Categories One-by-One: Documentary Feature

For the films of 2018
Mister Tee
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Documentary Feature

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Feb 22, 2019 1:32 pm

Well, I've seen what I'm going to see pre-show -- skipped Free Solo because 1) I didn't want to pay IMAX prices and 2) I feared the film would kick off my acrophobia (if I watch at home later, at least I can stop it if it makes me nauseous). Of what I've seen, I can say my top choice for the year is...Three Identical Strangers. Still bitter about that.

I guess I'm too dumb to appreciate Hale County, This Morning, This Evening. I found it shapeless and rambly -- everything people hated about Roma times ten. I'd be shocked if this won.

Of Fathers and Sons had its affecting moments. I particularly liked the father's ruminations on how the ultimate jihad will go -- it was wrong-headed, and wildly blithe about the carnage involved, but you could see he was clinging to an almost childlike idealism, that this would bring about a better, just world. It was a flash of insight into a world-view otherwise totally foreign to me. The film's main problem was a certain monotony of structure -- time after time, we'd jump from a scene of the father expressing his zest for war to one of the kids playing war games. You could just about hear the director nudging the audience -- "you see? They're passing on the war-lust" -- and, in case we missed it, he repeated this trope over and over. Between that -- and the fact that, as you note, Academy voters aren't likely to be enthusiastic about hearing jihadis trumpet the righteousness of their cause -- I doubt this has much chance.

The other three are all in the race, but, having missed the one that seems to have popular support, I'm at a loss as to how to call it. I like RBG well enough, and it's no worse than some winners of recent vintage. It may well be that voter affection for the lady herself -- and concern about her health till at least January 2021 -- may move some to cast a ballot as a show of solidarity.

Of the four I've seen, Minding the Gap covers the most interesting material, and also, by me, shows the most cinematic talent. Bing Liu shapes his narrative in powerful ways...only slowly revealing the deepest (and most horrifying) commonality among the three main guys. He also shows a real visual knack -- editing his footage in inventive ways; presenting some details in ways that have added power because of the way they're displayed. This one will have my rooting interest.

As for my bet? I may take the advice of the crowd and say Free Solo. I still have about 48 hours to finalize.

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Categories One-by-One: Documentary Feature

Postby anonymous1980 » Tue Feb 19, 2019 1:15 pm

The nominees:

Free Solo
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons

I have now seen all five nominees and I am ready to make my choice and my predictions. With the assumed front-runner (Won't You Be My Neighbor? and to a lesser extent, Three Identical Stranger) left off the list, this should be an interesting race.

First one to eliminate is Hale County This Morning, This Evening. Not because it isn't any good, quite the opposite in fact, but because it's way too experimental in structure to appeal to enough voters (the filmmaker cites the Qatsi trilogy as an influence to give you an idea of what it is). It's kind of surprising it got nominated at all.

Next one to go would probably be Of Fathers and Sons. Again, quite an excellent documentary and more conventional than Hale County but this film is about children being trained to be Jihadists. So it's kind of a grim, dark, disturbing film. It will have fans but not enough to win.

The remaining three definitely have legitimate shot. Minding the Gap is the critic's choice of the group and my personal pick. It's a superb film and one of the best of the year but some might not take to the personal nature of the film and may look for something more crowd pleasing or "important". But will win the vote of the art house crowd within the Academy.

Free Solo is probably the most crowd-pleasing of the nominees. It has already won the BAFTA and I do believe it's also the top grosser. I didn't see this on IMAX so I guess a lot of the impact was felt there especially the climbing scenes.

RBG is the most "important" film of the group. The documentary about the life and career of Ruth Bader Ginsburg will appeal to a lot of the liberals within the Academy who are not exactly Trump fans. It's a fairly straightforward documentary and will win a lot of fans especially those who already admire Ginsburg.

My rankings according to my personal preference:
1. Minding the Gap
2. Hale County This Morning, This Evening
3. Of Fathers and Sons
4. Free Solo
5. RBG

My rankings on who I think will win:
1. RBG
2. Free Solo
3. Minding the Gap
4. Of Fathers and Sons
5. Hale County This Morning, This Evening

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