Now that the Academy nominates ten movies for Best Picture instead of five there is a greater potential scope for the kinds of films selected for contention. Last year showed us there's suddenly better chances for acclaimed genre flicks, particularly sci-fi, as well as popular animated features and quirky comedies few people have seen. What else is deserving that wouldn't have made the cut with just five nominees? Will there be room this year for a vampire flick, whether a well-reviewed remake or hot 'Twilight' sequel? Probably not. Maybe a foreign film? Perhaps. How about a documentary? The outlooks seems good on that one.
IndieWIRE's Peter Knegt proposes this could indeed be non-fiction's year for a shot at the top Oscar. Given our prior consideration that 2010 is the best year for documentary ever, we agree. The only problem, since there have been so many great films, would be choosing a single title to represent docs in the Best Picture category. Knegt says it will have to be something that's a cultural phenomenon more than just an acclaimed doc. And the closest thing to that (discounting 'Jackass 3-D') is Davis Guggenheim's 'Waiting for "Superman."'
At the moment, the film isn't even the second, let alone first, highest-grossing documentary of the year, nor is it the best reviewed. But it does have a lot of people talking, it involves a cause that many Academy voters likely support, and it probably will be nominated and maybe even win the Best Documentary Feature Oscar. That may seem a reason not to let it also be a Best Picture contender -- after all, there's a reason docs get to have their own category -- but 'Up' pulled a similar double duty last year, and won Best Animated Feature, so why shouldn't a documentary get to do the same?
What would be more interesting, though, is if the Academy nominated a doc for Best Picture that didn't also make the Best Documentary Feature nominations. Or even the shortlist. This would not only call attention to the problems with the documentary branch's voting process but more importantly it would spotlight an additional documentary. Maybe a narrative-sort of documentary that needs to be celebrated for good storytelling as opposed to its issue. Maybe the cultural phenomenon of 'Catfish' could open the film up to the Best Picture category.
It would be fitting if the year everyone's talking about the blurring of fiction and non-fiction would be when a doc is nominated for Best Picture. One of those borderline films isn't likely to get the recognition by the Academy's documentary branch (possibly for reasons similar to why motion capture performances aren't celebrated by actors). We can obviously erase all hope for 'I'm Still Here.' 'Exit Through the Gift Shop' has better reviews and earned more money than 'Catfish,' but it's the latter that's more embedded into the mainstream cultural conversation (and it will probably be more widely seen on DVD than the former because of this). Unfortunately, not enough older Academy members are going to get it let alone like it.
One film a lot of doc fans would like to see honored is the highly acclaimed 'Marwencol,' which director Jeff Malmberg believes wouldn't be nominated in even the documentary category, so he didn't attempt to make sure it qualified for the Academy's rules (read more on this year's doc contenders in this great piece at TheWrap). But if enough grassroots supporters got behind it and pushed it for the bigger field, it would be a moving story paralleling the one in the film. And it would be somewhat akin to when people like Guillermo del Toro are nominated for screenplay or directing categories when their foreign film isn't qualified because its respective country of origin doesn't submit it. Of course, 'Marwencol' isn't nearly as well-known as something like 'Pan's Labyrinth.'
Would you like to see a documentary nominated for Best Picture, or is it unnecessary since the format has its own category? Is there a doc you've seen this year that should compete for the top prize against nine fiction films?