AMY || The clear front-runner, “Amy” has swept the awards season so far and will likely keep sweeping until the very end. Offering an unprecedented look into the life of deceased jazz singer Amy Winehouse, the film chronicles her life from a teenager to pop star, with in depth interviews with all those that knew and cared for her and endless footage of her life, painting a startling picture of what led to her eventual downfall.
THE LOOK OF SILENCE || A follow up to his previous Academy Award nominated documentary “The Act Of Killing,” director Joshua Oppenheimer delivers “The Look Of Silence,” offering a different perspective on the actions of the Indonesian death squad leaders as an Indonesian optician’s whose brother was killed by the squad leaders interviews those responsible while posing the interviews as eye exams. Unfortunately, Oppenheimer will likely be beat out by another music documentary as “The Act Of Killing” was beat by “20 Feet From Stardom.”
CARTEL LAND || As timely as “Cartel Land” may be, the film itself feels unfinished, offering little to no resolution or solution to the problems presented. It does however offer an in depth look at both sides of the Mexican drug war, following the Arizona Border Recon on the American side and the Autodefensas on the Mexican side, as they try to flush out the cartels and keep the borders safe from drug trafficking.
WHAT HAPPENED MISS SIMONE? || Chronicling the life of Nina Simone much in the same way that “Amy” chronicles the life and death of Amy Winehouse, “What Happened Miss Simone?” follows Nina through her rise as an artist through her civil rights fighting days to her eventual downfall into depression and erratic behavior. Also containing interviews with those that knew her best, this feels far too similar to “Amy” to beat it out, but with the Academy’s track record as of late for rewarding music documentaries, could place this a few notches above even “The Look Of Silence” and “Cartel Land.”
WINTER ON FIRE: UKRAINE’S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM || Providing some insight into the conflicts in Ukraine over the past few years, “Winter On Fire” shows a specific event where the Ukrainian people took to a square for some non-violent protesting and were met with force from the Ukrainian police forces. Personally, the documentary feels way to similar to the Academy Award nominated documentary “The Square,” which was also released by Netflix, and for that, it falls to the bottom of the list.