Anvil! The Story of Anvil Among Academy Award Documentary Snubs

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Although documentaries have gained a fair bit of mainstream acceptance over the past decade, the average moviegoer is still highly unlikely to know or care about most of the films that are being released in the realm of non-fiction. And considering the kinds of docs typically recognized by the Academy Awards, it’s easy to see why people might be turned off from the genre. Year after year, they seem to place higher value on “important” subjects, rather than deft storytelling and artistic merit.

Once again this year, the short list of movies nominated for Best Documentary Feature seem to be lacking in not only imagination but also accessibility. Which is not to say that there aren’t some great movies on this list, but to be honest, I’ve only seen 1 out of the 15 titles — and that’s coming from someone who actually cares about docs. So it’s only natural for people to point out all kinds of glaring omissions from the movies that actually got any sort of theatrical release this year… some deserving, and others not so much.

Anvil: The Story of Anvil is one of the major flicks missing here, and although I can’t say I ever expected to see it get nominated, let’s not forget, we’re not even talking nominations here… this is just the short list! On the other hand, Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story is one of his weakest films to date, and its omission is totally fine by me. Still, there are all kinds of other critically acclaimed films that were shunned including: We Live in Public, The September Issue, Tyson, Good Hair, Not Quite Hollywood, Crude, and No Impact Man. What do you think, did any of these movies get robbed? Check out the 15 potential finalists for Best Documentary Feature after the jump.

  • The Beaches of Agnes (Dir. Agnès Varda)
  • Burma VJ (Dir. Anders Østergaard)
  • The Cove (Dir. Louie Psihoyos)
  • Every Little Step (Dir. James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo)
  • Facing Ali (Dir. Pete McCormack)
  • Food, Inc. (Dir. Robert Kenner)
  • Garbage Dreams (Dir. Mai Iskander)
  • Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders (Dir. Mark N. Hopkins)
  • The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (Dir. Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith)
  • Mugabe and the White African (Dir. Andrew Thompson and Lucy Bailey)
  • Sergio (Dir. Greg Barker)
  • Soundtrack for a Revolution (Dir. Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman)
  • Under Our Skin (Dir. Andy Abrahams Wilson)
  • Valentino The Last Emperor (Dir. Matt Tyrnauer)
  • Which Way Home (Dir. Rebecca Cammisa)


  • Goon

    pretty big snub if you ask me, as Anvil is not only one of the best pictures of the year, but also one of the best reviewed and most unique.

  • MJS

    This is worse than usual. I could live without an Anvil nod, but the sheer number of popular documentaries that are being overlooked in favor of obscurities is pretty rediculous.

  • Mahotoe

    I’ve seen 8 of the movies on this list and I wouldn’t want to argue that Anvil, as fun as it was, was better than any of them. I would argue that Burma VJ, The Cove and The Most Dangerous Man in America are each better than any of the films you last as possible snubs. The Cove and Burma VJ are as good as or better than anything else I’ve seen this year, doc or narrative.

  • Goon

    I havent seen many of those documentaries so I’m not sure, but I think the track record of the Oscars in regards to documentaries speaks for itself, they lean too heavily towards a specific style and don’t take a lot of other important documentaries seriously simply by nature of the subject matter. They want everything to be ‘important’ first and well crafted or character based far second. The only way they’ll take it seriously is if it makes some serious bank.

    So something like American Movie doesn’t get nominated. It’s a shame.

  • Mahotoe

    While it has been historically true that the Academy has made some very bad decisions when it comes to documentaries, in the past few years they have adapted the rules to allow for a wider variety of styles and themes in the documentary categories. Just look at last year – Man on Wire won and it was far from the typical “important” Oscar-bait winners of the past. It also happened to be as character-based as anything by Errol Morris. The previous year’s winner was Taxi to the Dark Side, which was also terrific.

    You aren’t likely to find a film more character-driven than The Cove, which, like Man on Wire, is structured and paced more like a thriller than a documentary.

    I love American Movie – in my opinion it should have been nominated for and won Best Picture of 2000. It may be the best film of the decade. And if Chris Smith’s 2009 release was as good as American Movie it likely would be on this year’s Oscar short list. It wasn’t, so it isn’t.