At this year’s Oscars, the five-part series “O.J.: Made in America” won Best Documentary Feature. This epic eight-hour film, that had been made for the cable TV network ESPN, prevailed over four standard-length documentaries. On Friday, the academy announced that such extended fare would no longer be eligible for consideration.
That tweak to the rules might disqualify “Five Came Back,” the new three-part series that streamed on Netflix beginning March 31. It did get a concurrent one-week theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles that would have qualified it at the Oscars otherwise. The academy did leave such films a little hope as producers can appeal to the executive committee of the documentary branch for dispensation.
“Five Came Back” is certainly prime Oscar bait. Based on Mark Harris‘ book of the same name, it profiles a quintet of Oscar-winning directors who put their Hollywood careers on hold to serve their country in World War II. These five fellows are feted by current helmers with Steven Spielberg saluting William Wyler, Guillermo del Toro touting Frank Capra, Paul Greengrass honoring John Ford, Francis Ford Coppola singing the praises of John Huston and Lawrence Kasdan lauding George Stevens. And academy darling Meryl Streep provides the narration.
“Five Came Back” scored a perfect 100% at Rotten Tomatoes, which grades on a pass/fail basis, and a respectable 80 at MetaCritic, which uses a sliding scale. Part of the appeal of having the film on Netflix is that the streaming service is also making available the 13 documentaries that these men made during World War II.