Oscar Doc Short List Nominations


There were 147 documentary films contending for an Oscar nomination in 2013. In the end, there can only be five nominations, but The Academy has whittled the initial list down to fifteen.

Most of the titles are unsurprising to my eyes. These are all of the bigger profile docs that people were talking about throughout the year. Front-runner predictions? I’d have to think Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell has got to be a favorite. Also, Blackfish and The Act of Killing have gotten a lot of buzz as well.

The Act of Killing
The Armstrong Lie
The Crash Reel
Cutie and the Boxer
Dirty Wars
First Cousin Once Removed
God Loves Uganda
Life According to Sam
Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer
The Square
Stories We Tell
Tim’s Vermeer
20 Feet from Stardom
Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington

A couple of titles notably missing from the short list are After Tiller, Gideon’s Army, Let the Fire Burn and Leviathan; four films I’ve seen on some other favorite lists and have been getting recognition in other venues. I think At Berkeley is another one I’ve seen cropping up on some best of lists as well.

What say you? Any commentary you have on the list? Anything missing or more interestingly, are there any titles on the short list that absolutely should not be there?

Also, the full list of 151 films is printed under the seats…

The Act of Killing
After Tiller
AKA Doc Pomus
American Made Movie
American Promise
Approved for Adoption
The Armstrong Lie
At Berkeley
Becoming Traviata
Best Kept Secret
Bettie Page Reveals All
Bidder 70
Big Men
These Birds Walk
Blood Brother
Brave Miss World
Bridging the Gap
Call Me Kuchu
Casting By
The Cinema: A Brief History of World Cinema
Cooper and Hemingway: The True Gen
The Crash Reel
Cutie and the Boxer
Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay
Dirty Wars
Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey
Enzo Avitabile Music Life
Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie
Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story
Fire In The Blood
First Comes Love
First Cousin Once Removed
For No Good Reason
Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners
Free China: The Courage to Believe
Free The Mind
The Gardener
Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird
Gasland II
Generation Iron
The Ghosts In Our Machine
Gideon’s Army
Girl Rising
The Girls in The Band
Go Grandriders
God Loves Uganda
Good Ol’ Freda
Greedy Lying Bastards
Growing Up Refugee
Hava Nagila: The Movie
Herblock: The Black & The White
I Am Breathing
Inequality For All
Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? An Animated Conversation With Noam Chomsky
It’s Better To Jump
Jodorwsky’s Dune
The Last of The Unjust
Let The Fire Burn
Letters to Jackie
Life According To Sam
Lion Ark
Liv and Ingmar
Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story
Married and Counting
MisLead: America’s Secret Epidemic
The Missing Picture
Mondays With William
Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve
More Than Honey
Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary
Murph: The Protector
Muscle Shoals
The Muslims Are Coming!
My Father and the Man in Black
Narco Cultura
The Network
The New Black
99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film
No Place on Earth
Not Yet Begun to Fight
One Direction: This is Us
One PM Central Standard Time
Our Nixon
Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey
Pandora’s Promise
The Paw Project
A Place At The Table
Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself
The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers
Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer
Re-emerging: The Jews of Nigeria
Rescue in the Philippines: Refuge from the Holocaust
The Revolutionary Optimists
Rising from Ashes
A River Changes Course
Running From Crazy
The Second Meeting
Seduced and Abandoned
Shepard & Dark
The Short Game
Six By Sondheim
Sound City
Spark: A Burning Man Story
Spinning Plates
The Square
State 194
Stolen Seas
Stories We Tell
Storm Surfers in 3D
The Summit
Sweet Dreams
Symphony of the Soil
Terms and Conditions May Apply
Tim’s Vermeer
The Trials of Muhammad Ali
12 12 12
20 Feet From Stardom
Two: The Story of Roman and Nyro
The Unbelievers
The United States of Autism
The United States of Football
The Unknown Known
Valentine Road
Valentino’s Ghost
Walter: Lessons From The World’s Oldest People
Wampler’s Ascent
War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State
We Came Home
We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
We The Parents
We Will See Tomorrow
When I Walk
Which Way Is the Front Line From Her? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington
Why We Ride
Winter Nomads
Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride

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18 Comments on "Oscar Doc Short List Nominations"

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I’m surprised that The Armstrong Lie is in the shortlist.
My fingers are crossed for Stories We Tell but this category always snubs the right one so….

Sean Kelly

Of this list I’ve seen:
– The Act of Killing
– The Armstrong Lie
– Blackfish
– The Crash Reel
– Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer
– Stories We Tell
– 20 Feet from Stardom
Films from the Longer List I Wish Made the Short List:
– Blood Brother
– Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey
– The Ghosts In Our Machine
– Jodorwsky’s Dune
– Valentine Road
Not Even on the Longer List:
– Maidentrip (hopefully it qualifies next year)
Of the film’s on the shortlist, I probably liked Stories We Tell the most.  Valentine Road was my top film from Hot Docs and it should have received consideration over (fellow HBO doc) Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer (even though it was also in my top five).
The Bloor Cinema is actually playing a few films in the shortlist later in the month, so I’ll probably have a few more under my belt by the time the nominations are announced.


Another vote for Stories We Tell…I probably shouldn’t hold out hope, but it would be great just to see it make top 5 and get further exposure.
Coming out of Hot Docs I would have guessed Bloor Brother and Valentine Road would have made the top 15. The latter certainly deserves it – it created a sense of anger and urgency that stayed with me for quite some time and actually impacted my involvement in local issues.
I would have loved to see First Comes Love make it – I adored the film, but it’s such a personal movie that it didn’t stand a chance. And Muscle Shoals and Sound City were fantastically entertaining music docs, but Twenty Feet From Stardom is the best overall of those three.


None of these is half the film 12 o’clock boys was. Of those that made either list I’d pick Big Men, Our Nixon or Muscle Shoals. From the short list I wouldn’t choose anything, my god, the earnestness of it all. Piffle.


mattmovies Have you seen Stories We Tell or Act of Killing? I don’t know how one watches either and can just ‘piffle’ them off.


Saw act of killing, still no interest in anything precious Sarah polley turns her hand to. Her films look tiresome. Again I say, piffle. earnest intent is for the birds.


mattmovies One of the things that makes Stories We Tell so great is it tells an emotional earnest story (as if that is a bad thing) and then pivots and pulls back the curtain on the production to a level that examines if all that you got wrapped into is a lie because certain players are missing, if that matters because there’s a universal empathy, fundamental questions about storytelling.  it’s so much more than “here’s a bunch of emotions”
I’m quite emotionally attached to the film, and quite intellectually attached to it.  Hits all cylinders.  “Piffle” is more than a little unnecessarily dismissive.

Sean Kelly

mattmovies Take it from me, Stories We Tell is much more worth watching than Polley’s fictional film.


Genuine question: what is wrong with earnest intent? I hear this a lot from other people and I don’t get it. Along the lines of your horror self-analysis might be worth pursuing why this irks you.


Mike_Rot Not speaking for Matt whatsoever, but I’ve heard more than once from people that they hate going to see emotional films for the reason that they’re embarassed to cry in public, and the only way to keep it in is to either put up a wall and ironically disengage… or to just walk out


Mike_Rot It irks me because it belies a kind of self-importance I find abhorrent.


mattmovies Mike_Rot Which might be an argument against a film like Tarnation or Dear Zachary.
But Stories We Tell as I’m sure those who’ve seen it can attest, is consistently questioning itself in this regard.


coreypierceart Mike_Rot Also, as a side note I really enjoy crying as a general principle. I wish I could see more films that make me cry. It’s one of the things that goes against video games being legitimate narrative, they aren’t capable of making you cry. I’m not even remotely embarrassed.


I think that sometimes self-importance is valid and depends on the content not the manner in which it is presented. If there were no earnest endeavors, no attempts to articulate meaning from a personal perspective, this would be a miserable existence. Far too much importance, pandering, is placed on the audience nowadays, to exalt geek or niche groupthink, and that to me is the worse offence.

Matt Gamble

I sobbed like a bitch during Mass Effect 3.
Just sayin.


Matt Gamble
Relevant: http://youtu.be/Oq-p0ysCF6E


Matt Gamble Final Fantasy VII’s shock killing off of Ariel had me and my brother in tears!


I loved Stories We Tell too, but my favourite documentary of the year (although it was released in a few countries in 2012) was The Punk Syndrome which didn’t get nearly enough love on its small release.