Category Archives: Best Documentary Feature Oscar Winners

O.J.: Made in America-2016

O.J.: Made in America-2016

Director-Ezra Edelman


Scott’s Review #690

Reviewed October 8, 2017

Grade: A

Simply put, O.J.: Made in America is one of the greatest documentary films that I have ever seen- if not the best.

The level of detail that is thoroughly explored without being over-inflated is to be marveled at. It is much more than a documentary, it is more a chronicle of one of the most talented professional athletes and one of the most controversial figures of our time.

The piece dissects not only O.J. Simpson and his tumultuous life, but also how race, wealth, and celebrity factored into the infamous trial that took over the world in 1994. This story tells of the examination of the rise and fall of an American sports hero.

At seven hours and forty-three minutes in length, I had no intention of actually committing to watching the entire saga, surmising that I could easily obtain a good grasp after watching only one disc, but it needs to be viewed in its entirety to be fully realized and appreciated.

The documentary is an ESPN production and part of the 30 for 30 series plays out more like a mini-series, with multiple chapters (five in total) encompassing the entire chronicle.

The title of O.J: Made in America is of vital importance and a powerful reason for the success the documentary achieved as filmmakers question whether many factors were instrumental in making O.J. Simpson what he became rather than creating merely an overview of the events.

An immediate positive, and successfully got me immediately intrigued, is how the documentary begins in present times, O.J. Simpson, now imprisoned and presumably at a parole hearing, is asked about his duties in the prison and how old he was when he was first arrested- the answer is age forty-six, when he was accused of murdering his wife, Nicole, and her friend Ron Goldman.

The documentary then immediately returns to Simpson’s humble upbringing in the ghettos of San Francisco and how, through scholarships, was able to attend and become a major star at the University of Southern California in the mid-1960s.

What I adore most of all about O.J.: Made in America is that it is a multi-faceted story. Instead of a straight-up biography about the troubled celebrity, the filmmakers instead choose to balance the documentary with related stories about racial tensions.

Certainly, a chronological approach is taken when it comes to Simpson- yes, we learn his skyrocketing trip to super-stardom as a college football player and then professionally as a Buffalo Bill.

We are educated of his achievements in commercials, films, and various endorsements, but the documentary relates this to what America made O.J. Simpson into- a beloved star.

Finally, the documentary explains his relationship and marriage to Nicole Brown and the dreaded death and subsequent trial that was sensationalized beyond belief.

Lots of time is spent with oodles of interviews ranging from the prosecution- Marsha Clark, Gil Garcetti- as well as numerous friends and relatives of both Simpson and Nicole Brown. An astounding seventy-two interviews were conducted.

Surprising to me at first, but making total sense in retrospect, is how the issue of race relations, especially in Los Angeles, has an enormous amount to do with the O.J. Simpson murder case.

Film-makers draw many wise comparisons to the history of poor relations between blacks and the Los Angeles Police Department and certainly, the documentary explores the Rodney King incident from the late 1980s and poses a crucial question- was O.J. Simpson found “not guilty” as a way of exoneration for Rodney King?

More than one juror has admitted she refused to find O.J. Simpson guilty and send a black man to prison.

O.J.: Made in America is a superb, well-rounded, concise, and brilliant study of a troubled man- deemed a hero, who had a dark side.

The excellent documentary wholly explores his life and provides a fair, unbiased assessment of the events and the thoughts and opinions of those surrounding the case. It is a sad story, but one that is told brilliantly.

Oscar Nominations: Best Documentary-Feature (won)

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Documentary Feature (won)

Inside Job-2010

Inside Job-2010

Director Charles Ferguson

Starring Matt Damon

Scott’s Review #552

Reviewed December 20, 2016

Grade: A-

Directly derived from the financial crisis of 2008, Inside Job (2010) explains what led up to, the factors involved, and who is responsible for the 2008 crisis.

The documentary is very important to see- if nothing else but a lesson in greed and corruption.

It is mainly divided into segments to make it less confusing and the content is easily digestible. The basic concept is greed, and how people are predisposed to being greedy.

Those responsible for the crisis and the subsequent effects on millions of people attempt to defend themselves and what they did to the end. Sadly, they are still in power, as immoral human beings as they are.

Many times the interviewer will either catch the subject in a lie or leave them tongue-tied- one subject even threatens the interviewer. There is a sense of satisfaction that erupts as they squirm and attempt to quickly think of ways to evade the questions.

Inside Job shows how Wall Street is incredibly powerful, and how most politicians are puppets, who are influenced greatly by them.

It is a sad and discouraging documentary, but incredibly honest and thought-provoking. I left the theater feeling angry and depressed, but feeling that the filmmakers did an excellent job of educating the viewer about the woes of the world.

Narrated by Matt Damon, Inside Job (2010) is one of the best documentaries I have seen in recent years.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Documentary Feature (won)

Searching for Sugar Man-2012

Searching for Sugar Man-2012

Director Malik Bendjelloul

Starring Sixto Rodriguez

Scott’s Review #451


Reviewed July 17, 2016

Grade: B

Searching for Sugar Man (2012) is a heartwarming documentary that tells the true story of a forgotten rising Detroit rock singer (Sixto Rodriguez) from the early 1970s, rediscovered by South African DJs where he is a surprising legend in present times.

The documentary’s main talking point is how an icon can be idolized in one country while living in utter poverty in another.

Thought to be the next great thing in the 1970s, his two released albums bombed and he subsequently faded into oblivion, until tracked down by the South African DJs, curious about his current whereabouts.

Searching for Sugar Man (2012) is an inspiring documentary for any musician or fan of music since Rodriguez is a true artist. He is not in it for the money or obsessed with attention or fame, he finally receives some recognition for his talent.

He is a free spirit, reminiscent of Bob Dylan, a poet, whose story is a courageous one.

Thankfully, this inspiring documentary has brought some notice to Rodriguez.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Documentary-Feature (won)



Director-Asif Kapadia

Starring-Amy Winehouse

Scott’s Review #376


Reviewed February 8, 2016

Grade: B

Amy is an informative documentary that tells the story of immensely talented, yet troubled, pop singer, Amy Winehouse.

Her childhood, rise to fame, and ultimate downfall as a result of drug, alcohol, and weight battles, are all chronicled in her documentary.

Despite the information, however, I never got the sense that I knew the singer well and at the conclusion, she still seemed mysterious.

Possessing a unique jazz/soul-infused sound and a wonderful British accent to boot, Winehouse burst onto the pop scene like gangbusters in 2003 as a talented artist with many layers of genres in her music.

A diamond in the rough you might say, and a breath of fresh air in modern music.

The fact that she wrote her songs only added to the level of talent oozing from her.

The documentary wisely tells of her upbringing and her abandoned father, who later resurfaced in her life. Her mother, while decent, could not control Amy, who was full of life and energy.

The main crux of the film, however, is to show her difficulty with fame- a sad, tried and true story of celebrities near and dear, artist types, who do not do well with the attention and adoration thrown their way and Amy Winehouse is no different.

As her popularity grew, all she wanted was to be left alone, and, unfortunately, her life became very public, including her tumultuous relationship with her boyfriend who wound up in prison.

Sadly, Winehouse did not have the best support system and it has alluded to that, perhaps, her father was an opportunist. A tortured, pure artist that sadly wasted away due to outside circumstances.

Throughout most of the film, she seemed lost or overwhelmed with the success that came her way. In a cruel irony, her biggest hit “Rehab” became fodder for late-night television comics to poke fun at her.

The documentary itself, while informative, is also quite basic and I felt like I was given more of an overview of Winehouse’s life than a personal introspective. I did not feel like I received a true sense of her inner thoughts and dreams. Yes, she did not want to be famous and it bothered her, but I wanted to see more of the real Amy Winehouse.

Amy is an adequate documentary about the life and times of Amy Winehouse and I finished the piece knowing more about her, but not nearly as much about her as I wished I had learned. A decent effort, but more would have been nice.

Oscar Nominations: Best Documentary-Feature (won)



Director Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin

Starring Montrail “Money” Brown

Scott’s Review #134


Reviewed July 25, 2014

Grade: B

Undefeated (2011) is an emotional documentary, a true story of a high school football coach brought into a struggling, poor, suburban Memphis area high school and leading the team to a championship title.

The story of the coach taking various students under his wing, father figure style, and helping them succeed in, not only football but scholastics as well is inspiring and heartwarming.

The coach’s passion shines through to the viewer in this story.

As wonderful a story as it is, I felt slightly let down by it as, yet again, the slant on the story is of an affluent white family swooping into a poor black neighborhood and saving the black kids with their mighty influence.

Why can’t we see a film that is the reverse?

In the twenty-first century, this is becoming slightly offensive and one-sided. It is The Blind Side (2009) with real people!

With that rant made, the documentary is pretty awe-inspiring and the coach is portrayed as a fantastic, truly caring human being. I laughed, cried, and rooted for the struggling football team to victory.

The portion on what has since happened to the football players is interesting to see.

Undefeated won the Best Documentary Oscar in 2012.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Documentary-Feature (won)

20 Feet from Stardom-2013

20 Feet from Stardom-2013

Director Morgan Neville

Starring Bruce Springsteen, Sting

Scott’s Review #17


Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: B

20 Feet from Stardom (2013) is a must-see for any lover of popular/rock music since so many songs have background singers that nobody realizes let alone knows their names.

It is said that many of them didn’t do much “past their day”, but Hollywood is littered with thousands of broken dreams.

It is nice that some of them still perform to this day.

A reality check in the documentary brought up many times is that you should be egotistical and narcissistic to be in the spotlight.

It makes you look at many of the big stars a bit differently.

Sometimes they are not so nice when the cameras are not rolling and have tremendous egos.

No names were revealed-this is an interesting documentary to watch.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Documentary-Feature (won)

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 1 win-Best Documentary Feature (won)