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The finale – awards season reviews: Best documentary & Oscar recap

This will be my final installment to my awards season reviews series, if you’ve been following my journey to the Oscars then thank you for coming along with me! It’s been a lot of fun watching and reviewing all these amazing films.

For this article I’m focusing on two documentaries up for best documentary at the Oscars, then I’ll finish with a little recap of the films I’ve talked about so far, who I think will win and who I want to win. (If this goes live after the Oscars on Sunday and all my predictions are correct I swear I’m writing this before they’ve won, I’m just that good.)

Best Documentary 


I was extremely excited to watch the best documentary nominees but unfortunately I’ve struggled to find the majority of them. Thankfully, however, Virguna is a Netflix original documentary and there it was sitting in my ‘recommended for you’ list. I was riveted from start to finish.

Virguna focuses on four incredibly brave individuals who are destined to protect Virguna National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The park is home to the World’s last mountain gorillas, who face the constant threat of poaching on a daily basis. Needless to say this beautiful national park is surrounded by a country in utter turmoil, riddled with gang war, poverty and the looming threat of oil exploration. The film starts with its main premise and introduces gorilla carer André Bauma, ex militant and head park ranger Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo and new chief warden Emmanuel de Merode. Initially the filmmakers wanted to address the progress of these three people and their impact on the park, but three weeks into production newly formed rebel gang M23 began a rebellion and the film shifted focus. It becomes an investigative documentary that uncovers the intertwining and destructive politics behind the rebels and British oil company Soco International, a company that uses beyond immoral tactics to gain access to potential oil spots within the park. The investigations are fronted by the insanely brave Mélanie Gouby, a French journalist who goes head first into dangerous situations to uncover the truth. The filmmakers and these four individuals end up literally in the middle of a war, dodging gunfire and bombs but refuse to allow the M23 rebels, Soco and its allies to destroy the park. They demonstrate what potential we have to do the right thing. Its truly inspiring and for their sheer bravery to fight for whats right even when faced with extremely frightful and life-endangering obstructions I give Virguna absolute win for best documentary.

Finding Vivian Maier

This bizarre and fascinating documentary tells the previously unknown story of photographer Vivian Maier. After living a seemingly average life and succumbing to a seemingly normal death at the age of 83, Vivian Maier becomes posthumously famous. After failing to keep up with payments on storage space, her belongings are auctioned and won by John Maloof, Ron Slattery and Randy Prow.   Amongst a collection of badges and newspapers, Maloof uncovers over 30,000 negatives, numerous prints, audio recordings and 8mm films. Photographs so impressive professionals around the world reveled in Vivian’s talent. This remarkable discovery prompts Maloof to exhibit Maier’s work leading to an obsessive journey to discover more and more about the eccentric Vivian. The documentary gradually pieces together the life of a strange, introverted hoarder who worked as a nanny for most of her life. A woman who treated some children with kindness and others with an iron fist, a woman who had little family, no friends and moved constantly with dozens of cases filled with newspapers. A woman who was an angel to some and a crazy spinster to others. Her life is an utter mystery. And behind all this was a woman with an exceptional eye for photography, despite never showing anyone a single photograph whilst she was alive.

This documentary feels very intrusive and you almost get the impression that the filmmakers, despite honestly admitting their intrusive behaviour, don’t particularly care. They seemingly wanted to revel in their discovery whilst passively taking credit (& profits) for providing the world with such interesting and provocative photographs. Photographs that were probably never meant to have been seen. I couldn’t shake this feeling that I’d essentially just witnessed someone’s inner, most private thoughts, like I’ve read her diary. They glaze over accusations of child abuse, something I wish they had delved into more, but it felt like the filmmakers were obsessed with portraying an innocent, talented, unassuming, eccentric artist rather than, perhaps, the actual woman she was. But to give the filmmakers credit, Maier’s life seemed full of confusing and complex situations and they did well piecing together her life for us, the audience, so we could attempt to comprehend this woman. As interesting as this documentary was, I don’t feel, in comparison to the previously mentioned Virguna, it deserves to win on Sunday.

 Oscars Recap

I haven’t gone over every single category whilst reviewing the films nominated for an Oscar simply because there are so many! I wanted to watch the films that are going to be dominating awards night, which simultaneously resulted in the overlooking of some categories and films. Here are the categories I’ve focused on and my predictions for each. On the left are who I think will win, on the right the ones I want to win;

Best Picture

                               Boyhood  VS  The Theory of Everything

Best Actress

                           Julianne Moore (Still AliceVS Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)

Best Actor

Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) VS Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

(Maybe Michael Keaton (Birdman))

Best Director

        Richard Linklater (Boyhood)  VS Alejandro G. Iñårritu (Birdman)

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) VS  Emma Stone (Birdman)

Best Supporting Actor

J.K Simmons (Whiplash) VS Edward Norton (Birdman)

Best Cinematography

Robert Yoeman (The Grand Budapest Hotel) VS Emmanuel Lubezki (Birdman)

Best Editing

Sandra Adair (Boyhood) VS Tom Cross (Whiplash)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Theory of Everything VS Theory of Everything

Best Original Screenplay

The Grand Budapest Hotel VS Birdman

Best Documentary

Virguna VS Virguna

Thanks again for following my reviews.  You can get more information on the 87th Academy Awards (Oscars) here.


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