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A documental mess-up

The great Brazilian racing driver Ayrton Senna at the Nurburgring, Germany, in 1984 – from the film Senna
The great Brazilian racing driver Ayrton Senna at the Nurburgring, Germany, in 1984 – from the film Senna

MY MOVIE WEEKwith Mike Shaw

In a few weeks I’ll be sitting down and trying to pick my 10 favourite films of the year. It’s going to be easier than previous years because the No.1 spot was cemented back in June when I watched Senna.

The documentary about F1 superstar Ayrton Senna just blew me away, and I wasn’t alone. Critics across the board loved the film and their adoration was more than matched by the public’s response. So, perhaps you’ll be as surprised as I am to hear that the film is not on the list of nominations for Best Documentary at the 2012 Oscars.

Published late last week, the list, whittled down from 124 entrants by the Academy’s documentary branch screening committee, gives the go-ahead to 15 titles and, amazingly, Asif Kapadia’s wonderful documentary isn’t one of them. Nor are some of the past year’s other most commercially and critically successful docs, including Steve James’s The Interrupters, which follows a group of former gangsters trying to prevent violence in Chicago, and Werner Herzog’s death-row documentary Into the Abyss.

I’m not sure what the Academy is playing at, but it smacks of trying to be different. For those who haven’t seen Senna or simply don’t care about documentaries, let me try and put this in perspective: it’s like The King’s Speech not even getting through to the first round of last year’s Oscars. Critics loved it, old people loved it, young people, posh people, poor people, chimps and dachshunds all loved it, but the Oscars braintrust decided that your opinion is worthless and kicked it to the kerb. Not cool.

There is already an online campaign urging the committee to reconsider, but it won’t go anywhere. There have been similar outcries in the past but despite campaigns receiving support from tens of thousands of people and coverage in newspapers, magazines and on TV shows, the coffin-dodgers who run the Academy simply pop out their false teeth, insert another Werther’s Original and merrily pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist.

I can’t help but think there is an element of American isolationism to this too: F1 isn’t popular in America, so it doesn’t matter that huge swathes of the rest of the world love it. If Senna was a Nascar or Indy 500 driver, there would be no question that the film would be going through to the final stages. Hell, if the film was about a baseball player, they’d have probably closed the category and given out the award already.

» I thought the rumours surrounding a Rocky stage musical were weird, but I never expected it would actually get made. Sylvester Stallone is teaming with Wladimir Klitschko and his brother Vitali to produce a musical based on Sly’s Oscar-winner. In Germany.

It’s strange that the beloved story of an American underdog will be performed in Germany first but, I guess given the problems surrounding other big budget stage shows, it needs to prove itself before stepping up to the bright lights of Broadway.

Stallone says he has long thought that a musical transfer for the 1976 Oscar-winning drama was a good idea, in particular if its romantic side was amped up: “At the end of the day, Rocky is a love story and he could never have reached the final bell without Adrian. To see this story coming to life on a musical stage makes me proud. And it would make Rocky proud.”

There will be original songs, but famous numbers from the film will appear in the show too.

It’s a weird idea, but no stranger than Billy Elliot which is still going strong in theatres around the world. The main thing is, Stallone isn’t singing. As one of the few surviving humans who heard his tuneless mumbling in 1984’s Rhinestone, I am incredibly grateful Sly is only signed on to produce.

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