Follow us on

Oscar Contest: Category Highlight: Best Feature-Length Documentary

March 3rd, 2010

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, which is only slightly more competitive than Best Animated Feature Film. (The next two categories are more competitive, I promise.)

Best Feature-Length Documentary of the Year

Burma VJ
Tomatometer Score: 96% Positive
Previous Major Nominations: PGA
Previous Major Wins: None
Prediction Contest Vote Share: 8 (5th)
Notes: This film has to be seen as a serious underdog in this category, for a number of reasons. It did earn excellent reviews, but so did every other film on this list. 96% positive actually ties it for the lowest Tomatometer Score here. Also, it was released the earliest in the year and barely made a peep at the box office. It has earned a previous major nomination, but that is also not enough to suggest that it's a serious contender.

The Cove
Tomatometer Score: 96% Positive
Previous Major Nominations: DGA, PGA, and WGA
Previous Major Wins: DGA, PGA, and WGA
Prediction Contest Vote Share: 135 (1rst)
Notes: The overwhelming favorite in this category. Granted, it didn't earn the best reviews on this list, nor was it the highest grossing at the box office, but it did well enough in both categories that it deserves to be at the lead of the pack. The film has been previously nominated for three major awards and it has won all three of them. Nothing is guaranteed, but I would figure this film has a nearly 90% chance of winning.

Food, Inc.
Tomatometer Score: 97% Positive
Previous Major Nominations: Independent Spirit Awards and DGA
Previous Major Wins: None
Prediction Contest Vote Share: 65 (2nd)
Notes: This is the biggest box office hit on this list, having pulled in more than $4 million during its run. This should help its chances at the Oscars for two reasons. Firstly, you can't vote for a film if you haven't seen it. Secondly, the studio will be more willing to promote the film if it has been a moneymaker for them. On the other hand, its performance during Awards Season has been mixed, with only two major nominations and no win so far (the Independent Spirit Awards are handed out this weekend). If The Cove hadn't sweep the previous three awards, then I would say it was even money, given its slightly better reviews and its much better box office run. Now, it will likely be a distant second place.

The Most Dangerous Man in America
Tomatometer Score: 100% Positive
Previous Major Nominations: None
Previous Major Wins: None
Prediction Contest Vote Share: 32 (3rd)
Notes: The pros for this film are its perfect reviews, but that's about it. This is the film's first major Awards Season nomination and it hasn't done major business at the box office. Even its perfect reviews are not as impressive as they look at first glance: it only has 26 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes while the frontrunner, The Cove, has 114.

Which Way Home
Tomatometer Score: 100% Positive
Previous Major Nominations: Independent Spirit Awards
Previous Major Wins: None
Prediction Contest Vote Share: 10 (4rth)
Notes: The commentary here is almost the same as for The Most Dangerous Man in America, only this film has even fewer reviews and it hasn't even had a full theatrical release yet. It did earn an Independent Spirit Awards nomination, but that's all that it has going for it.

Conclusion: Not the least competitive category in this year's contest, but it's close. The Cove has close to a 90% chance of winning, while Food, Inc. has maybe a 10% chance of scoring an upset. The rest are not really in the running.


-

Filed under: Food, Inc., The Cove, Burma VJ, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers