Oscar Predictions: Best Documentary Feature

National Geographic Films

There are 15 films on the shortlist in this category. One film was cited by the Critics Choice Association, the International Documentary Awards, and the Producers Guild of America: Fire of Love. A few films appear on two lists: All That Breathes, Descendant, and Navalny. Other shortlisted films that were mentioned by one of those groups include All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, A House Made of Splinters, The Janes, Moonage Daydream, Retrograde, and The Territory. It’s possible that the story of its subject’s music will compel voters to honor Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song, but I’d bet more on surprise showings from Bad Axe, Children of the Mist, Hidden Letters, or Last Flight Home.

This category has infamously snubbed sure things almost every year, including The Rescue, Boys State, Apollo 11, One Child Nation, Three Identical Strangers, and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? There’s likely to be one such film this year, and I’m betting that Navalny, which premiered to acclaim at Sundance almost a full year ago, will be the one to suffer that fate. All That Breathes has been celebrated but I’m not sure it will win over all Oscar voters, whereas Bad Axe feels particularly current and relevant to Americans in a way that most of these other admittedly very worthwhile films are. Moonage Daydream made the Best Sound shortlist, which could indicate voter enthusiasm, but that didn’t help Welcome to Chechnya two years ago, which also placed on the Best Visual Effects shortlist and ended up with zero nominations. A House Made of Splinters might resonate because it’s about Ukraine, while Last Flight Home could have better luck than the less serious death-focused Dick Johnson is Dead did a few years ago. Good Night Oppy already didn’t make the shortlist when many thought it was a shoo-in, and it’s possible that Fire of Love might be the latest beloved would-be nominee to be omitted.  

Predictions: All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, Bad Axe, Descendant, Fire of Love, The Territory

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