Released: June 25
Distributor: Lions Gate/IFC Films/Fellowship Adventure Group
Oscar alumnus: Michael Moore (documentary, “Bowling for Columbine”)
As befitting an ego as outsized as his talent, “Fahrenheit 9/11” helmer Michael Moore made a bold move: In September, he announced he would not submit his film for consideration in Oscar’s documentary race. He cited reasons such as wanting to remove “the 800-pound gorilla” from the race, so that other docs would have a chance. But, of course, it’s also a bid to garner noms in bigger kudo categories, including best picture, director and screenplay. The move also allows the film to air on television sooner than nine months after its theatrical release — an automatic disqualifier for any docu category contenders.
It’s an audacious gamble that rests on the supposition that “Fahrenheit” actually will have a shot at other kudo categories. But then the Oscar-winning filmmaker has never been accused of playing it safe or adhering to Hollywood decorum. And Moore has broken ground before. He nabbed a surprise screenplay kudo from the Writers Guild of America for “Bowling for Columbine.” And this year won the Cannes Palme d’Or with “Fahrenheit” — a first for a documentary. In another first, the doc topped $120 million at the domestic box office and more than $200 million worldwide.
And few docs have the backing of partners like Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who are famous for their track record in campaigning for the big categories.
Moore’s best documentary Oscar two years ago for “Bowling for Columbine” proves the Academy can embrace his controversial brand of nonfiction storytelling — even if its members weren’t entirely comfortable with his acceptance speech.
Should “Fahrenheit 9/11” be tapped for the best picture category, the intangible elements of politics and emotion could play a much greater role than they have in the past.
The big question is what effect George W. Bush’s win in last week’s presidential election might have on “Fahrenheit’s” kudo chances. Come January, the political passions of the generally blue-state minded Academy members could grow red hot depending on circumstances in the Oval Office and Iraq. Moreover, many Oscar voters could view the high-profile Academy Awards as a race they can control.