Image courtesy Helga Esteb /

This week Oscar nominations will be announced after we’ve been teased by the Academy for the past month with the early release of screenplay nominees and the Golden Globe Awards over the weekend. Congratulations to the 15 films shortlisted, it’s a major feat to earn that accolade for the blood and tears you’ve put into your creations.

Based on social buzz, colleagues’ input, reviews, watching the shortlist films, and media/PR coverage below are my film picks to get an Oscar nod January 16th (views are my own, not WITNESS’):

My colleague Hannah describes this documentary best, “’Stories We Tell’ literally took my breath away with its brilliant twist on documentary storytelling. It’s not only about family, but also about memory, truth, and perception.” The film gives new meaning to ‘home videos’ using them cleverly in conjunction with family interviews to analyze ‘how we tell stories about our lives.’ This warm, heartbreaking film not only gets my vote for a nomination, but is my choice as strongest contender to win this year.

I grew up in Florida. Sea World was where we went on school fields trips or where we took friends or family visiting. “Blackfish,” interviews Sea World trainers and makes them the main characters of the film. This approach creates a persuasive argument to challenge the current systems for animals in captivity as being inhumane after seeing “Blackfish.” I may not ever visit Sea World again. It’s influence, film buzz, and being one of the most mentioned films by colleagues is why I think this one will get a nomination and would be my 2nd choice to win an Oscar.

Post Wikileaks events, and the disclosures made by Manning and Snowden, the film “Dirty Wars” is a powerful investigative documentary that gives a lot of food for thought on America’s role in wars. The film being shortlisted is probably making Washington nervous. The filmmaker does a great job with source choices and news clips to show cause and effect, which leaves the viewer to think about the concept of ‘making war.’ It’s not only a good film, but I think The Academy would make a statement by giving it a nomination.

For transparency, WITNESS is hosting a screening of this film at Cinema Village in NYC next week. In this new era of citizen journalism, the film is like a culmination of everything I’ve been following online for WITNESS since #Jan25 strung together personal stories about the events in Tahrir Square, Egypt. A nomination would reflect the changes happening in media and the influence of citizen journalism.

I followed Pussy Riot from the moment they made news and even attended the NYC ‘Free Pussy Riot’ event. So when I saw the documentary on HBO I tuned in. What I think helped get it shortlisted (beyond being an HBO production & the media attention) is the filmmaker’s touching interviews with the band members’ parents. Plus, it would be a bonus to hear Ellen say, “And the winner is (beat) Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer.”

There is one movie, “The Act of Killing,” which made the rounds and has a lot of buzz surrounding it. My colleague, Jackie, explains the film well, “[the film] transcends the documentary genre and creates a space where violence, cinema and Indonesian politics are explored in a bizarrely mystical and disturbing way.” While I agree with Jackie completely, I am not keen on seeing it get a nomination. It just doesn’t make me comfortable to think of the main characters in the film (who are perpetrators of human rights abuses) having an opportunity to ‘walk the red carpet’ so to speak.

“For Your Consideration” screeners are out… Academy voters had tough choices to make this year. It makes me wonder if “Oscar” will consider live voting, like singing competition program “The Voice,” in years to come…

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