Those Oscar Missed: Best Documentary (Short Subject)

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CONTRIBUTED BY JAKE THOMPSON

Best Documentary (Short Subject) is one of the few Oscar categories that home viewers would probably not be very familiar with.  As with the other two short film categories, I was originally not going to include them in my journey through major Oscar snubs (mostly because trying to determine which shorts actually qualified as MAJOR snubs would take weeks, months, perhaps even a year of research). I’ve decided, however, to present contenders for the short film categories that were NOT nominated for an Oscar, but could’ve (perhaps should’ve) been.  I’m doing this to be fair to the short films and so that I will have covered every current Oscar category.  Some of the shorts might be familiar to you; some might not be.  Please take a look at these possible contenders.

1951’s Day of the Fight is a black-and-white documentary short directed by Stanley Kubrick.  It follows middleweight boxer Walter Cartier on the day of his fight with middleweight Bobby James (April 17, 1950).  He’s shown going to mass, eating lunch at his favorite restaurant, and then preparing for the fight.  The fight itself is shown afterwards.  It’s such a shame that Kubrick wasn’t nominated for his work here.  Kubrick is a 13-time nominee (4 Adapted Screenplay nods for 1964’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 1971’s A Clockwork Orange, 1975’s Barry Lyndon, and 1987’s Full Metal Jacket, 1 Original Screenplay nod for 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, 4 Director nods for 1964’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1971’s A Clockwork Orange, and 1975’s Barry Lyndon, 3 Picture nods for 1964’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 1971’s A Clockwork Orange, and 1975’s Barry Lyndon, won Visual Effects for 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey).

The actual nominees at the 24th Academy Awards were:
Benjy–Fred Zinnemann (*Winner)
One Who Came Back– Owen Crump
The Seeing Eye– Gordon Hollingshead

1955’s Night and Fog is a documentary short directed by Alain Resnais.  It focuses on the Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz and Majdanek, describing the lives of the prisoners at the camps and the horrors they were subjected to (which included torture, scientific and medical “experiments,” prostitution, and execution), as well as asking who was really responsible for them.  It’s too bad Resnais wasn’t nominated for this film, for he has yet to receive a single Oscar nod.

The actual nominees at the 28th Academy Awards were:
Men Against the Arctic – Walt Disney (*Winner)
The Face of Lincoln – Wilbur T. Blume
The Battle of Gettysburg – Dore Schary

1977’s La Soufriere is a documentary short directed by Werner Herzog.  It follows Herzog as he explores a deserted island that has a volcano that’s predicted to erupt soon.  Herzog talks to three different men who had decided to stay on the island and examines why they had stayed.  It’s a shame that the Academy didn’t nominate Herzog for this film, for he has yet to receive a single Academy Award nomination.

The actual nominees at the 50th Academy Awards were:
Gravity Is My Enemy – John Joseph & Jan Stussy (*Winner)
Agueda Martinez: Our People, Our Country – Moctesuma Esparza
First Edition – Helen Whitney & DeWitt L. Sage Jr.
Of Time, Tombs, and Treasure – James R. Messenger & Paul N. Raimondi
The Shetland Experience – Douglas Gordon

1982’s 66 Scenes From America is a documentary short directed by Jorgen Leth.  It consists of a series of lengthy shots of a tableau nature.  Each appears to be a random cross section of America, but also invokes an emblematic picture of the United States.  Leth approached this film as a series of postcards from a journey across the U.S.  It’s a shame he wasn’t nominated for his work here, for he was yet to receive a single Oscar nod.

The actual nominees at the 55th Academy Awards were:
If You Love This Planet – Edward Le Lorrain & Terri Nash (*Winner)
Gods of Metal – Robert Richter
The Klan: A Legacy of Hate In America – Charles Guggenheim & Werner Schumann
To Live Or Let Die – Freida Lee Mock
Traveling Hopefully – John G. Avildsen

2010’s Dock Ellis and the LSD No-No is an animated documentary short directed by James Blagden.  It features an audio excerpt of Dock Ellis’ (most likely) last interview before his death in 2008.  The excerpt features Ellis telling the story of how he pitched a no-hitter in 1970 while high on LSD.  Blagden’s terrific animation brings Ellis’ own words to life in a fascinating way.  It’s too bad Blagden wasn’t nominated for this terrific work, for he has yet to receive a single Oscar nod.

The actual nominees at the 83rd Academy Awards were:
Strangers No More – Karen Goodman & Kirk Simon (*Winner)
Killing In the Name – Jed Rothstein
Poster Girl – Sarah Nesson
Sun Come Up – Jennifer Redfearn & Tim Metzger
The Warrior of Qiugang – Ruby Yang & Thomas Lennon

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