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It's amazing how fleetingly causes can come and go in the awards race. Upon its release in the summer, "The Interrupters" -- a complex, clear-eyed study of inner-city violence in Chicago, from "Hoop Dreams" director Steve James -- was lavished with critical praise, hailed as one of the year's best films, and a cinch to snag the Oscar nod owed James by the Academy, if not the outright frontrunner. (17 years on, the unaccountable non-nomination of "Hoop Dreams" still smarts.)
With predictably frustrating perversity -- and an apparent impulse to torment James -- the Academy promptly left it off their 15-title longlist for the documentary Oscar, prompting widespread critical outrage that a film this strong could be carelessly slighted. Yet in the two months since that uproar, the critics haven't exactly come through for the film, either: the only win it's clocked up has been, in a show of hometown pride, from the Chicago critics' circle. Most nominee lists acros the circuit have left it off altogether, as lesser works like "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" and "Project Nim" rack up the precursors. (Even the International Documentary Association blanked the film entirely.)
So it's been left to the good folks of the Cinema Eye Honors to pay some respect: "The Interrupters" took both the Best Documentary and Best Director prizes at last night's ceremony. It wasn't the only acclaimed film prominently left off the Academy's list to receive some compensation: Clio Barnard's tough-to-categorize performed documentary "The Arbor" took Best Debut Feature honors, while "Senna" and Errol Morris's "Tabloid" both scooped technical honors.
Three Oscar-eligible films also took home some hardware: Wim Wenders's "Pina" (also a Best Foreign Language Film contender) was recognized for its achievement in production, Afghanistan war doc "Hell and Back Again" for its cinematography and real-life horse whisperer study "Buck" won the Audience Choice prize. (It beat, among others, "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never": one imagines they were rather selective in which audiences they polled.) All seem to me to be in the top tier of contenders for an Oscar nod -- supposed frontrunner "Project Nim," meanwhile, went home empty-handed.
The full list of winners:
Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking: "The Interrupters"
Outstanding Achievement in Direction: Steve James, "The Interrupters"
Outstanding Achievement in Production: Gian-Piero Ringel and Wim Wenders, "Pina"
Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography: Danfung Dennis, "Hell and Back Again"
Outstanding Achievement in Editing: Gregers Sall and Chris King, "Senna"
Outstanding Achievement in a Debut Feature: Clio Barnard, "The Arbor"
Outstanding Achievement in an Original Music Score: John Kusiak, "Tabloid"
Outstanding Achievement in Graphic Design and Animation: Rob Feng and Jeremy Landman, "Tabloid"
Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Short Filmmaking: "Diary," Tim Hetherington
Spotlight Award: "The Tiniest Place"
Audience Choice Prize: "Buck"
Heterodox Award: "Beginners"
Remember to keep track of the ups and downs of the 2011-2012 film awards season via The Circuit.
For more views on movies, awards season and other pursuits, follow @GuyLodge on Twitter.
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