New Documentary Rule

For the films of 2011
User avatar
Posts: 2746
Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2003 11:08 pm
Location: New York, USA

Re: New Documentary Rule

Postby criddic3 » Mon Jan 09, 2012 2:22 pm

This would be a stupid rule. Reviews should not dictate who gets Oscars to this extent.
"If you can't stand the nut on the left and you can't stand the nut on the right, go for the Johnson,” Jonathan S. Bush (10/21/2016)

Big Magilla
Site Admin
Posts: 15525
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 3:22 pm
Location: Jersey Shore

New Documentary Rule

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Jan 09, 2012 8:00 am

LOS ANGELES — In a move to trim the number of documentaries submitted annually for Oscar consideration, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is poised to require a movie review from The New York Times or The Los Angeles Times to qualify a documentary feature for the Academy Awards.

Ric Robertson, the Academy’s chief operating officer, confirmed the plan on Sunday after word of it began circulating among documentary filmmakers and their supporters. In a phone interview Mr. Robertson said it would be made public this week and would apply to films qualifying for the 2013 ceremony.

The review requirement is an unusual twist in a long list of qualifying standards that apply to the various Oscar categories, including best picture, best animated feature, best foreign language film and others.

It will trim the number of films that must be viewed annually by the Academy’s small documentaries branch, which narrows the field to 15 qualifying movies, and then 5 nominees. In 2011 the branch considered 124 movies, up 23 percent from 101 films from a year earlier.

But the rule might diminish the prospects of those who make smaller and less prominent movies; these filmmakers have often qualified their documentaries without the kind of commercial release that typically leads to reviews by the two news organizations.

Particularly hard hit will be DocuWeeks, a program sponsored by the International Documentary Association, which for more than a decade has let filmmakers pay a fee to have their pictures shown briefly in New York and Los Angeles, thus qualifying for awards. Under the new rule those films would be considered only if a movie critic for one of the two newspapers chose to review it, something that typically does not happen.

At least one film on this year’s Oscar qualifying list, the documentary “Semper Fi: Always Faithful,” about the Marine Corps and tainted water at Camp Lejeune, was shown through DocuWeeks and appears not to have been reviewed in either publication before its submission. Another dozen films — including “The Mexican Suitcase,” “The Power of Two” and “Unfinished Spaces” — qualified for Oscar consideration through the program, but also appear not to have had the reviews that will be required for next year’s awards.

“This will be a disappointment to a certain number of filmmakers,” said Thom Powers, the documentary programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival, on learning of the policy.

Mr. Powers called it “a strange thing indeed” for the Academy to shift decision making to third parties, in this case the newspapers. But he added, “I can understand that the Academy wants to focus its recognition on films that have had a kind of legitimate theatrical release.”

Mr. Roberts said the rule was part of an effort by the Academy to ensure that Oscars go to what he called “genuine theatrical” movies, rather than to films that might be made primarily for television but given brief theatrical exposure, or played for a tiny number of viewers simply to qualify.

Asked whether worthwhile films might be cut out, he said: “We may indeed lose worthy films. But I don’t think we’ll lose worthy theatrical films.”

A draft of the proposed rule did not specify whether the review had to be included in a print edition, or might run only online. It also did not specify length, or distinguish between the sort of capsule review, which sometimes introduces festival films, and a more elaborate piece of criticism. Reviews by television critics were specifically ruled out.

The review policy comes atop other major changes that will be announced this week, according to Michael Moore, a member of the Academy’s board of governors and a prime mover behind the revisions. Mr. Moore said the Academy planned to abandon a system under which committees within the documentary branch divided up films for viewing and scoring under an intricate numerical system. Instead, the entire 157-member branch will now be allowed to vote for the five nominees and the whole 5,800-member Academy will then vote for the best documentary, even if members have seen the films only on a screener. In the past only the several hundred members who actually attended a screening voted for the best documentary, a limiting factor that Mr. Moore and others have long believed to work against the more popular and culturally significant films.

The documentary branch has often been a center of controversy, as a large and growing number of documentarians each year press for recognition and question decisions that have often slighted relatively popular films in favor of smaller and more obscure ones. Eyebrows were raised when widely viewed documentaries like “Tyson,” from James Toback, and “Capitalism: A Love Story” from Mr. Moore, were overlooked in favor of less visible movies.

Only recently has the Academy eased life for often-struggling documentarians by allowing them to qualify films by having them released during the calendar year, rather than meeting a deadline that previously fell months earlier in the year.

But the new rule puts a squeeze on those who do not have a commercial distributor, and particularly calls into question the viability of DocuWeeks, which has consistently shoehorned films into the Oscar process. A spokeswoman for the International Documentary Association declined to comment on the proposed Academy rule.

Informed of the change, at least one documentary maker — an Academy member and a past Oscar nominee — described the change as contrary to the very nature of documentarians, with their inclination toward difficult causes and subjects that often are not commercially appealing. “This is not what we’re about,” said this filmmaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity to keep from offending peers within the Academy.

By policy The New York Times reviews every film released on a commercial screen for a week in New York or Los Angeles, and reviews some new releases screened by nonprofit groups like the Museum of Modern Art.

The annual number of reviews has risen to about 760, according to A. O. Scott, who, with Manohla Dargis, is co-chief film critic for The New York Times. That number is up by about 100 from a year earlier, Mr. Scott said.

Kenneth Turan, a senior critic for The Los Angeles Times, did not respond to e-mail queries on Sunday morning.

As for the notion that filmmakers will qualify for Oscars only if they are reviewed in the paper, Mr. Scott, in an e-mail on Sunday, said, “It’s flattering.”

Beyond that, he said, the change shows that print criticism and the theatrical release of movies remain important in a media environment that has rapidly expanded to include a universe of online reviews and unconventional distribution methods.

“It’s not only Academy voters, but also moviegoers in general who benefit from newspapers committed to reviewing as comprehensive a selection of new movies as possible,” Mr. Scott said.

Return to “84th Nominations and Winners”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest