- Oscar contenders: The Story of the Weeping Camel and Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train are two of the semifinalists in the Academy Awards’ Best Documentary Feature category. But why have this year’s Iraq War documentaries been left out of the running?
- More Oscar contenders: Pixar Animation’s The Incredibles and Robert Zemeckis’ pioneering motion-capture fantasy The Polar Express are two of the eligible releases in the Best Animated Feature category.
- And yet more Oscar contenders: Harry Potter and Howard Hughes movies are among the semifinalists in the Best Visual Effects category.
Oscar contenders: The Story of the Weeping Camel & Home of the Brave among Best Documentary Feature semifinalists
The Story of the Weeping Camel, Home of the Brave, and Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train are three of this year’s 12 semifinalists for the Best Documentary Feature Academy Award. The Oscar contenders listed below were chosen by the Academy’s Documentary Branch, which will also select the eventual five nominees.
- Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni’s German-Mongolian co-production The Story of the Weeping Camel revolves around a Gobi Desert camel calf abandoned by its mother after birth, the calf’s concerned owners, and the power of music on animals. The title refers to the mother camel, who at one point sheds tears following a particularly moving music session performed by a morin khuur (Mongolian “horsehead fiddle”) player.
- Paola di Florio’s Home of the Brave, the story of murdered civil rights activist Viola Liuzzo.
- Deb Ellis and Denis Mueller’s biographical documentary Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, about the noted American historian.
- Jessica Yu’s In the Realms of the Unreal, a portrait of artist and janitor Henry Darger. Yu took home the Best Documentary Short Oscar for her 1996 effort Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien.
- Stacy Peralta’s Sundance Film Festival opener Riding Giants, about surfing and its history.
- Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman’s Born Into Brothels, about the children of Calcutta prostitutes.
- Christian Bauer’s The Ritchie Boys, the story of German Jews who were trained as an elite U.S. intelligence unit during World War II.
- Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, an indictment of both the fast-food industry and fast-food eaters.
- Tell Them Who You Are, filmmaker Mark Wexler’s look at his relationship with his father, two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, 1966; Bound for Glory, 1976), whose credits also include Medium Cool, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Days of Heaven.
- Kevin Macdonald’s Touching the Void, a mix of interviews and dramatic recreations depicting the fate of mountaineers Joe Simpson and Simon Yates while on a mountain-climbing trip in Peru.
- Lauren Lazin’s Tupac: Resurrection, an examination of the life of slain rapper Tupac Shakur.
- Kirby Dick’s Twist of Faith, about a man struggling to come to terms with his past sexual abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest.
Iraq War documentaries not in the running
Whether due to eligibility or other issues, conspicuously absent from the list of Best Documentary Feature Oscar semifinalists are several Iraq War-related and other political documentaries released this year, including Jehane Noujaim’s Control Room, and Robert Greenwald’s Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism and Uncovered: The War on Iraq.
Fahrenheit 9/11 director-producer Michael Moore, winner of the 2002 Best Documentary Feature Oscar for Bowling for Columbine, opted not to submit his blockbuster documentary in that category. The anti-George W. Bush/anti-Iraq War effort, however, is eligible in other Academy Award slots, including Best Picture.
Oscar eligibility or lack thereof
Update: According to an Academy spokesperson, Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, the pro-John Kerry Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry, and the anti-Kerry Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal were never submitted for Academy consideration.
Control Room and Uncovered: The War on Iraq were disqualified because they have already been shown on television.
Since Michael Moore opted not to submit Fahrenheit 9/11 for Oscar 2005 consideration, that leaves only Nickolas Perry and Harry Thomason’s The Hunting of the President, which was indeed eligible but failed to make the final cut. The film features American right-wingers as the ideological hunters and former U.S. President Bill Clinton as their prey.
More Oscar contenders: Pixar hit The Incredibles & The Polar Express among eligible Best Animated Feature entries
More potential Oscar contenders: The Incredibles, The Polar Express, and Shrek 2 are three of the 11 releases eligible in the 2005 Oscars’ Best Animated Feature category.
Here’s the list:
- Clifford’s Really Big Movie.
- Disney’s Teacher’s Pet.
- Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.
- Home on the Range.
- The Incredibles.
- The Legend of Buddha.
- The Polar Express.
- Shrek 2.
- Shark Tale.
- Sky Blue.
- The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.
Of note: based on Chris Van Allsburg’s 1985 children’s book, Robert Zemeckis’ $165 million-budget 3D Christmas musical fantasy The Polar Express is supposed to be the first all-digital capture (i.e., motion capture) feature film. Two-time Best Actor Oscar winner Tom Hanks (Philadelphia, 1993; Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump, 1994) is seen in six different roles.
As per Academy rules, a maximum of three animated films can be nominated in a year in which the field of eligible entries has at least eight but fewer than sixteen titles. In other words, early next year there will be only three Best Animated Feature Oscar contenders.
Expect Pixar’s box office hit-in-the-making The Incredibles to be one of the nominees when the Oscar 2005 roster is announced on Tuesday, Jan. 25, at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The awards ceremony will take place on Feb. 27.
Howard Hughes & Harry Potter vying for Best Visual Effects Oscar
Lastly, listed below are the seven semifinalists – i.e., still-in-the-running Oscar contenders – in the Best Visual Effects category:
- Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator.
- Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow.
- Alfonso Cuarón’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
- Alex Proyas’ I Robot.
- Brad Silberling’s Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.
- Kerry Conran’s Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.
- Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2.
Only three of these films – featuring superheroes, climate change cataclysms, Harry Potter, and Howard Hughes – will be found on the final shortlist.
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The Story of the Weeping Camel image: ThinkFilm.
The Incredibles image: Pixar Animation Studios.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow image: Paramount Pictures.
“Oscar Contenders: Pixar Hit + Weeping Camel In But Iraq War Documentaries Bypassed” last updated in August 2020.