What a relief. In a world gone mad, it sort of figures that the Academy Awards would start making sense. To wit: the Oscar nominees announced this week for Best Feature Documentary make up an exemplary list of the year’s best, more relevant documentaries:

13TH (Ava DuVernay)
Fire at Sea (Gianfranco Rosi)
I Am Not Your Negro (Raoul Peck)
Life, Animated (Roger Ross Williams)
O.J.: Made in America (Ezra Edelman)

The biggest surprise was that Weiner, one of the most successful, best reviewed and ridiculously on point documentaries of the year, didn’t make the cut. Perhaps the Academy voters want to move on from the election. I think it’s a glaring omission, but I’m not going to whine about it because the five nominated films are all heartfelt, intelligent and engaging. They are also all more cinematic or epic than Weiner.

I’m also happy to see that there are no lay-up, feel-good documentaries here, like 2013’s Oscar-winning 20 Feet from Stardom.

Having won so many critical awards so far, ESPN’s groundbreaking O.J.: Made in America is clearly the leader of the pack. But will its length and multi-part format — few have seen the film in a theater in one sitting — hamper its appeal with the theatrically-inclined Academy voters? If so, Ava DuVernay’s 13TH could be in the running. Sure, that documentary is put out by a streaming company, Netflix, but that same outlet manages to put on very effective Oscar campaigns.

Actually, I think O.J.‘s biggest competition is a dark horse: Life, Animated, directed by Roger Ross Williams. I’ll be writing another post to explain my Oscar predictions closer to the ceremony in February.

For now, let’s just revel in an A-list of contenders. I encourage everyone to watch these films. And while you’re at it, check out the stellar nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject this year. They are:

4.1 Miles (Daphne Matziaraki)
Extremis (Dan Krauss)
Joe’s Violin (Kahane Cooperman)
Watani: My Homeland (Marcel Mettelsiefen)
The White Helmets (Orlando von Einsiedel)

I can’t recall a stronger list of shorts nominees. I haven’t seen Watani: My Homeland yet, but the other four films either had me on the edge of my seat or in tears. This shorts race will be as heated as the feature one. And that’s a good thing.

Congratulations to all the nominated filmmakers!

The Academy Awards ceremony will be held on Sunday, February 26, 2017.

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Tom Roston
Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog. He is a former Premiere magazine senior editor, who graduated from Brown University and started his career in journalism at The Nation and then Vanity Fair. Tom's freelance work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The Hollywood Reporter and other publications. He has written several Kindle Singles, including the bestselling Kindle Singles Interview: Ken Burns. Tom's current list of favorite documentaries are: 1. Koyanisqaatsi by Godfrey Reggio; 2. Hoop Dreams by Steve James; 3.Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley; 4.Crumb by Terry Zwigoff; 5. Montage of Heck by Brett Morgen