Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next”: Looking at potential Best Documentary Feature contenders

The 50th Chicago International Film Festival - 25th Anniversary Screening of "Roger & Me" Presented by Michael Moore
Ahoy there folks! For my final installment of the annual category/contender rundown, I’m finishing up by again moving on from the big eight categories and taking a look now at one of the in betweens, or as I call them “mini-majors”. This time, that happens to be the rarely boring Best Documentary Feature race. Obviously, this is another rather hard one to pin down early on, but as always, I’m feeling up for the challenge. Take a gander below and obviously keep in mind that this one also will be more fluid than normal going forward…

Here now are the five documentary films that I have currently cracking the unofficial lineup later on this year:

1. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief – This documentary on Scientology seems to be the consensus frontrunner right now, but of late I’ve actually been excluding it from my predictions. Call it a hunch, but the church might work enough mojo to sabotage its chances. Provided it gets in, Alex Gibney’s look at the controversial religion could very well go all the way. It’ll be one of the more interesting subplots of this category to follow during the season.

2. Where to Invade Next – The latest from Michael Moore is easily his most optimistic doc to date, which could bode well for his chances of appealing once again to the Academy. He’s a prior winner, so that could hurt him, but that rarely seems to stop documentarians from being honored more than once. This one just needs to lock down a solid 2015 release date and I think it’ll be one that has to be considered one of the five likeliest nominees at this point.

3. Amy – Slowly but surely, this has become one of the most successful documentaries of all time. A look at tragic pop star Amy Winehouse by filmmaker Asif Kapadia and how her life was cut short by drugs, it’s easily the most mainstream choice out there. I’ve warmed up to its chances of a nomination, though I still think it’s a long shot to win. That being said, it’ll be well honored on the precursor circuit, so anything is possible…

4. The Look of Silence – A pseudo sequel/follow up to The Act of Killing, which was nominated but didn’t win, I suspect the same fate will be awaiting this doc. It’s very good, but also feels like a companion piece, so that could hurt its chances of having any serious shot at a win. Director Joshua Oppenheimer deserves credit for lightning striking twice, but it’ll be an uphill battle for the Academy to recognize him in any real major way.

5. Cartel Land – This doc from Matthew Heineman is possibly the most exciting of the lot, with an added timeliness to boot, so that’s why I’ve previously had it winning. That being said, just like any of the other ones on this list, it could wind up snubbed, so it had to hold off the likes of He Named Me Malala and The Hunting Ground for this final spot. I suspect it’ll get one of the slots when all is said and done, but stay tuned to find out…

Next in line I’d have these ten contenders (just sans my own personal commentary here) for Best Documentary Feature:

6. He Named Me Malala
7. The Hunting Ground
8. Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom
9. Heart of a Dog
10. Best of Enemies
11. The Wolfpack
12. Seymour: An Introduction
13. Stray Dog
14. Meru
15. Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

And here’s another small group to give you 25 contenders in total right now:

16. An Open Secret
17. Iris
18. Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
19. What Happened, Miss Simone?
20. Sherpa
21. Brand: A Second Coming
22. Everything is Copy
23. Janis: Little Girl Blue
24. All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records
25. Listen to Me Marlon

Stay tuned ladies and gentlemen, as I’ll be back here new looks at all of the categories again soon!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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