Documentary film is traditionally a tricky category at the Academy Awards. Far fewer voters have seen even one of the nominee, not to mention all of the contenders, especially when compared with the fiction films. This results in one or two people being able to block a documentary's nomination or even win, since so few are voting.
This year, though, there are two main tenets of eligibility that Moore pushed for (and got). Voting is now open to all members of the documentary branch of the Academy, just like other categories, instead of a select committee. "What that meant was that the Oscar was being decided by sometimes as few as two hundred people...when the presenter on the Oscar stage says the Academy has decided that the best documentary of the year is such-and-such, that's not entirely the truth, is it?" Moore said. The board of directors unanimously to change this; they're also making it easier for members to see all five films by offered streaming or sending DVDs.
Secondly, all films must also have been reviewed by the New York Times at the time of release. Moore explained that this is intended to cut out films trying to "avoid review." Before, the requirement was that a documentary run for a week in either LA or New York. Apparently though, some filmmakers would intentionally choose an "obscure theatre" so that the Times wouldn't know about it.
Moore also pointed out that this won't discriminate; it simply requires films to get a legit release. The Times doesn't pick and choose what to review—its policy is to review every movie that has at least a weeklong run in New York. "They hold no keys here, they are no gatekeeper, because it is the policy of the Times review every film, big or small, fiction or nonfiction."
Woof. Got that? It sounds like this will make the category more fair, though, and hopefully give the Oscars to films that truly deserve it.
[via The New Yorker]
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