First, some info. To get to this 15-film Short List, about 150 AMPAS documentary branch members are expected to watch the 89 entries, pick the best and let the race begin. The actual award show is months away, and there's already a lot of huffing and puffing going on.
While we were proud of titles such as Garbage Dreams, Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders, Mugabe and the White African and Soundtrack for a Revolution that qualified as part of the IDA DocuWeeks showcase this past summer, we too saw some obvious omissions: Afghan Star, Capitalism: A Love Story, The September Issue, We Live in Public, Defamation, Crude and Anvil!: The Story of Anvil. We weren't the only ones shocked.
An LA Times piece called "Frustration over Oscars' documentary short list" focused on the snub of Capitalism, but also noted that this wasn't the first time popular docs went unacknowledged. In 1990 Moore's Roger & Me got dissed. Also missing from the nomination list for their respective years: Hoop Dreams, Gizzly Man and The Thin Blue Line.
The LAT's Big Picture blog later asked "Is anyone unhappy about the Oscars' snub of Michael Moore?" The short answer: maybe not.
But back to that frustration. You can't have a little frustration without some controversy. Tyson filmmaker James Toback threw verbal punches when reached by the New York Times for a piece called "Oscar Short List of Documentaries Draws Controversy."
From the piece:
Mr. Toback said only that he had experienced something connected with the selections process, “which I put fully in the category of extortion that I did not go along with.”
Mr. Toback added that he was “furious” at himself for “having chosen to be passive and quiet in the face of that extortion.”
Asked about that claim, Rob Epstein, a filmmaker who is chairman of the executive committee of the documentary branch, said: “I have no idea. It certainly hasn’t come before me.”
Strong words from Toback (hey, the dude does know Mike Tyson.) While all of the chatter was going on, the LAT's Arts Beat column asked "Oscar Question of the Day: Who Chooses the Documentary Short List?"
The piece broke down the process and pointed out there is "certainly room for skewed results."
Skewed results or not. Snubs or winners. Epstein, said there are bound to be winners, losers, surprises and snubs in any election process. “Each year, there are painful omissions,” he was quoted as saying in the piece. “This year is no exception. There is no way around that. This year was an extremely strong year.”
And we're just getting started.