Oscar Preview: Weekend of Aug. 3-5, 2012

We had three films releasing this weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

I don’t have a lot to say about this one. Political documentaries do well with Oscar voters, though docs about artists don’t always. The combination of the two may be a bit too much for Academy members, but the stand-up-to-China mentality might be just enough over-balance towards politics that could get it a nomination.

Ruby Sparks

Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris came almost out of nowhere to become the darlings of the 2006 Oscar race with their indie comedy Little Miss Sunshine which rode festival praise and critic adulation to become one of the favored films of its year. Although the pair didn’t earn Best Director nominations, the film managed four nominations, winning half of them. It lost Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for Abigail Breslin, but won awards for Best Supporting Actor to Alan Arkin and for its Original Screenplay.

This time around, however, critics don’t seem to be buying their film. While it’s gotten generally positive reviews, it hasn’t gotten the acclaim its predecessor has. The film still has a chance for a Best Original Screenplay nomination, but Paul Dano, who has been talked about a few times as a Best Actor nominee, will have to sit out of the Oscars yet again in spite of being an actor that has been on the Oscar cusp ever since his Little Miss Sunshine debut.

Searching for Sugar Man

Apart from the strong reviews, the documentary’s mystery element may appeal to Oscar voters looking for something a bit more non-traditional. The trailers for the film give a small impression that it could be somewhat new, but is mostly adherent to the traditions of the genre. Tying the subject back into the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa and you have the political nature of documentaries that the Academy favors.

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