Movie Talk

‘Bully,’ ‘Searching For Sugar Man’ on the Oscars shortlist for Best Documentary

"Bully" (Photo: Weinstein Company)

Once, there were 126. Now, there are 15.

That's right -- there were, until earlier this week, 126 documentaries that qualified for being an Oscar nominee for Best Documentary. The Academy has since considerably streamlined that list as the Oscar race is starting to become a little more manageable.

The current 15 candidates include docs that have already proven to be crowd-pleasing (and crowd-rousing) hits, either on the film festival circuit or in theatrical runs. "Bully" is arguably the most talked-about documentary this year as it presents an eye-opening portrait of just how much bullying is a major problem in American schools -- as is ineffectual parenting and teaching. Another eye-opener on the shortlist is "The House I Live In," which examines (and thoroughly criticizes) the American criminal justice system ... which is certainly a hot topic this year with wrongful-conviction docs such as "West of Memphis" and "Central Park Five" (neither of which, oddly enough, made the cut).

The shortlist doesn't lack for inspirational docs, either. "How to Survive a Plague" takes a look at two organizations -- ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) -- and their considerable achievements in the war against AIDS, while "Detropia" offers hope for the future even as it explores the many woes of one of the most troubled cities in America.

Perhaps the strangest -- and most uplifting -- documentary on the shortlist is "Searching For Sugar Man," which chronicles the story of Sixto Rodriguez, an obscure '70s-era folk singer (from Detroit, at that) who, unbeknownst to him, had a huge following in South Africa. The film follows a few of his greatest fans as they journey to find out what happened to their favorite music artist.

The 15 potential Oscar nominees for Best Documentary are below. The 85th Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 10 and the ceremony will be held on Sunday, February 24.

"Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Never Sorry," LLC

"Bully," The Bully Project LLC

"Chasing Ice," Exposure

"Detropia," Loki Films

"Ethel," Moxie Firecracker Films

"5 Broken Cameras," Guy DVD Films

"The Gatekeepers," Les Films du Poisson, Dror Moreh Productions, Cinephil

"The House I Live In," Charlotte Street Films, LLC

"How to Survive a Plague," How to Survive a Plague LLC

"The Imposter," Imposter Pictures Ltd.

"The Invisible War," Chain Camera Pictures

"Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God," Jigsaw Productions in association with Wider Film Projects and Below the Radar Films

"Searching for Sugar Man," Red Box Films

"This Is Not a Film," Wide Management

"The Waiting Room," Open'hood, Inc.