The 87th Academy Award nominations won’t be announced until January 15th, 2015. That may seem far away, but Oscar buzz is beginning in full force, whetting our appetites for award speculations. This Thursday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s awards branch will release a shortlist in the Oscar race for best documentary.
The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer) – Executive produced by Werner Herzog and Errol Morris, “The Act of Killing” revisits the Indonesian genocide of the mid-1960s through the lens of the killers themselves who recreate some of their crimes in garish Hollywood reenactments. Deeply unsettling and occasionally darkly humorous, “The Act of Killing” is, not surprisingly, divisive among critics.
Cutie and the Boxer (Zachary Heinzerling) – “‘Art is a demon that drags you along,’ says 80-year-old visionary painter Ushio Shinohara in first-time director Zachary Heinzerling’s delicate portrait ‘Cutie and the Boxer,’ but neither Shinohara nor his supportive wife and fellow artist Noriko are looking for a cure,” wrote Eric Kohn in his review of the film at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered. “Heinzerling’s beautifully shot, painfully intimate look at the aging couple’s struggle to survive amid personal and financial strain is both heartbreaking and intricately profound.”
Dirty Wars (Rick Rowley) – Investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill traces the rise of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the most secret and elite fighting force in U.S. history, exposing covert operations carried out by men who do not exist on paper and will never appear before Congress. The film exposes the dark side of the post-9/11 “War on Terror.”
The Square (Jehane Noujaim) – After screening at Sundance and Toronto, “The Square” was picked up by Netflix in hopes of Oscar glory. Following several individuals during the Egyptian Revolution, “The Square” captures the on-the-ground happenings at Tahrir Square.
20 Feet from Stardom (Morgan Neville) – Though Mick Jagger, Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow and other rock stars appear in this documentary, the real stars are the back-up singers that the film highlights. What’s it like to be so close to stardom and yet still behind the scenes?