Throughout Oscar season, Film Misery will be offering almost daily breakdowns of the categories in the Oscar race. Today we continue with the Animated, Documentary, and Live Action Short categories.
The short film categories at the Oscars are notoriously the most difficult to predict because there are not really any precursor awards that give any indication of a favorite. All that one can do to make a prediction in these categories is look at trends (which are also unreliable) and try to guess. My previous methods have involved reading the synopses of each nominee and deciding which one sounds the most “Oscar-baity.” That method worked surprisingly well last year when I miraculously went 3 for 3 on my predictions in the Short categories. This year, for the first time ever, I have seen all Live-Action and Animated Shorts before the Oscars. Will this give me additional insight or cloud my judgement?
Best Animated Short Film
Adam and Dog
Head Over Heels
Maggie Simpson: The Longest Daycare
In my reviews of the Animated Short nominees I shared that my favorite nominee was Disney’s Paperman and my least favorite was Minkyu Lee’s Adam and Dog. Oddly enough, I feel like these are the two films that have the best shot at winning this tough to predict category. Both films rely on nostalgia with their 2-D, hand drawn animation and familiar look to the characters. Paperman has probably received the best publicity campaign thanks to the awards might of Disney and its theatrical release prior to the Best Animated Feature frontrunner Wreck-It Ralph. Paperman has certainly won over the public, but that does not necessarily translate to Oscar attention. A Disney/Pixar short has been nominated in this category 10 of the past 12 years, and only won once (For the Birds in 2001). However, Paperman is clearly the best of the bunch this year and would be a deserving winner.
Fresh Guacamole is fun, but probably to short and insignificant to pose much of a threat. Maggie Simpson: The Longest Daycare will probably not get rewarded because it offers nothing new and “The Simpsons” are not as relevant as they once were. A film that could pose a threat is the stop-motion animated Head Over Heels from director Timothy Reckart. This student film depicts an old couple living on two separate planes of gravity and focuses on themes that the aged Academy populace may find meaningful. Stop motion animation gets nominated often, but rarely wins in this particular category.
Predicted Winner: Paperman
Preferred Winner: Paperman
Best Documentary Short Subject
Mondays at Racine
This year’s batch of Best Documentary Short nominees offers the usual dose of depression. Dying African children, homeless illegal immigrant artists, cancer-stricken beauty shop clients, homeless New Yorkers who collect bottles, and old people in Florida are the subjects of this year’s films with enough to pull at the heartstrings of any Academy voter. The argument that can be made is that this award always goes to the film that is able to depress its audience the most with recent winners including a documentary about Pakistani girls getting mutilated with acid, a profile of a disabled Zimbabwean singer, and a documentary about an Indian girl who is an outcast because of her cleft lip. Which depressing subject will the Academy fall for this year?
After thoughtful consideration, I am going to go with Open Heart, the film that depicts Rwandan children with heart disease being taken to Sudan to receive life-saving operations. This is the only documentary this year that takes place outside of the U.S. and the last four straight winners have focused on subjects outside of America, usually in the Middle East or Africa. Perhaps the Academy is slightly more comfortable with witnessing suffering that is thousands of miles away instead of outside their front door. Either way, this film appears to have plenty to tug at the heartstrings of voters.
Potential spoilers in this category are every other film that is nominated. Since I did not see any of them, I cannot judge them based on quality, only on random guessing.
Predicted Winner: Open Heart
Best Live-Action Short Film
Death of a Shadow
Not to be incredibly cynical, but none of this year’s nominated live-action shorts really deserves an Oscar and it’s a lot easier for me to think of reasons why these films won’t win. I really liked Tom Van Avermaet’s Death of a Shadow, but I can’t help but feeling like it’s too ambiguous or too high-concept to appeal to the broader tastes of the Academy. It might win the Oscar, but it doesn’t seem to be the type of film that members of the Academy because it doesn’t promote social change or realistically portray a certain aspect of life. It also has escapist elements and fantasy films don’t seem to do as well in this category as they do in the Animated counterpart.
Henry is too much like Amour and the latter film is already a shoe-in to win one, maybe two Oscars this year. Asad is bizarre and not nearly as uplifting as films that depict poverty need to be in this category. Bushkazi Boys was engineered in a factory to make people depressed, but even the Academy won’t be able to look past such surface-level filmmaking (I hope). I guess if I have to pick a winner it would be Curfew, the only English language entry among this year’s nominees. The past two years in a row have seen an English language winner (although that’s definitely not a trend with the 2000s full of foreign winners) and the style resembles 2010 winner God of Love. Curfew is also a pretty accessible story which should be able to win over both old and young members of the Academy. I could be completely wrong, but Curfew is my choice.
Predicted Winner: Curfew
Preferred Winner: Death of a Shadow
Be sure to check out our complete Oscar predictions, which will be updated throughout the week.
Which films do you think will win the short film categories this year?