“And The Winner Is” columnist and Oscar-race analyst Scott Feinberg had a look last month of a rough-cut of S.O.P.: Standard Operating Procedure, the Abu Ghraib/Iraqi War documentary from Oscar-winner Errol Morris (The Fog of War, The Thin Blue Line) that Sony Pictures Classics may not release until “sometime next year,” he says. Here‘s Feinberg’s report:

“Morris says he has a longstanding fascination with ‘iconic images,’ including the photo of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima that inspired Clint Eastwood‘s two latest films (Flags of Our Fathers, Letters From Iwo Jima), and most recently the photos of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, which [inspired Morris to make] this film.

“As always, Morris manages to get all the principle figures — Lynndie England, et. al. — to open up quite candidly about the roles they played in interviews that are made even creepier because they are shot using Morris’ Interrotron camera, which enables interview subjects to look directly into the camera while answering Morris’ questions.

“Although I haven’t seen every minute of the film — nobody has, because it’s not yet complete — I can say that it appears to have the makeup of an Oscar nominee. Aside from an Oscar nod, there are two potentially controversial things to look for whenever the film is released, probably sometime next year:

“(1) This film, in its current form, includes previously unseen, tremendously graphic, and uncensored photographs and cell-phone videos from Abu Ghraib — prisoners being forced to masturbate, touch each other, etc. Morris indicated that he and distributor Sony Pictures Classics, which has given him his biggest budget and complete creative freedom thus far, hope the film will be given some leeway by the ratings board because it is a documentary, but acknowledges that if it does come back with an NC-17 rating, he would probably cut it until it was an R rather than release it to such a limited audience; and…

“(2) Morris is not shy when it comes to expressing his opinions about the ‘pointlessness’ of and ‘lives wasted’ in Iraq. I know what he means so I don’t have a problem with it, but those who disagree will likely attempt to cast him as a Michael Moore-type extreme liberal.”

One comment: S.O.P. is complete enough to show to a journalist in April and yet Morris may not release it until ’08? What’s that about?