In John Anderson‘s New York Times‘ piece, he admits that the controversies surrounding this year’s academy awards best documentary short list (nominees are announced tomorrow) are nothing new. And yet, here we are again, bewailing the fact that "Grizzly Man" is bewildering absent despite making many critic’s top tens (it actually made all of our here at IFC News) (and in fact the extremely knowledgeable folks at Greencine added it to their list top 50 docs of all time list). Anderson revisits some of the nomination committee’s frustrating tendencies:
What [Errol] Morris once referred to as the "Mother Teresa school of filmmaking" – the perception that if a film’s subject is exemplary, the film must be, too – has always held sway at the academy. So has the voters’ penchant for movies about the mentally or physically disabled. This year seems no different: both "Unknown White Male," about a man who loses his memory, and "Murderball," a forceful movie about wheelchair-bound rugby players, are on the shortlist. So is "39 Pounds of Love," about the painfully wizened Ami Ankilewitz, a victim of spinal muscular atrophy, who seeks to travel across the United States. It is said to be his long-held dream, but there is nothing in the film that does not feel stage-managed.
Roger Ebert lodged similar complaints about "39 Pounds of Love," turning the end of his review into an angry calling-out of the Academy ("That this film but not Werner Herzog‘s "Grizzly Man" made the cut reflects bad judgment bordering on scandal."), and prompting the filmmakers to respond and attempt to defend their work.
The worst part about this annual irritation is that docs are more exciting, more relevant, more sexsay than ever, and yet the Academy confines what could turn out to be the most interesting awards race of the year to dull, self-congratulatory work. Bah!
And don’t get us started on the foreign language film category.