) was not the commercial success or awards player that the predecessor was. She looks to be back at the awards scene with All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, which premiered in Venice and is on route to Toronto.

Her latest focuses on Nan Golden, an activist who takes on the opioid epidemic and those accountable for spreading it. If you’ve seen the acclaimed miniseries Dopesick with Michael Keaton, this could be an interesting companion piece.

One of the higher profile docs playing the fall fest circuit, Neon has already acquired the distribution rights. With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 100%, all the logic dictates this should be a contender for Best Documentary Feature. That particular branch of the Academy is unpredictable, but this should be on your radar screen. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: The Territory

From director Alex Pritz (making his directorial debut after serving as cinematographer on The First Wave) comes the documentary The Territory. Focused on an indigenous leader attempting to protect a region of the Brazilian Amazon, the Nat Geo effort first screened at Sundance to general acclaim.

With a 95% Rotten Tomatoes score, it’s scheduled to be released August 19th. Darren Aronfosky serves as one of the producers. I’ve discussed many times on this blog about how Best Documentary Feature is always a tricky category to project. For example, last year’s lauded The Rescue (also from Nat Geo) was surprisingly ignored by the Academy.

The reviews are certainly there for The Territory to mark its space among the contenders. It remains to be seen whether it’s on the minds of voters a few months from now.

Oscar Predictions – Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song

Documentaries of the musical variety often face a tough road from that branch of Academy voters. For every Summer of Soul (which won the prize last year), there’s entries like The Sparks Brothers or The Velvet Underground and Miss Americana. That trio all missed the cut over the last couple of years.

Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine co-direct Hallelujah: Leonardo Cohen, a Journey, a Song, an adaptation of musical journalist Alan Light’s book. It focuses on Canadian crooner Cohen’s trademark tune “Hallelujah”.

Reviews are mostly laudatory with an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I don’t sense enough enthusiasm for this to be a genuine player. Perhaps it could make the Documentary Feature shortlist, but it might take a Hail Mary for it to make the top five. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down

Documentarians Julie Cohen and Betsy West specialize in focusing on female historical figures and their efforts have already captured the attention of the Academy. 2018’s RBG about Justice Ginsburg was a Best Documentary Feature nominee. Last year’s Julia, recounting the life of famed chef Julia Child, was in the mix but failed to receive a nod.

The duo’s latest is Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down, which premiered at South by Southwest in the spring and has hit theaters in limited fashion this week. It will air on CNN later this year. The title subject is, of course, the former Arizona Congresswoman turned advocate following her 2011 assassination attempt.

As far as its awards prospects, history could repeat itself as Gabby sports a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating. With Second Amendment issues on the forefront of the news cycle, that could contribute to its timeliness and desire for the Academy to recognize it.

Yet when it comes to docs, there’s always the caveat that this branch is notoriously unpredictable and sometimes nominees that seem obvious don’t make the cut. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions – Jennifer Lopez: Halftime

The title Halftime refers to Jennifer Lopez’s joint Super Bowl extravaganza with Shakira in 2020 (at a time when we were just beginning to hear the term coronavirus). The documentary from filmmaker Amanda Micheli has opened this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. While some of its focus lies with that performance, it also takes us through Lopez’s Oscar campaign for Supporting Actress in Hustlers. As you may recall, she was a frontrunner for a nod that never came to fruition.

Perhaps the Academy will reward this after the general feeling that she was snubbed three years ago. Halftime may stand at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes based on a handful of reviews, but they’re not raves. Premiering on Netflix on June 14th, I doubt this will be a threat to make the final five in Documentary Feature. And, this time around, Lopez’s exclusion will not be a surprise. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions – Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind

Baz Luhrmann’s eagerly awaited Elvis isn’t the only feature about a 60s rock icon premiering at Cannes this week. We also have Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind, a documentary that marks the solo directorial debut of Ethan Coen. Just last year, his brother Joel’s first filmmaking foray without his brother The Tragedy of Macbeth nabbed three Oscar nods.

Trouble faces a more troubled path to awards attention. Early critical reaction puts it at 70% on Rotten Tomatoes. The story is apparently told almost entirely through archival interviews and it may appeal only to diehard fans of the troubled and dynamic singer.

Way back in 1989, Mr. Lewis got the biopic treatment with Dennis Quaid portraying the piano man in Great Balls of Fire! It received mixed reaction as well and didn’t resonate with the Academy. This probably won’t either. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Lucy and Desi

At last weekend’s Oscars, Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem were both nominated as Lucy (as in Lucille Ball) and Desi (as in Arnaz) for Being the Ricardos. We could see the couple/sitcom stars represented at next year’s ceremony in documentary form.

Lucy and Desi premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime. It was directed by another famed TV comedienne – Amy Poehler. Reviews stand at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Docs about notable entertainment subjects often fail to garner the attention of Academy voters. Recent omissions from the five nominees in the race include Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Mister Rogers) and Julia (2021’s feature about Julia Child). Despite the pleasing critical reaction, I suspect Lucy and Desi could suffer the same fate. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…