1999 with Nick: Best Documentary Feature and "realness"

This week, in advance of the Oscars, Nick Davis is looking back at the Academy races of 20 years ago, spotlighting movies he’d never seen and what they teach us about those categories, then and now.

The Blair Witch Project

When I taught my Winter 2017 seminar about the movies of 1999, to a classroom of first-year college students who were all born in the last two years of the millennium, one of the trickiest ideas to historicize was how decisively the visibility and cultural stature of documentary cinema has shifted over the last 20 years. Compared to the decades when I grew up, nonfiction cinema has reached much further outside a relatively niche audience who tracked that filmmaking tradition. The explanations are too numerous to get into here, though they include all of the following: cheaper and more numerous technologies for recording and assembling footage; proliferating platforms for distributing and watching nonfiction films,
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