The Oscar documentary category gets limited to a shortlist of eligible docs before nominations are announced.

The list has been narrowed down to 15.

Cartel Land
Best of Enemies
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
He Named Me Malala
Heart of a Dog
The Hunting Ground
Listen to Me Marlon
The Look of Silence
3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets
We Come as Friends
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Where to Invade Next
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom


Documentary are my favorite movie genre, so I try to see all of the nominated docs every year. The problem is there are so many every year. With Showtime and HBO both producing their own and showing a new one every week, it is difficult to watch them all. Now that the eligible docs have been narrowed down, I now know what I need to watch first. Luckily  I have already seen most of them.

Here is the complete list and where to check them out:

The Act of Killing (Now on DVD)
The Armstrong Lie (Now in limited theaters)
Blackfish (Now on DVD, look for replays on CNN)
The Crash Reel (Look for it on HBO, In theaters Dec 13th to qualify)
Cutie and the Boxer ( Now on Amazon and iTunes)
Dirty Wars (Now on DVD)
First Cousin Once Removed (Look for in on HBO)
God Loves Uganda (In limited theaters)
Life According to Sam (Look for it on HBO)
Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer (Look for it on HBO, DVD February 13th)
The Square  (Look for it on Netflix)-First movie distributed on Netflix to be eligible for an Oscar
Stories We Tell (Look for it on HBO and now on DVD)
Tim’s Vermeer (In limited theaters January 31, 2014)
20 Feet from Stardom (DVD January 14, 2014)
Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington (Look for it on HBO)

SeaWorld does not want you to see BLACKFISH.  This documentary tells the story of Tilikum, an aggressive orca that killed three people while in captivity.  SeaWorld has always defended it’s treatment of the whales and even publicized their life expectancy to be longer in captivity then in the wild. Which, according to BLACKFISH,  is untrue.  SeaWorld earns around $400 million a year and they do spend money on rehabilitation and care for these animals, but not enough. In BLACKFISH we learn how socially complex orca whales are, much more so than humans.  They need this social interaction to survive. There is scientific proof that whales stay with their families for life. They can’t just be thrown in with other orcas and be expected to get along. In the movie we see many being aggressive towards each other because they are being forced away from their “families”.  We see how these whales are captured as babies and separated from their mothers. SeaWorld will separate the mother and baby when they believe necessary. We see the mothers  scream noises not heard before the separation.


Sure Shamu does amazing tricks and children enjoy watching them perform and splash water into the crowd, but at what cost.  I have been to shows at SeaWorld and the trainers always are sure to say how much the whales love performing for us. And on the surface the whales do look like they are having fun. Is this because they have no other choice? Is this because food is held from them until they perform?

I have no interest in going SeaWorld after watching this film.  SeaWorld has reported a 7% decline in revenue since BLACKFISH was released. There is no way to tell if it is the result of this movie or other outside factors.

SeaWorld can still exist and be used for research and to teach the public about orcas, but they need to invest money into giving these mammals a better quality of life.  They can begin by not separating the babies from their mothers. They need to construct large cages in the ocean so that the whales can socialize and feel the natural patterns of the water that a pool cannot offer.  This would require a significant investment from SeaWorld and as long as people continue to attend their parks, they don’t need to do anything.

Tilicum with folded dorsal fin most likely due to stress.

BLACKFISH is probably too controversial to be in the running for Best Documentary in the Oscar race.  I don’t think that the AMPAS wants involved in bringing down a major corporation like SeaWorld.  Regardless of any Oscar chances, everyone should see BLACKFISH and decide if you want to go to SeaWorld ever again.

Tilicum SeaWorld

Pixar has changed the ending to the upcoming animated feature FINDING DORA due to the controversy around BLACKFISH. From Huffington Post:

An unlikely source is prompting Pixar to imbue a social consciousness into its highly anticipated “Finding Nemo” sequel. The studio will take cues from the documentary “Blackfish,” which shines an unfavorable light on SeaWorld’s treatment of orca whales, by changing the ending of “Finding Dory” to be more environmentally friendly.

A Pixar employee tells The New York Times that the fish and mammals that occupy a “marine park” in the movie will “have the option to leave” after being taken there. Realistic? Probably not at all. But it is reflective of the harsh reactions elicited by “Blackfish” and the heated PR response from SeaWorld.

“Blackfish” chronicles a killer whale that was responsible for the death of three individuals at SeaWorld. The movie, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, has raised questions about the ethics of keeping whales in captivity, and the “Finding Dory” adjustment is one of the most tangible results of its findings.

We don’t know anything else about the overall plot of “Finding Dory,” so consider this your first insight into the “Nemo” follow-up as well as a rare tidbit about the inner workings of Pixar’s creative process.



Not a great commercial for Sea World. Makes you wonder why we allow whales in captivity.


Best motion picture of the year
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook”
Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln”
Hugh Jackman in “Les Misérables”
Joaquin Phoenix in “The Master”
Denzel Washington in “Flight”

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Alan Arkin in “Argo”
Robert De Niro in “Silver Linings Playbook”
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “The Master”
Tommy Lee Jones in “Lincoln”
Christoph Waltz in “Django Unchained”

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Jessica Chastain in “Zero Dark Thirty”
Jennifer Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook”
Emmanuelle Riva in “Amour”
Quvenzhané Wallis in “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Naomi Watts in “The Impossible”

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Amy Adams in “The Master”
Sally Field in “Lincoln”
Anne Hathaway in “Les Misérables”
Helen Hunt in “The Sessions”
Jacki Weaver in “Silver Linings Playbook”

Best animated feature film of the year
“Brave” Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
“Frankenweenie” Tim Burton
“ParaNorman” Sam Fell and Chris Butler
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits” Peter Lord
“Wreck-It Ralph” Rich Moore

Achievement in cinematography
“Anna Karenina” Seamus McGarvey
“Django Unchained” Robert Richardson
“Life of Pi” Claudio Miranda
“Lincoln” Janusz Kaminski
“Skyfall” Roger Deakins

Achievement in costume design
“Anna Karenina” Jacqueline Durran
“Les Misérables” Paco Delgado
“Lincoln” Joanna Johnston
“Mirror Mirror” Eiko Ishioka
“Snow White and the Huntsman” Colleen Atwood

Achievement in directing
“Amour” Michael Haneke
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” Benh Zeitlin
“Life of Pi” Ang Lee
“Lincoln” Steven Spielberg
“Silver Linings Playbook” David O. Russell

Best documentary feature
5 Broken Cameras
The Gatekeepers
How to Survive a Plague
The Invisible War
Searching for Sugar Man

Best documentary short subject
Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine
“Kings Point”
Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider
“Mondays at Racine”
Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan
“Open Heart”
Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern
Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill

Achievement in film editing
“Argo” William Goldenberg
“Life of Pi” Tim Squyres
“Lincoln” Michael Kahn
“Silver Linings Playbook” Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
“Zero Dark Thirty” Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

Best foreign language film of the year
“Amour” Austria
“Kon-Tiki” Norway
“No” Chile
“A Royal Affair” Denmark
“War Witch” Canada

Achievement in makeup and hairstyling
Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane
“Les Misérables”
Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
“Anna Karenina” Dario Marianelli
“Argo” Alexandre Desplat
“Life of Pi” Mychael Danna
“Lincoln” John Williams
“Skyfall” Thomas Newman

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
“Before My Time” from “Chasing Ice”
Music and Lyric by J. Ralph
“Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from “Ted”
Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlane
“Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi”
Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri
“Skyfall” from “Skyfall”
Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
“Suddenly” from “Les Misérables”
Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

Achievement in production design
“Anna Karenina”
Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
Production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright
“Les Misérables”
Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson
“Life of Pi”
Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

Best animated short film
“Adam and Dog” Minkyu Lee
“Fresh Guacamole” PES
“Head over Heels” Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly
“Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”” David Silverman
“Paperman” John Kahrs

Best live action short film
“Asad” Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura
“Buzkashi Boys” Sam French and Ariel Nasr
“Curfew” Shawn Christensen
“Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)” Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele
“Henry” Yan England

Achievement in sound editing
“Argo” Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
“Django Unchained” Wylie Stateman
“Life of Pi” Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
“Skyfall” Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
“Zero Dark Thirty” Paul N.J. Ottosson

Achievement in sound mixing
John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia
“Les Misérables”
Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
“Life of Pi”
Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin
Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins
Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson

Achievement in visual effects
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Marvel’s The Avengers
Snow White and the Huntsman

Adapted screenplay
“Argo” Screenplay by Chris Terrio
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” Screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
“Life of Pi” Screenplay by David Magee
“Lincoln” Screenplay by Tony Kushner
“Silver Linings Playbook” Screenplay by David O. Russell

Original screenplay
“Amour” Written by Michael Haneke
“Django Unchained” Written by Quentin Tarantino
“Flight” Written by John Gatins
“Moonrise Kingdom” Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
“Zero Dark Thirty” Written by Mark Boal