The year’s best documentaries – Ken Burns, The Central Park Five doc, Queen of Versailles, Samsara, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and West of Memphis shut out of the Oscar race. That is mind-blowing. The new rules were supposed to stop this kind of assfuckery from happening. I remain astounded. Then again, they always have their weird ways of doing things and can’t be predicted. They seem to always resent it when others try to predict what they will or won’t do. This, I have to say, is a NEW LOW.  It’s a terrible thing, too, to have the Central Park Five win the New York Film Critics the same day AMPAS releases its 15 finalists:

The 15 films are listed below in alphabetical order by title, with their production companies:

  • “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” Never Sorry LLC
  • “Bully,” The Bully Project LLC
  • “Chasing Ice,” Exposure
  • “Detropia,” Loki Films
  • “Ethel,” Moxie Firecracker Films
  • “5 Broken Cameras,” Guy DVD Films
  • “The Gatekeepers,” Les Films du Poisson, Dror Moreh Productions, Cinephil
  • “The House I Live In,” Charlotte Street Films, LLC
  • “How to Survive a Plague,” How to Survive a Plague LLC
  • “The Imposter,” Imposter Pictures Ltd.
  • “The Invisible War,” Chain Camera Pictures
  • “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God,” Jigsaw Productions in association with
  • Wider Film Projects and Below the Radar Films
  • “Searching for Sugar Man,” Red Box Films
  • “This Is Not a Film,” Wide Management
  • “The Waiting Room,” Open’hood, Inc.

The Documentary Branch viewed the eligible documentaries for the preliminary round of voting. Documentary Branch members will now select the five nominees from among the 15 titles on the shortlist.

The 85th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Thursday, January 10, 2013, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2012 will be presented on Oscar Sunday, February 24, 2013, at the Dolby Theatre™ at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live on the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries worldwide.

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  • Jim

    Queen of Versailles: not eligible, or just a bad oversight?

  • d2

    No Central Park 5? Interesting…

  • David Lindsey

    Most excited about SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN.

  • Nick

    I cant believe Marley continues to be totally ignored by every group out there. At the very least, it deserves some attention.

  • Kevin Klawitter

    Well, when the documentary committee itself admitted the rules changes were a disaster, you’ve got to expect an inexplicable exclusion or two.

  • AP

    Despite the ridiculous choice to leave out some of the best titles, I’m so happy to see This Is Not A Film on the shortlist.

  • Free


  • steve50

    Where is Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell?

    That’s at least 3-4 major exclusions. I though they fixed this sucker. May as well change the category from “Best” to “A Random, But Interesting” Documentary Feature.

  • Geremy

    Very curious about This is Not a Film

  • No ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’ either? This is getting frustrating. I thought we’d see the end of this when they failed to qualify ‘Senna’ a couple of years ago.

  • Daveylow

    @steve 50: I don’t think Sarah Polley’s new film was eligible this year. It’s being released in theaters in 2012.

  • Casey

    Cannot be a best of year without Versailles and west of memphis

  • Jerry

    Wonder what will happen to the director of This is Not A Film if it gets nominated. He is under house arrest I believe and was banned from making any movies by the government in Iran. He had someone sneak out the footage for this film.

  • Alex

    They screwed it up royally (again) but it is good to see Bully, How to Survive a Plague and The Invisible War on the shortlist.

  • So a lot of good docs have been left off – with 15 slots, that was inevitable. And anyway, this is a much better selection than most of their previous shortlists in this category. A good variety of films and of topics and some of the year’s most critically acclaimed documentaries. I haven’t seen The Central Park Five, so I don’t know whether or not it has merited inclusion here, but there are enough big contenders on this list regardless.

  • Is

    Chasing Ice is a MUST SEE! Stunning cinematography, incredibly relevant and truly life-changing. Don’t count this one out.

  • Erik Anderson


    Although I will echo the shock and frustration at the omitted films I have to be impressed with what I find to probably be the best short list they’ve come up with in years. It’s pretty outstanding and full of high profile and excellent films.

  • Evan

    On behalf of those who’ve seen and love The Central Park Five and Queen of Versailles: UGGGGGGGGGGGGH.

    But ditto what Kevin Klawitter.

  • Evan

    “But ditto what Kevin Klawitter said,” that is.

  • MJS

    Jesus, you guys are dreamers. Of course their long list wasn’t going to be perfect, but aside from 2 or three ommissions this is one of the most solid set of finalists they’ve ever come out with.

    “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” “Bully,” “The Gatekeepers,” “The House I Live In,” “How to Survive a Plague,” “The Imposter,” “The Invisible War,”
    “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God,” and “Searching for Sugar Man” are all major documentaries that would have been declared major snubs if they hadn’t been here. Hell, they even found room for “This Is Not a Film.” How cool is that!

    That’s ten out of the fifteen slots right there and they’re all solid choices. Yeah, they might have made less than perfect choices on the other five slots, but if you expect the Academy to do anything perfectly you are setting yourself up for nothing but disappointment. It seems to me that the new rules worked out amazingly well, normally these longlists are loaded with strange made for T.V. documentaries, but this longlist is loaded with nothing but solid theatrical documentaries with good critical reputations and festival lives.

    In short, the glass is much more than half full, and to dwell on the one or two snubs instead of the very solid list of films that did make their way through is not productive.

  • Terometer

    Poor Central Park! Will Bully manage to be the top 5? They got Weinstein behind.

  • Keil S.

    I may be out of the loop, but whatever happened with The Act of Killing. Is it just not eligible, or did it not turn out to be as good as I’d initially read? I didn’t even hear it mentioned on a recent Oscar podcast that named virtually every other doc I could think of at the time…

  • g

    I have seen most of these, and they were very good. I’m disappointed about a few being left off the list, especially Jiro dreams of sushi. And really angry that Detropia got in, that was awful!

  • murtaza

    SO GLAD FOR IMPOSTER, amazing movie with terrific grip, the doc literally hooks you in from the second it opens. I hope it makes to the top 5.
    One of the best films of the year which will make you toss and turn in your seat till the very end. Beautifully shot and impeccably made.

  • Gen

    @Nick I agree. Where is Marley?

  • Keith

    Why all the anger about this short list? I’m not so sure this site understands what the committee is looking for in this category. Jiro Dreams of Sushi had little message and was too simple, it would have been better as a documentary short. Queen of Versailles was just ok, it is the box office film of the year that people that know nothing about the category hoped to see on the list so they could say they have already seen a nominee. It would be like wanting Avengers or Spiderman to get a best pic nom. I haven’t seen Marley yet, but given how Buck and Bill Cunningham did I’m not surprised a character study was left off. Another West Memphis 3 movie, come on. Get over it. Too repetitive like The Lottery and Waiting for Superman. Only if it is about Afghanistan or Iraq will they pick it over and over. Invisible War is a lock for a nomination and I haven’t seen it yet.

    I for one am happy with this list and look forward to watching as many of these as possible. If only last years winner would come out on dvd so I can see it…

  • Peter

    @Keil S THE ACT OF KILLING played at the festival circuit but was not scheduled to release till 2013.

    Same thing for STORIES WE TELL, it’s going to be released in 2013, though it’s already released in CANADA (also there will be a screening at Sundance).

    As for the list itself, I have seen 7 of them so far, will catch up with 3 more this week. I can honestly say I am not crazy about BULLY and ETHEL, but they are not bad docs. THE IMPOSTER is heads and shoulder above everything else (on and off the list) that I have seen.

    Of the docs omitted, I would probably put SAMSARA in the shortlist, very few films look as good as that, and it’s one of those films that should only been seen on a big screen.

    I haven’t seen CENTRAL PARK 5 nor WEST OF MEMPHIS yet, but will catch up with them before the year is out. But I think we should give this format a couple of more years before complaining. There are a huge amount of good – great documentaries this year, so not everything will be included.

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