Monday, February 7, 2011

Academy Screening #5: Doc Shorts

Doc Short Nominees:

  • “Killing in the Name” Jed Rothstein
  • “Poster Girl” Sara Nesson and Mitchell W. Block
  • “Strangers No More” Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
  • “Sun Come Up” Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
  • “The Warriors of Qiugang” Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

Who will win? "Strangers No More."

Is it a good set of nominees? I don't think so. 

I feel bad for the Doc Short nominees. This was the first academy screening in which the films really felt judged in the worst way. They play the films back to back to back, and every one of them deals with a social issue, because I guess the academy feels like it has to make political nominations instead of human ones. So every film feels worse than it actually is because the audience is forced into watching basically the same man vs. system movie five times. 

So the first film comes up, "Killing in the Name," about Muslim on Muslim terrorism. The story is touching, but the film in my opinion is poorly crafted. I've always felt that poor craft or forced tone cuts the importance of a topic down unfairly by making it overwrought or maudlin or boring or whatever. "Killing" does this to an extent, and the audience can tell. A 30 second break between films and then "Poster GIrl" comes up, even more maudlin and I think some scenes were staged and poorly "acted." Which sucks, of course, but again if I didn't feel like I had just watched the same movie ten minutes before it might have been a little better. "Poster Girl," a portrait of a female soldier with post traumatic stress disorder, literally ends on a fake camera noise, fake flash and freeze frame like some poorly edited iMovie effect, and I can't believe it got nominated. Another 30 second break and "Strangers No More" comes up, which is not a well-made documentary, but it has the virtue of jokes and cute children, and the academy audience gets its first laugh of the program. Unfortunately I think this makes it the most memorable, and for this reason alone it will win. Ten minute intermission and "Sun Come Up" is next, about a sinking island culture. Literally their island is sinking. This is probably the film with the best craft that would function the best as a full-length movie. But, unfortunately for "Sun Come Up," it plays the exact same way as the first two films. It bummed me out. I ended up leaving before the final film, "Warriors of Qiugang," about Chinese workers trying to change factory regulations. 

Last year's batch of Doc shorts had three films of great variety (the fall of the berlin wall from the POV of rabbits! how cool is that?), one decent film and one totally awful, how-did-this-get-nominated film. The awful one won. This year seems the opposite. Every nomination is, when put next to one another, totally homogenous, and the one with even the slightest hint of variety will win.

Up Next: Gasland!

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