Joan Rivers may want to talk but Oscar voters don’t want to listen, at least not to her in the feature documentary “A Piece of Work.” Despite scoring an impressive 90 among the top tier of critics at Rotten Tomatoes, this intimate look at the life of the comedienne did not make the grade with the documentarians who viewed all 101 eligible titles to determine the 15 that will now vie for nominations.
Other features that failed to win over the voters included “Catfish,” “A Film Unfinished” and “The Oath.” Two years ago, another jokester, Bill Maher, learnt that winning over documentary branch members is a serious business. His savage look at organized religion, “Religuous” was also left off the shortlist. However, unlike the Rivers piece, that documentary deeply divided the critics.
This year’s frontrunners include: “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer,” “Exit through the Gift Shop,” “Inside Job,” “The Lottery,” “Restrepo,” “The Tillman Story,” and “Waiting for ‘Superman’.”
Also vying for one of the five slots are: “Enemies of the People,” “Gasland,” “Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould,” “Precious Life,” “Quest for Honor,” “This Way of Life,” “Waste Land,” and “William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe.”
While an average scoring system produced the shortlist, the academy’s standard system of preferential voting will determine the final five nominees to be announced on Jan. 25. Rule 12 III (c) dictates that the second round of voting requires the viewing of all short-listed documentaries in a theater unless the member watched all of the eligible documentaries in the first round. The two-step process was instituted in 2007 to address concerns about the caliber of documentaries making the cut.
Photo: Joan Rivers in “A PIece of Work” (IFC Films)