What do Being a Human Person, Val, and The Sparks Brothers have in common?
All three can be considered For Your Consideration Documentaries, a genre of my own devising.
Studios drop oodles of dough on For Your Consideration campaigns every year, whenever they have a contending horse in the Academy Awards race (and, sometimes, even when they don’t). Usually, these campaigns result in nothing more than oodles of promotional content, more marketing than art, which is probably why they can seem like an ickily necessary evil (if they convince more audiences to consume the marketed art, it’s hard to argue with the tradition).
So why not use these campaign monies to fund actual art?
Is it a coincidence that Being a Human Person, The Sparks Brothers, and Val were all released in the same year their subjects are involved with possible Oscar players?
Yes, it’s probably a coincidence, because none of their movies seem primed to dominate the circuit. BUT, what if…
If the producers of Roy Andersson’s About Endlessness thought that his final movie could vie for some gold, it would make sense to accompany it with a documentary about his life, and the process behind making the movie, and how it’s the crowning achievement of his career (always an appealing narrative for the Academy).
And if the producers of Annette thought that the Sparks Brothers might garner some nominations for their writing, it would make sense to commission a documentary from a major director about how under-heralded they’ve always been; no time like the present to correct this grievous error.
(Also, if Last Night in Soho had shot Jason Reitman into the awards discussion, a documentary from him in the same year would exhibit his awards-worthy range).
And if the producers of the since-delayed Top Gun: Maverick originally thought that Val Kilmer might sneak into this year’s Supporting Actor conversation, it would make sense for them to greenlight a documentary about his trials and tribulations, reminding us of his ups while engendering sympathy for his downs, a reliable strategy for receiving awards love.
Ok, now I’m stretching.
But my idea for the genre still holds!
For instance, Will Smith’s memoir just hit bookstores, right before the world could get their eyes on his awards-thirsty turn in King Richard; you’re telling me that’s a coincidence? Or is it all part of the campaign??
Now imagine if King Richard and the memoir were joined by a Will Smith documentary; could it boost his chances of taking home a statuette? Every little bit helps…
Or, if the documentary Julia — now in theaters! — had come out on the heels of Julie & Julia, maybe the latter (and maybe even the former!) would’ve had more awards success.
Also, this awards aid might not be a one-way street; perhaps the “bigger” movie would raise the awards profile of the documentary as well!
So if we agree that FYC campaigns tend to result in nothing more than basic-bitch promotional appearances, wouldn’t it be nicer if the results were a bit more artistic? Convincing the powers-that-be to pony up for more artistic projects is always a good thing!
Granted, a For Your Consideration Documentary would not be the most objective of experiences … but that documentary ship has sailed on the winds of rampant commerciality. Sometimes, replacing an objective perspective with more personal expressions from the subjects of the docs can overcome this lack of (warranted?) criticism.
Because which is more artistic: a For Your Consideration doc, or yet another talk show performance?
Not ideal, but better than the alternative?
Incremental progress, yay!