Last Year’s Winner: “13th”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: After earning its first nomination in 2014, Netflix is riding a two-year win streak with “What Happened, Miss Simone?” (2016) and “13th” (2017).
Fun Fact: Since the category morphed from Outstanding Informational Special in 1998, HBO has won eight of the 20 trophies and landed multiple nominations 11 times.
In recent years, documentaries with a little extra buzz have done well for themselves in this category. Both “What Happened, Miss Simone?” and “13th” benefitted from earning Oscar nominations. That bodes well for “Icarus,” which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature earlier this year. No other contenders were Film Academy nominees, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t docs or nonfiction specials with lots of buzz.
HBO has a slew of contenders, all of which have caused a stir in and outside the industry. “Andre the Giant” has big-name subjects supporting the doc on the famous wrestler-turned-actor, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robin Wright, Billy Crystal, and David Letterman. “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling” is a personal passion project from Judd Apatow, and his intimate understanding of the late comedian combined with his influential friends should help set the doc apart. Meanwhile, “Elvis Presley: The Searcher” has the pull of The King himself.
Whether or not the largely liberal Academy voters turn out to support “John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls,” may come down to how public opinion on the senator swayed during Emmy voting. “Spielberg” is an unquestionably beloved figure — who’s got quite a few liked friends in Susan Lacy’s film — though reviews for the film may not equal the great director’s best.
“Gaga: Five Foot Two” also has star power to spare, given its main subject, and Lady Gaga even has early Oscar buzz going for her acting debut in “A Star is Born.” “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton” has the biggest name on the ballot — literally, that’s the full title — and it’s made quite a stir with streaming subscribers. That could push it past a heap of other contenders like “Baltimore Rising” (HBO), “Jonestown: The Women Behind the Massacre” (A&E), “Tickling Giants,” and “Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie” (Hulu).
Below are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction (listed in alphabetical order), which will be updated throughout the season. Make sure to keep checking IndieWire for all the latest buzz and highlights from the 2018 race, and read predictions in the rest of the categories, as well.
- “Andre the Giant”
- “Elvis Presley: The Searcher”
- “Gaga: Five Foot Two”
- “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling”
Spoilers: “Baltimore Rising,” “John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Jonestown: The Women Behind the Massacre,” “Seeing Allred,” “Spielberg,” “Tickling Giants,” “Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie”
In a Perfect World: “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton,” “March of the Penguins 2: The Next Step”