Reviewing the 2021 Oscar-Nominated Documentaries

When Oscar nominations were announced last week, the Documentary Feature category was among the most surprising; acclaimed docs like Dick Johnson Is Dead, All In, and Boys State were all shut out, in favor of five diverse films, ranging from terrific to a disappointing and ineffective. Here are my reviews of the nominees, in order from best to worst. 

Review: I Care A Lot (2021)

The dark comedy I Care A Lot from writer-director J Blakeson is based in reality, and points viewers to the sad fact that people are often taking advantage of elderly individuals with no real heirs, by posing as their legal guardians. Blakeson’s film certainly takes things to the extreme, and is a pitch-black comedy with no truly likable characters.

Review: The United States vs. Billie Holiday (2021)

It’s disappointing that a movie featuring such important, relevant material — drug use, lynching, among others — can be so, well, disappointingly bad. I certainly hope Lee Daniels redeems himself after this atrocity, and that Andra Day is able to find another script and filmmaker worthy of her talent; however, she has said that this role took so much out of her that she may never act again.

Review: The Mauritanian (2021)

I was fortunate to get to watch a screening (through The Hollywood Reporter) of The Mauritanian, one of the last movies to be released during this incredibly long awards season. It’s a very powerful story, directed by veteran filmmaker Kevin Macdonald, featuring a couple of solid performances but is inconsistent in its story and execution. 

Review: Minari (2020)

Who’d have thought that Minari, a film that centers on an Korean immigrant family that tries to start a farm in Arkansas during the 1980s, would end up being the quintessential American film? It represents the American dream in ways both subtle and overt, and it irks me to no end that it has received numerous foreign film nominations, simply because a great deal of the dialogue is in Korean.

Review: Nomadland (2020)

Nomadland is currently the frontrunner for the Best Picture and Director Oscars (among others), and it’s easy to see why: it’s an extremely well-made contemplative film that probably isn’t for everyone due to its slow, introspective nature, but is popular among cinephiles like myself. The film is based on the book of the same name, written by Jessica Bruder (which I haven’t read, but now I want to).