The Academy’s rules for Best Documentary are so arbitrary and asinine that I always hold my breath when it comes to their shortlist. A list of final nominees is frustrating in any category, but it’s infuriating when a good film doesn’t even get a chance to compete. Thankfully, there are plenty of good choices among this year’s shortlist. The films eligible for a Best Documentary Oscar nomination include The Act of Killing (I’d be ballistic if this wasn’t in the running; my review), Cutie and the Boxer, God Loves Uganda, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, Stories We Tell (my review, although the movie didn’t hold up as well on a repeat viewing), and 20 Feet From Stardom (my review). If you have HBO GO, you can check out Pussy Riot along with other shortlisted docs The Crash Reel, First Cousin Once Removed, and Life According to Sam. As far as snubs go, I wish Casting By was in the running, but considering that it directly criticizes the Academy for not having an award for casting directors, I’m not surprised by its exclusion.
Hit the jump for the full shortlist. Nominations for the 86th Academy Awards will be announced on January 16th.
New to Blu-ray this week, Superman flies to home video, Noah Baumbach’s latest film gets the Criterion treatment, and a controversial Oliver Stone classic (which one?) receives a collector’s edition upgrade.
Pixar made some exciting announcements at its D23 panel earlier today, and in addition to revealing the voice casts for the upcoming films The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out, the studio also revealed a couple of cast additions to the highly anticipated sequel Finding Dory. Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton returns to the director’s chair, and the story takes place roughly a year after the events of the film and focuses on Dory’s quest to find her parents. Voicing said parents will be none other than Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy, with Modern Family star Ty Burrell also onboard to play a young Beluga whale.
Hit the jump for more, including why the ending of the film has reportedly been changed. Beware of possible minor spoilers. [Update: We've added concept art and the official logline for the film after the jump as well.]
Former SeaWorld trainers Samantha Berg and Carol Ray provide riveting accounts of their park experiences in writer/director Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s new documentary, Blackfish, which explores the dark side of killer whales in captivity. They are among a handful of former SeaWorld trainers who appear in the film and share their initial attraction to working with the whales at the parks and their decision to speak out after veteran trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by an orca named Tilikum at SeaWorld Orlando in 2010. Opening July 19th, the film brings to light the details of the Brancheau tragedy and reveals other harrowing trainer-whale encounters through shocking, never-before-seen footage.
At the film’s recent press day, Berg and Ray talked about how they became involved in the documentary, why they wanted to work at SeaWorld and interact with the whales but sensed early on that something was amiss, how SeaWorld controlled the PR machine and kept the trainers in the dark, why they decided to speak out after the Brancheau tragedy, what living in captivity does to large mammals, how SeaWorld uses questionable tactics to acquire wild animals for their parks, and what they would like to see change for the future.
In her new documentary, Blackfish, opening July 19th, filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite uses the story of a notorious performing whale, riveting interviews and never before seen footage to reveal the devastating consequences of keeping intelligent, sentient creatures in captivity. February 24, 2010 is a day whale trainers and fans of sea parks will never forget when veteran killer whale trainer Dawn Brancheau was brutally attacked and killed at SeaWorld Orlando by one of the park’s oldest residents, an orca names Tilikum. Her death became the catalyst for former SeaWorld trainers Jeffrey Ventre, Samantha Berg, Dean Gomersall, Carol Ray, Kim Ashdown and John Hargrove to speak out.
During my recent interview, Cowperthwaite and Ventre talked about what led them to tackle this subject, how the film’s financing came together, the challenge of making it without SeaWorld’s participation, how the trainers’ perspectives changed over time as they became disillusioned, why they became more vocal about what they had seen after Brancheau’s death, how SeaWorld’s public relations spin concerning her death differed significantly from their legal story, the decision not to include some of the more graphic footage in the documentary, and why the fight against animal exploitation should be a top priority. Hit the jump to read the interview.
The Sundance Film Festival recently announced the first round of programming, and we have the first images from a few of the movies playing in the U.S. Documentary Competition:
Hit the jump for the images and synopses. The 2013 Sundance Film Festival runs January 17-27.