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2014 Awards Season: Oscar Highlight: Best Feature-Length Documentary

February 3rd, 2015

CitizenFour poster

With our annual Oscar Prediction contest underway, now is the best time to look at the nominees and try and figure out who the favorites are and which films should just feel honored to be nominated. Today we look at Best Feature-Length Documentary. This category had a lot of surprises throughout the nomination process; however, now that we have our five Oscar nominees, it seems like one of them has really settled into first place, while one of the other four might make it a two-horse race. On a side note, there are five major awards that we track that have a Documentary category. Of those, only one has announced its winners and none of the Oscar-nominated films won.

Best Feature-Length Documentary of the Year

CitizenFour
Tomatometer Score: 97% Positive
Previous Major Nominations: DGA, BAFTA, and Independent Spirit Awards
Previous Major Wins: None (Three Pending)
Notes: This film appears to be the front-runner. It has the second-best reviews in terms of Tomatometer Score, but it also has far more reviews than the first place films does, so I think its score is much more impressive. Additionally, only one of films on this list has more major nominations. Finally, it earned the most money at the box office. That shouldn't really matter, but you can't vote for a film you haven't seen, so the better a film does, the more likely more Oscar-voters have seen it.

Finding Vivian Maier
Tomatometer Score: 94% Positive
Previous Major Nominations: DGA, WGA, and BAFTA
Previous Major Wins: None (Three Pending)
Notes: This film earned nominations from three of the five major awards shows we track, plus it was only one of two films on this list to earn more than $1 million at the box office. On the other hand, its reviews are actually below average for the list and the buzz just isn't there.

Last Days in Vietnam
Tomatometer Score: 96% Positive
Previous Major Nominations: WGA
Previous Major Wins: None (One pending)
Notes: This film's reviews are average, as compared to the rest of the films on this list. Its box office numbers are average. Its previous Awards Season success is a little below average. There's not much hope it will be the Oscar winner.

The Salt of the Earth
Tomatometer Score: 91% Positive
Previous Major Nominations: Independent Spirit Awards
Previous Major Wins: None (One pending)
Notes: This film has the weakest reviews and not only that, only one other film on this list has fewer reviews than it has. That's a sign of a lack of buzz. (It is also because it hasn't had its theatrical release yet). It earned only one other major nomination and it is likely the longest of the long shots on this list.

Virunga
Tomatometer Score: 100% Positive
Previous Major Nominations: DGA, PGA, BAFTA, and Independent Spirit Awards
Previous Major Wins: None (Three Pending)
Notes: This film has the best reviews on this list, but it also has the fewest number of reviews. It also has nominations from four of the five major Awards Season voters that have a Documentary category, which is the best on this list. It also only earned a token release in theaters, but it is available on Netflix. I don't think it is the favorite, but is it the only long shot that has a shot.

Conclusion: Like last year, the documentary I wanted to win, Life Itself, wasn't even nominated. Of the five films that were nominated, CitizenFour is by far the favorite. That said, if Virunga wins, it won't be the biggest surprise of the night.


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Filed under: Awards Season, Finding Vivian Maier, Life Itself, Last Days in Vietnam, CitizenFour, Virunga