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Why is Faces Places the frontrunner for Documentary at the Oscars?

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  • Teridax
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    There have been 2 kinds of movies with certain subject matter that have won the Best Documentary Feature category at the Oscars over the past several years:

    1. Fame. Movies about famous people “Amy” or even just lesser known stories about artists like the musician in “Searching For Sugar Man” or people involved with famous people like “20 Feet From Stardom.”

    2. Important social issues. Citizenfour was about the American government surveillance around the world exposed by Edward Snowden. Inside Job was about, according to the director Charles Ferguson himself, “the systemic corruption of the United States by the financial services industry and the consequences of that systemic corruption.” The Cove was about the mass hunting and killing of dolphins, especially in Japan.

    O.J.: Made In America managed to be both of those things, dealing with racism, true crime, and celebrity privilege.

    Since The Cove, the exception to this has been Undefeated, which won the Oscar in what I believe was a huge upset. I don’t know how to explain that films surprise win. Besides Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, the category seemed weak and Undefeated probably simply had the widest appeal in regards to its subject matter, about a high school football team who tries to finally win a season after years of losses thanks in large part to their coach Bill Courtney.

    This is a very strong year for the Documentary Feature category, and I don’t see how Faces Places fits into either of those subjects.

    Fame? I know I’m going to get a ton of hate for saying this, but Agnes Varda and especially JR aren’t as universally known by the mainstream public as Amy Winehouse. In Searching For Sugar Man, the story of the musician Sixto Rodriguez wasn’t universally known which made it feel fresh and engaging to a ton of people not familiar with his work. I feel like while Varda is known to many cinephiles and people who love classic foreign films, the movie Faces Places isn’t even about her life story. It is about her and this artist as they go around France creating portraits of the people they meet on their journey. I saw the trailer, and while it looks cute and enjoyable, it doesn’t seem to have the same kind of inspirational feel that Undefeated apparently had which surely helped it to win the Oscar.

    Important social issues? I haven’t seen the film so maybe there is something in there about sexism and/or racism, or some other issue, but even if it is in there it doesn’t have the benefit of being at the forefront of the film like the relevant issues and topics portrayed in Abacus: Small Enough To Jail, about Wall Street corruption and the U.S. justice system’s unfair treatment of the rich vs the poor, and Last Men In Aleppo, about The White Helmets continuing to be real heroes and save lives during the Syrian Civil War. Really consider the latter since another Netflix Documentary about the exact same subject matter won the Oscar for Doc Short last year.

    I can already imagine someone replying “Agnes Varda is overdue with the Oscars!” But wait, didn’t the Academy just give her an Honorary Oscar at the most recent Governors Awards for her lifetime of contributions to cinema? Will they really feel like they need to give her a competitive award since she already has an Honorary one? Also remember that Abacus is directed by someone arguably more overdue with the Academy than even Varda by this point, who has yet to receive any kind of Oscar gold: Hoop Dreams Director Steve James.

    Indeed, James has been snubbed for years after the Documentary branch of the Academy had to change their voting procedures after it was revealed they had turned the legendary Documentary Hoop Dreams off after just 15 minutes. Since then, James’ acclaimed films such as The Interrupters and Life Itself have failed to receive recognition from the branch, I believe due to leftover bitter feelings towards the filmmaker who made the iconic movie that they chose to lazily ignore than give the time of day. Now that they have evidently gotten over their anti-Steve James grudge and nominated one of his films, will the Academy voters take the time of day to right the wrongs of the past and award such a great documentarian with a win of his own?

    I’m not saying Faces Places is good or bad, I haven’t seen the film itself quite yet. I’m just questioning the logic of so many people predicting it to win the Oscar for Documentary Feature when the recent history of that category suggests that is very unlikely.

    For your Goldderby Film Awards consideration: Isle of Dogs for every category, especially Music Score for Alexandre Desplat!

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    I'm New Here, You Don't Know Me
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    #1202478089

    Seeing as Varda created the most influential film movement in history, I’m not gonna bet against her. She is a bigger legend than Spielberg, Scorsese, Hitchcock and Coppola combined in France. She basically is a celebrity.

    *Also I had to watch Undefeated in high school, it wasn’t what you would call Oscar-worthy.

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    Heart of Cinema
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    #1202478099

    Faces Places is one the most acclaimed films of the year and Agnes Varda is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.  I thought Jane could be a possible winner but it didn’t get nominated.  Agnes Varda winning will be like Ennio Morricone winning best score a few years ago.

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    FreemanGriffin
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    I want Agnes Varda (with JR) to win so much! My only concern is that her film is in French and the others are in English and this might matter. I thought Jane would be the beneficiary but they didn’t nominate it. (Both Faces Places and Jane made my top ten films of the year list and I love them both). IDK which of the other nominees would get the Oscar instead of Faces Places. I hope Agnes Varda – who is 90 – makes the trip over to the U.S., because that is one of the two moments I am most looking forward to at this year’s Oscars!

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    Teridax
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    #1202478507

    Seeing as Varda created the most influential film movement in history, I’m not gonna bet against her. She is a bigger legend than Spielberg, Scorsese, Hitchcock and Coppola combined in France. She basically is a celebrity.

    *Also I had to watch Undefeated in high school, it wasn’t what you would call Oscar-worthy.

    Yes, she is basically a celebrity for cinephiles in France, but she isn’t universally known to those who aren’t familiar with classic foreign films. I don’t see a path for her realistically winning. Predicting someone just because you want them to win isn’t a good reason for doing so. The other 4 films are about a variety of relevant and important subject matter, plus 3 of them are easily accessible on Netflix. I have Faces Places in last place in my predictions just because Varda winning feels like such a film awards lover’s “echo chamber” fantasy.

    For your Goldderby Film Awards consideration: Isle of Dogs for every category, especially Music Score for Alexandre Desplat!

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    Teridax
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    #1202478515

    Faces Places is one the most acclaimed films of the year and Agnes Varda is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. I thought Jane could be a possible winner but it didn’t get nominated. Agnes Varda winning will be like Ennio Morricone winning best score a few years ago.

    I don’t think those are comparable since Morricone really didn’t have the tough competition Varda has in the Documentary category, and I would even dare say that not as many Oscar voters know who Agnes Varda is, let alone who know she hasn’t won a competitive Oscar, as those who knew about Morricone.

    For your Goldderby Film Awards consideration: Isle of Dogs for every category, especially Music Score for Alexandre Desplat!

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    FreemanGriffin
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    #1202478524

    I am predicting Faces Places will win. I gave it a grade of A+ and it is about an important subject: the joy of making art, the joy of living life, the joy of faces and places! It’s also about aging and seeing; it even is political, championing workers and ordinary people! (:

    I do want to know what you mean by tough competition? None of the other films have won the awards that Faces Places and Jane have won (they have split almost all of the critics prizes). is there one of the five that voters might coalesce around and vote for? Yes, I want Agnes Varda to win a competitive Oscar. This is her last chance to do so. I am aware that her film is in French and the others are in English and that might matter. But I still am predicting she will win.

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    Filmatelist
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    #1202478528

    I would argue that a more accurate category than (1) FAME as mentioned in the OP is ARTISTS CREATING ART.

    This would encompass recent winners AMY, 20 FEET FROM STARDOM, SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN, and MAN ON WIRE, all beneficiaries of a gradually more liberal set of voting criteria that allows more members to vote than when they had to register at official screenings. Academy members may have the reputation for being politically progressive or have knee-jerk reactions to issues around social consciousness, but what they can *really* relate to is other artists. And that’s what FACES PLACES in particular is about.

    • This reply was modified 8 months ago by  Filmatelist.
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    Marco11
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    #1202478679

    I agree that Faces Places is far from being a solid frontrunner. But which other film of the nominees could claim this status, if not Faces Places?

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    Teridax
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    #1202478755

    I agree that Faces Places is far from being a solid frontrunner. But which other film of the nominees could claim this status, if not Faces Places?

    As I pointed out already, Abacus is about important social issues and has an overdue filmmaker behind it. Literally any of the other 4 nominees could beat Faces Places, but I am going with Abacus for now.

    For your Goldderby Film Awards consideration: Isle of Dogs for every category, especially Music Score for Alexandre Desplat!

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    JackO
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    #1202478888

    Because Jane got snubbed. It was the logical 2nd choice.

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    Teridax
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    Because Jane got snubbed. It was the logical 2nd choice.

    How? Wouldn’t Last Men In Aleppo (nominated at the Indie Spirits like Faces Places) and Gotham Independent Award winner Strong Island make more sense as potential winners?

    For your Goldderby Film Awards consideration: Isle of Dogs for every category, especially Music Score for Alexandre Desplat!

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    I'm New Here, You Don't Know Me
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    #1202478996

    The last few years, the documentary with the most critics prizes, goes on to win the Oscar. Since Faces Places has won more awards than the other four nominees combined, I think it’s a safe bet that Faces Places will pull off a win here too.

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    Owl-Always-watching
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    #1202479003

    I have only seeing Abacus and Faces  places so far.

    but Faces Places had me with a smile the whole running time. It’s about creating art and I don’t see how it will loose.

     

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    Teridax
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    #1202479027

    The last few years, the documentary with the most critics prizes, goes on to win the Oscar. Since Faces Places has won more awards than the other four nominees combined, I think it’s a safe bet that Faces Places will pull off a win here too.

    Okay, now that is a legit reason to predict Faces Places. Thanks.

    For your Goldderby Film Awards consideration: Isle of Dogs for every category, especially Music Score for Alexandre Desplat!

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