So far as this year's Best Documentary category is concerned, the nominees I've seen are:
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Anonymous graffiti artist-turned-lovable prankster Banksy broke out with this playful "documentary" about art culture. Given the doubt cast over the film's authenticity (which is itself part of its appeal, a la F for Fake), I'm impressed that it even earned a nod; the real question is -- if Gift Shop wins, who will accept the award?
It's a thorough, slick, perfectly aggravating assessment of the 2008 financial crisis and its considerable aftermath. It's coming from a filmmaker who's already been nominated once before, for 2007's No End in Sight. And it's narrated by Matt Damon, and everybody likes Matt Damon. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Hey, don't give me that look. I like Jason Bourne as much as the next guy.] Don't be surprised if this is the one that takes the prize.
The year's token war pick is an intense, stridently apolitical glimpse of combat in Afghanistan, but as a piece of journalism, it also comes off as somewhat detached and unfocused. There's plenty to admire about it, but I'm not sure that it can top the more polished Inside Job or the more distinctive Gift Shop.
While I'm sure that they are both Tremendously Important Films, I'm afraid that I've still not yet seen Gasland or Waste Land. (And of the terrific docs that I had seen, I'm most bummed that neither The Tillman Story nor Marwencol made the cut, although I acknowledge that the latter wasn't even submitted for consideration. It opens at the Enzian next Friday. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Unless everyone keeps showing up to see the feel-good-tastic Blue Valentine for the umpteenth week in a row. I mean, I like seeing Ryan Gosling get pummeled as much as the next guy, but c'mon, people!])