Stories We Tell Review

The Academy’s documentary branch has revealed its list of the 15 films eligible for the Oscar this year, reducing from a total of 147 movies.

Among the semi-finalists is Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell, about her quest to untangle her family history. The movie was a question mark for the short list since it includes some fictionalized elements and re-creations of events from the past. Ultimately, it made the cut, voted in by the 210 members of the doc branch.

Left off the list: One Direction: This Is Us, the documentary with the biggest box office tally of the year at $29 million. Teenagers were fanatical about it, but filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) didn’t get much love from critics over his boy-band movie.

Among the surprises, Erroll Morris’ The Unknown Known, his study of George W. Bush-era defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Alex Gibney’s We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, the documentary about Julian Assange’s whistleblower tech-movement that was hailed by critics and audiences alike as more dramatic than the dramatized version: The Fifth Estate.

Gibney, who won the Oscar for 2007’s Taxi to the Dark Side, is on the list with another film: The Armstrong Lie, which started out as a look at the comeback of cyclist Lance Armstrong and turned into a chronicle of his downfall for doping.

That film is considered to be among the frontrunners for the final nominees, along with Blackfish, about the treatment of orca whales in captivity, Tim’s Vermeer, a clever exploration of one inventor’s quest to explain the technique of 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, and 20 Feet From Stardom, the lively look at some of the backup singers who performed with the greatest musical acts of the last century.

Below is the full short-list, selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ documentary branch. The same group will vote on the final five contenders, which will be announced along with the other nominees on Jan. 16

The Act of Killing, Final Cut for Real

The Armstrong Lie, The Kennedy/Marshall Company

Blackfish, Our Turn Productions

The Crash Reel, KP Rides Again

Cutie and the Boxer, Ex Lion Tamer and Cine Mosaic

Dirty Wars, Civic Bakery

First Cousin Once Removed, Experiments in Time, Light & Motion

God Loves Uganda, Full Credit Productions

Life According to Sam, Fine Films

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, Roast Beef Productions

The Square, Noujaim Films and Maktube Productions

Stories We Tell, National Film Board of Canada

Tim’s Vermeer, High Delft Pictures

20 Feet from Stardom, Gil Friesen Productions and Tremolo Productions

Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington, Tripoli Street

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