1. “Hoop Dreams” (1994)
How in the world did the Academy members not look at this brilliant, insightful documentary and not think it was one of the better documentaries of 1994? When people look back on this effective, perceptive portrait of the American life and dream, I bet they would still consider it one of the best films of the 1990s, if not the absolute best. When people want an example of why the Best Documentary Feature category is the most controversial one, this is it.
2. “Blackfish” (2013)
I do not believe the Academy is “anti-female,” as the Internet has rambled about since this film and the documentary “Stories We Tell”. Going by what I’ve seen, they are not “anti-female”; they are “anti-public.” This documentary about how orca whales are treated in captivity, such as at Sea World, has been the subject of controversy and developed a huge following. But similar to “Hoop Dreams,” the Academy decided not to do it any favors the public hasn’t done the film already.
3. “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse” (1991)
This is a documentary about the making of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” which tells the story about the hell Coppola went through to make his seemingly impossible film. A lot of legitimate drama and a great deal of tension are visible as we see what Coppola and his cast and crew went through to make one of the better war films of all time. It’s also one of the better films about filmmaking and it was shunned. Shame on the Academy.
4. “West of Memphis” (2012)
This film was made after the Joe Berlinger/Bruce Sinofsky documentary trilogy “Paradise Lost.” The third one was nominated and this film, directed by Amy Berg, has the advantage of telling the whole story of the West Memphis Three through hindsight, making it the superior film. I guess nominating one documentary about the West Memphis Three was enough for them, leaving this effective, sometimes painful examination of a failure in justice out to dry.
5. “Up” Series (1964-present)
Filmmaker Michael Apted catches up with the same people every seven years since they were 7 years old, and has since created numerous documentaries. “56 Up” was released a couple of years ago, when the subjects were 56 years old. With each documentary, Apted shows how his subjects have grown and matured over the years, and the viewers get an insightful look at human life. And, you guessed it, not one of these documentaries was Oscar-recognized.