The new direction of Oscar documentary hopefuls
First of all, forget Crumb. Terry Zwigoff’s film about the underground comics artist, which made a relatively animated $3 million in theaters and graced almost every critic’s top 10 list, won’t be eligible for a Best Documentary award. But this time you can’t really blame the Oscar nominating committee. While Crumb was considered one of 1995’s best, it debuted at the Toronto Film Festival in September 1994, making it ineligible for an Academy Award this year.
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Academy has wised up since last year. In 1995, the board’s critically reviled decision to pass over the acclaimed inner-city saga Hoop Dreams sparked new documentary nominating procedures. Will these rather convoluted and arcane guidelines work? Or will there need to be another overhaul next year? If even a few of the following projects make the cut, then the documentary Oscar will finally be on the right track.
Miramax’s Unzipped, the behind-the-scenes profile of fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi by Douglas Keeve, which sewed up a glam $2.8 million at the box office. Traditionally, that would have guaranteed its getting the shaft. But after the Hoop Dreams debacle, its mass appeal could be its biggest advantage.
A trio of films about films: The Battle Over Citizen Kane, a history of Orson Welles’ 1941 cinematic classic; The Celluloid Closet, an examination of gay and lesbian images in American cinema over the decades; and The First 100 Years: A Celebration of American Movies, a retrospective on a century of moviemaking. Adding to Kane‘s and Closet‘s prospects are their high-visibility screenings at this week’s Sundance Film Festival, which could build crucial momentum at a pivotal time.
Two Holocaust movies: Anne Frank Remembered and Survivors of the Holocaust, which follow in the footsteps of the much praised and Academy-snubbed 1985 Shoah. Survivors carries a hard-to-ignore ”Steven Spielberg presents” credit. And when it comes to Oscar time, that has got to count for something.
— Chris Nashawaty and Jeffrey Wells