The ease of predicting the Oscar race for Best Documentary comes down to the category already being narrowed down to a shortlist. The contenders are already limited to 15 films. Of those 15, though, there are clear frontrunners.
The Best Documentary race appears to be one of the most cut and dry of the year, but there are one or two contenders on the outside of the top five that are strong enough to get in.
- Free Solo
- Minding the Gap
- Three Identical Strangers
- Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
In the Mix:
- Hale County This Morning, This Evening
The shortlisted films not listed above have not been receiving enough attention thus far to squeeze into the conversation. And, as much as I love Shirkers, it seems like it is on the outside looking in.
I have not seen Hale County This Morning, This Evening, but I have heard good things about it. It could sneak into the conversation, but the top five are all strong, well-liked films.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is perhaps the front-runner right now. It is such a feel-good film in a time where Academy voters may be looking to champion such positivity. A similar argument could be made for RBG.
Minding the Gap (my favorite doc of the year, not that that accounts for anything in this conversation) is a critical darling that has been racking up critics awards. Getting a nomination seems likely, but, given the mainstream appeal of the other films, it could be the first out. Free Solo, similarly, could fall off in favor of the more mainstream docs.
Three Identical Strangers is my biggest question mark here. It was a successful film on release. It got some buzz, and it is a good film. But I don’t think it is as challenging to the form as something like Shirkers. But challenging is not usually what the Academy is looking for. So I slotted it in.
It would be surprising if a film outside of this seven got into the top five. The safest bet is on Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)