OscarWatch: 'Superman' in, 'Joan Rivers' out of documentary shortlist

Another year, another outrageous oversight from the documentary branch of the Academy. Today AMPAS announced the 15 films that will contend for next year’s five Best Documentary Feature slots, and although there are several worthy films included (Waiting for “Superman”, Inside Job, Exit Through the Gift Shop, and The Tillman Story among them), missing from the list was the acclaimed exposé Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, one of the sweetest and most fascinating films, unscripted or otherwise, of the year. Also MIA: The Facebook-fueled Catfish, the transgender family tale Prodigal Sons, and the political eye-opener 8: The Mormon Proposition. Given its strong reviews, I was surprised Lucy Walker’s Countdown to Zero wasn’t included, though her Sundance prize-winner, Waste Land, did make the cut. (For the record, an Academy spokeswoman tells me that the Joaquin Phoenix doc I’m Still Here was not submitted for consideration in this category.)

As steamed as I am about the exclusion of Joan Rivers, I shouldn’t be too surprised. The same branch failed to put Bill Maher’s Religulous on its shortlist two years ago. I guess the moral of the story here is: If you’re gunning for a Best Documentary Oscar nod these days, you better not be funny.

Here’s the full list of semi-finalists: 

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer
Enemies of the People
Exit through the Gift Shop
Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould
Inside Job
The Lottery
Precious Life
Quest for Honor
This Way of Life
The Tillman Story
Waiting for “Superman”
Waste Land
William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe

More on Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work:
Joan Rivers talks about plastic surgery, hecklers, and her new documentary ‘Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work’
Sundance: Joan Rivers comes off as a stand-up heroine in the sharp and irresistible documentary ‘Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work’

Comments (44 total) Add your comment
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  • Sarah El

    Wasn’t Anvil! The Story of Anvil also in the same boat of neglect? Or was it on the shortlist and just ignored in the end?

    • tj s.

      umm im pretty sure it was nominated last year

      • Jake

        no, anvil wasn’t shortlisted or nominated, reflecting the academy’s huge bias toward political docs and against more intimate, personal portraits.

  • Apple

    Catfish wasn’t included because it is a faux-documentary.

    • Dave Karger

      A rep for Catfish says the film was indeed submitted.

      • Apple

        They can submit it all they want (or say they did) it is a big fat fake.

  • Cordy

    SOOOOOOO happy Exit Through the Gift Shop made the shortlist. Now I think it has a serious shot at getting a nomination. Although Inside Job will more than likely take the win.

    • Barry

      No, Pat Tillman will win so that liberal Hollywood can thumb their coked up noses at former President Bush.

      • LOL

        Barry needs some cheese with his whine.

      • sfday

        Barry needs to get his head out of his a$$. For the love of God, when did this country become us vs. them? Like this didn’t happen?

      • Barry

        I see that you 2 losers don’t leave a way to reply to your Obama rantings.

      • Churble

        I see that Barry doesn’t pay attention. Third tier comments don’t have a reply option. Losers or not, they don’t have an option. Just like you didn’t.

        Who said Obama? I don’t see that anywhere.

  • Vince

    I’m not a huge Joan Rivers fan, but I saw her documentary and it was simply one of the best docs I’ve seen in years. The “academy” should be ashamed.

  • DJ

    I don’t believe for a second that CATFISH is a documentary.

  • Jason

    I would have loved to have seen ‘Best Worst Movie’ and ‘Winnebago Man’ on the shortlist, as both are documentaries that appear to be about fluff topics, but end up being both funny and touching, but I wasn’t really expecting it… (‘Best Worst Movie’ may actually not qualify as being 2010 anyway – not too sure)

    • Fred

      Fully agree with you there, sir. Two of the best of any type films I’ve seen this year, and had the sinking feeling that they would be put aside for more “important” topics.

  • Evelyn

    “Waiting for Superman” and “The Lottery” are good but VERY flawed looks at America’s Education system. “Race to Nowhere” takes a better look at our education system’s problems. imdb the film. Under advertised, but is better and doesn’t simplify the issues as much as “Superman” and “Lottery.”

    • jason

      I got this one guys.


      No, we will not imdb the film.

    • Jean

      I’ll IMDB it – thanks for the tip. Saw “Superman” last month and I agree with you both that it’s good and that it presents an oversimplification of the issues.

  • Carol

    Religulous wasn’t funny. It was bombastic. And I’m a Bill Maher fan. He didn’t deserve to be nom’d for an Oscar.

  • stu

    Joans document was FAB!
    Though i think her daughters part should have been cut from it. Melissa is icky!
    “The Talk” should hire joan & send Sharon back to London.

  • sdrick

    Carol, dear, whether or not Religious was funny or not, it still deserved to allowed to be IN CONTENTION for a nomination. It wasn’t even afforded that. The documentaries are notoriously political, and I mean the “Hollywood kind of political”, not the national political kind. Both about equally disgusting.

  • sdrick

    Sorry Religulous

  • David

    Call me crazy, but it makes me a little upset that none of the Jackass movies are considered for Documentary Feature.

  • Meier

    So ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’ isn’t comedic?

  • Musterios

    Last Train Home should have been there

    • Karl

      Last Train home!! Chinese workers were totally overlooked. As was Ms Rivers.

  • Jack

    Unbelievable, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work remains one of the best docs, if not one of the best films, of the year.

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