×

Docs seek Oscar heat

Sans '9/11,' Oscar picks 12 faves

NEW YORK — With Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” out of this year’s Oscar documentary derby, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ docu exec committee has winnowed contenders in the category down to 12 semifinalists led by such high-profile pics as Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me,” Stacy Peralta’s “Riding Giants,” Mark Wexler’s “Tell Them Who You Are” and Kevin MacDonald’s “Touching the Void.”

Other titles insiders said Tuesday were on the docu short list were Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman’s “Born Into Brothels” and Jessica Yu’s “In the Realms of the Unreal.”

AMPAS is expected to release its full list of semifinalists today. The 12 films will next be screened by Academy members and whittled to five final nominees.

Moore, who won an Oscar for his previous effort “Bowling for Columbine,” pulled “Fahrenheit” out of the docu Oscar race in September to compete as a best picture nominee, contending the move was aimed at opening up the docu race. Some saw the strategy as somewhat disingenuous, but either way, taking “Fahrenheit” out of the mix seems to have worked in juicing a host of hotly tipped front-runners.

‘Super’-sized grosses

Spurlock’s “Super Size,” which follows the helmer’s gastronomic adventures eating at McDonald’s for a month straight, was a Sundance pickup for Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn Films. The feature took in more than $11.6 million and leads the pack in B.O. take.

“Super Size” isn’t the only film with Sundance roots reaching the Oscar semifinals this year: Peralta’s “Giants,” the surf docu, historically opened the Park City fest last year and was subsequently bought by Sony Pictures Classics, which also rolled out Peralta’s “Dogtown and Z-Boys.”

Like “Super Size,” “Brothels” was another Sundance award winner. The film, which follows impoverished children of prostitutes in Calcutta, was ultimately picked up in a partnership between HBO and ThinkFilm.

Should IFC Films’ “Void,” the docu based on the book by Joe Simpson about his mountaineering adventures in the Peruvian Andes, become an Oscar nominee, it seems destined to rankle the competition. In the heat of the coming Oscar competish, some already contend that the film is not a docu at all, but a docudrama, as much of the film consists of re-enactments of Simpson’s book. Yet it seems to have made the climb to semifinalist.

‘Tell’ buzz building

Meantime, buzz is building for Wexler’s “Tell Them,” about the helmer’s auteur father Haskell Wexler. Last year, another son’s filmic view of his famous father, Nathaniel Kahn’s “My Architect,” was a fave among voters and nabbed a nom. ThinkFilm bought “Tell Them” at the Toronto Film Fest.

Indie banner Wellspring completed a well-timed pickup of Yu’s “Realms,” announcing the deal Tuesday. The film follows the life of Henry Darger, a Chicago janitor who penned the 15,000-page children’s fantasy novel of the docu title.

A handful of docus that would have seemed like shoo-ins to make the 12-film cut this year were disqualified due to having aired on television, either domestically or abroad. Knocked out of contention under such rulings were Jehane Noujaim’s “Control Room,” Ondi Timoner’s “Dig!” and Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar’s “The Corporation.”

‘Z,’ ‘Monster’ miss cut

Other hopefuls that qualified, but were turned down as of Tuesday were IFC’s “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” and “Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession,” Magnolia Pictures’ “Guerilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst” and Daniel Anker’s “Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust.”

A full list of semifinalists is expected to be announced today.

More Film

  • 'All These Small Moments' Review

    Film Review: 'All These Small Moments'

    The magic of writer-director Melissa B. Miller Costanzo’s “All These Small Moments” can be found within the intimacy of the scenarios, the authenticity of her earnest characterizations, and the accessibility of the actors’ honest performances. In her deftly polished directorial debut, Costanzo dovetails the primary story about a teen’s coming of age with a secondary [...]

  • Bruce Tufeld Dead: Hollywood Agent and

    Hollywood Agent and Manager Bruce Tufeld Dies at 66

    Bruce Tufeld, a Hollywood agent and manager who once repped stars like Rob Lowe, Laura Dern, and Kelsey Grammer, died Tuesday in Los Angeles as a result of complications from liver cancer. He was 66. The son of respected television announcer Richard “Dick” Tufeld and Adrienne Tufeld, Bruce began his career as an assistant at ICM [...]

  • Bruce Dern

    Film News Roundup: Bruce Dern's 'The Lears' Bought by Vertical for February Release

    In today’s film news roundup, Bruce Dern’s “The Lears” and “Angels Are Made of Light” are acquired, Cold War drama “Stanley Cage” is launched and a documentary about Madonna’s early music career gets a release. ACQUISITIONS Vertical Entertainment has acquired North American rights from NeoClassics Films to “The Lears,” starring Bruce Dern in a modern-day [...]

  • Octavia Spencer Bryce Dallas Howard

    Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard to Reunite for Comedy 'Fairy Tale Ending'

    Octavia Spencer and Bryce Dallas Howard will reunite for the ensemble comedy “Fairy Tale Ending.” Jim Hecht (“Ice Age: The Meltdown) and Tracy McMillan (“Marvel’s Runaways”) are writing the screenplay. Howard will also produce the Universal movie through her Nine Muses Entertainment alongside Eric Carlson and Susan Carlson. Seth MacFarlane and Erica Huggins will produce [...]

  • Robert Smith, Longtime Executive at DuArt

    Robert Smith, Longtime Executive at New York's DuArt Film Labs, Dies at 88

    Robert Smith, a longtime executive with New York’s DuArt Film Labs, died Jan. 11 in Montvale, N.J. He was 88. Smith spent some 62 years with DuArt, the film processing and post-production facility founded in 1922 in the penthouse of an automobile garage in Midtown. Smith rose to president of DuArt before retiring in 2015. [...]

  • Bird Box

    Los Angeles On-Location Feature Filming Surges 12.2% in 2018

    On-location feature filming in Greater Los Angeles expanded impressively in 2018, gaining 12.2% to 4,377 shooting days, according to FilmL.A. Production activity for feature films rose 15.5% to 1,078 shooting days during the fourth quarter, with 146 days coming from projects receiving California tax credits — including Netflix’s “Bird Box,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content