Also on the shortlist are “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer,” “Enemies of the People,” “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” “Gasland,” “Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould,” “The Lottery,” “Precious Life,” “Quest for Honor,” “This Way of Life,” “Waste Land” and “William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe.”
The 15 films were selected by the documentary branch screening committee from more than 100 docus that qualified. Field will be whittled down to five nominees.
In a field dominated by issue-driven fare — including Iraq War-themed entries “The Tillman Story” and “Restrepo” and environmental pic “Gasland” — Banksy’s street-art doc “Exit Through the Gift Shop” reps an unconventional choice. Pic was praised at Sundance and has grossed a solid $3.3 million theatrically but has aroused speculation about whether it was conceived as a hoax by the famous underground artist.
“Client 9” helmer Alex Gibney won the Oscar for 2007’s “Taxi to the Dark Side” and was nominated for 2006’s “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.” “Inside Job” director Charles Ferguson was nominated for 2007’s “No End in Sight.”
Notable omissions from the shortlist include “Catfish,” “Babies,” “Countdown to Zero” and “Cave of Forgotten Dreams.”
Focus release “Babies” was one of the year’s biggest docu hits, bringing in more than $7 million domestically.
“Catfish” also drew significant grosses for a docu but has faced credibility issues. Since its Sundance premiere, critics and auds have questioned whether the filmmakers manipulated or exaggerated elements of their story, which may have affected the committee’s decision to keep the pic off the shortlist.
As usual, the Academy favored docus that raise awareness around a subject, which made nuclear-weapons docu “Countdown to Zero” seem a likely choice. But “Countdown” director Lucy Walker’s Portuguese-language “Waste Land” made the shortlist instead.
In the case of “Cave of Forgotten Dreams, ” helmer Werner Herzog hasn’t been an Acad favorite, having earned a sole nomination for 2007’s “Encounters at the End of the World.”
Also left off the shortlist were Sundance darlings “Last Train Home,” “The Oath,” “A Film Unfinished” and “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.”
Nominations for the 83rd annual Academy Awards will be announced on Jan. 25 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, and the ceremony will be held Feb. 27 at the Kodak Theater.