Academy shortlist is long on doc talent

Activist films dominate once again

The Academy’s documentary committee has once again incited delight and disapproval over the 15 pics chosen to contend for Oscar nominations between now and Jan. 25.

Among those selected from the record-breaking 101 eligible docs were frontrunners like Davis Guggenheim’s “Waiting for Superman,” Amir Bar-Lev’s “The Tillman Story,” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger’s “Restrepo” and Charles Ferguson’s “Inside Job.”

Also considered to be a shoo-in but ultimately not making the cut is Laura Poitras’ war-themed doc “The Oath,” nominated for a Cinema Eye and an IDA and winner of a Gotham.

The committee remains consistent in its preference for activist films like “Gasland” and “Quest for Honor,” as opposed to non-issue oriented fare like showbiz expose “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” and B.O. heavyweight “Babies.”

While Lucy Walker’s nuclear-weapons doc “Countdown to Zero” seemed a likely candidate for the list, her character-driven, Brazilian catadores tale, “Waste Land,” was chosen instead.

Along with Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth”), previous category-winner Alex Gibney, who garnered an Oscar for 2007’s “Taxi to the Dark Side,” was recognized for “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer.” While Ferguson has yet to nab a gold man, he received a nom in 2008 for “No End in Sight.”

Fellow high-profile, previously nominated helmers notably missing from this year’s picks include Werner Herzog (“Cave of Forgotten Dreams”), as well as Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (“12th and Delaware”).

While Universal’s “Catfish” ran into credibility issues and got the ax, Banksy’s street-art doc “Exit Through the Gift Shop” garnered a spot on the list despite similar controversy.

Casey Affleck’s “I’m Still Here,” yet another doc believed to be fictional and ultimately dubbed so, was not submitted for consideration in the category, while Jeff Malmberg’s lauded “Marwencol” was not eligible.

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