Three new buzzy docs have pushed their way into the power rankings this week, including the literary doc Salinger, the red-wine/big-business doc Red Obsession, and the agri-business expose GMO OMG.
Documentaries have been remarkably strong for the year. In an effort to keep up the chatter on this strong crop of docs, we're ranking the year's top documentaries every week, based on a super-secret algorithm that reflects box-office success, critical praise, and overall buzziness (that's what makes it super-secret!). This week, we added per-screen averages (that is, how big are the crowds in theaters that are actually showing docs) and to-date awards success. How did things shake up?
2013 Documentary Power Rankings
1. Blackfish: The case against Sea World, and indeed against keeping killer whales in captivity at all, is made with an impressively voluminous array of former trainers, handlers, and employees. An "issue" doc that makes an impressive prosecutorial case. Previous Rank: 3
2. 20 Feet From Stardom: This supreme crowd-pleaser about backup singers has climbed to the top box-office slot among docs for the year. Here's hoping it opens across the country, because there is absolutely no reason this couldn't be a hit in every market. Previous Rank: 1
3. The Act of Killing: Another triumph of taking the documentary genre to new and creative places. Previousl Rank: 2
4. Sound City: The story of the famed music studio is the second rock-themed winner of the 2013 documentary slate. It remains the only 2013 movie in any genre with a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Previous Rank: 6
5. Stories We Tell: Sarah Polley's family doc remains one of the year's creative triumphs. Previous Rank: 5
6. A Band Called Death: Music documentaries have been hot this year, including this look ay 1970s punk trio Death. Previous Rank: n/a
7. GMO OMG: Agri-business and genetically-modified foods are the subject of this agitation in film form. Previous Rank: n/a
8. Salinger: A look at, surprise surprise, the life of legendarily reclusive author J.D. Salinger, whose time in World War II, his novel The Catcher in the Rye, and his largely hidden private life come under the microscope. Previous Rank: n/a
9. Red Obsession: This 2013 Tribeca Film Festival entrant focuses on the challenges facing the vineyards of Bordeaux and the fierce competition in the marketplace for top-dollar red wine, particularly from Hong Kong. Previous Rank: 9
10. Call Me Kuchu: This heartbreaking story of gays in Uganda has struggled to find placement in theaters, but those who do see it have raved about it. Previous Rank: 7