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Oscars 2019: Two sports films among nominations in Best Documentary category at Academy Awards

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The 91st annual Academy Awards will be held Sunday night to honor the year’s best films (follow along here for live updates). While 2018 wasn’t exactly a huge year for prominent sports blockbusters (other than ‘Creed II’) there are still a few sports-related films that could take home an Oscar.

The Documentary Feature Film category is the most sports-heavy section of the ballot this year, as it features two nominees with strong ties to extreme sports. ‘Free Solo’ documents the story of professional rock climber Alex Honnold as he attempts to conquer the very first free solo climb (i.e. without any ropes or safety harnesses) of the infamous El Capitan — a 3,000-foot vertical rock face in Yosemite National Park.

The movie is directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. It follows Honnold, then 31, as he trains and prepares for the climb. He has to navigate injuries and concerns for his safety, both which prove to be emotional endeavors. Ultimately, on June 3, 2017, Honnold managed to become the first and only climber to successfully free solo El Capitan, finishing the ascent in in 3 hours and 56 minutes.

‘Free Solo’ has significant buzz heading into the awards show, with many¬†predicting that it will take home the Oscar.

Also in the Documentary Feature Film category is ‘Minding the Gap,’ the debut film from skateboarder Bing Liu. The movie focuses on the personal lives of Liu and a few of his fellow skating friends as they grapple with issues such as racial identity, alcoholism, child abuse, impending fatherhood and more. The film’s subjects discuss how skateboarding serves as an outlet and a coping mechanism for the challenges in their personal lives, and there’s plenty of beautiful skating footage featured as well.

Sports-related nominees have fared fairly well at the Academy Awards over the past handful of years. Last year, Kobe Bryant won an Oscar for the animated short “Dear Basketball,” which he wrote and narrated. (The short was directed and animated by Glen Keane.)

In 2017, the film ‘O.J.: Made In America’ won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. That movie (which also aired as a mini-series) was directed by Ezra Edelman and examined the life of O.J. Simpson through the scope of race and celebrity. It followed Simpson’s story from his football career, to the murder trial of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman, to his eventual imprisonment for separate crimes more than a decade later.

In other sports-related Oscars news, tennis legend Serena Williams will be on-hand as a presenter during Sunday night’s show. For details on how to follow the 2019 Oscars live, head here. For a full primer on the awards show, here’s everything you need to know for the Super Bowl Sunday of Hollywood.

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