This Year’s Big Oscar Snub: “Waiting for Superman”

Waiting-for-superman-image-copy The nominees for this year’s Oscar for best documentary are “Restrepo,” “Gas Land,” “Waste Land,” “Inside Job” and “Exit Through the Gift Shop.”

But missing was “Waiting for Superman,” which had perhaps more marketing power and publicity behind it, not to mention the pedigree of David Guggenheim, the Oscar-winning filmmaker of “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Why the snub?

On Tuesday morning, many theories abounded, although the documentary branch of the Academy is at times unpredictable (or maybe baffling is a better term) in its choices.

The Washington Post’s education blogger Valerie Strauss writes, “Academy Award nominations are heavily political, yet this film didn’t make the cut even though President Obama called it “powerful” and welcomed to the White House the five charming students who starred in the film.

She added that the film distorted the reality of the public education system. “Guggenheim edited the film to make it seem as if charter schools are a systemic answer to the ills afflicting many traditional public schools, even though they can’t be, by their very design. He unfairly demonized Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and gave undeserved hero status to reformer and former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. Guggenheim compared schools in Finland and the United States without mentioning that Finland has a 3 percent child poverty rate and the United States has a 22 percent rate.”

The movie certainly stirred debate over the best solutions to the education system, but it also defied conventional wisdom, that the documentary community churns out projects that almost always can be characterized as the agenda of the left. “Superman” did draw praise from Obama, but also a smattering of conservative candidates across the country. In her unsuccessful bid for governor of California, Meg Whitman encouraged voters to see it.

Andrew Stuttaford, writing on The National Review’s blog, The Corner, who said today that “Superman” was “powerful, polemical, and deeply moving, it was just what the education debate in this country needs: an airing at the Oscars would have been all to the good.” He also offered an endorsement of another documentary that offered a more biting take of the education system, “The Lottery.”

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