Brendan Shick | Freelance Film, Broadcast, & Digital Media

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Oscar Lineup & Predictions 2016

Feb 27 2016 by Brendan Shick Add Your Thoughts

My annual Oscar picks are here to once again serve as your cheat sheet to winning your Oscar-guessing contests with some commentary on my favorites thrown in for good measure.

I screened every single nominee this year in all 24 categories, with the sole exception of Foreign Language Nominee Embrace of the Serpent, currently in only limited domestic release in NYC and LA.

My credentials are as follows:

Here’s to topping 20/24 this year? But if there are bonus points for knowing my limit, more like 17/24.

It’s an Interesting Year…

But the most interesting is the chance of this never-before-accomplished feat:

Yes, I was correct. that would be 100% unprecedented.

BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR

Nominees:

The Revenant (2015)Will Win: The Revenant

Dark Horse: The Big Short or Spotlight

My Favorite: Bridge of Spies or Spotlight

Should Have Been Nominated: Ex Machina, The Hateful Eight, Spectre, Steve Jobs, When Marnie Was There, possibly Mustang

The first two things I look for each year when guessing my ballot is the top prizes at the PGA (Producer’s Guild of America) and DGA (Director’s Guild of America). Nine times out of ten they match up with the Academy’s pick for Best Picture and Best Director respectively.

The Academy also gives these two awards to the same film nine times out of ten.

So, it’s pretty likely that Iñárritu can repeat then, right? Well, he won Best Director from the DGA, but in somewhat of a surprise, The Big Short, took home the top PGA award. So that does force a tougher choice.

I’m giving Iñárritu a slight edge because I think Academy voters will want to see history here, and also because most of the Academy voters are actors. That mean’s they like to voter for actor’s directors – and if Iñárritu becomes the director who “finally” wins Leo his Oscar, then that’s exactly how the Academy will see him forever.

You can also look to the Screen Actor’s Guild awards to predict the break on near tie for this same reason – they gave the top prize (Outstanding Performance by a Motion Picture Cast) to Spotlight over The Big Short, though no one from Spotlight got an individual award there. You may see many actor’s votes split between those two, keeping The Revenant at the top overall.

Mad Max was well liked across all Academy branches (10 total nominations, most of any film this year), but probably will be the first pick of few voters. It is worth noting that the ballots do take into account rank orders in this category, so it’s possible a roughly three way split for first between The RevenantSpotlight, and The Big Short could actually make Mad Max the big winner should it receive second place on all those ballots.

As the end of the night nears, be sure to tally up the unexpected wins for each of these four films and you should finally have a good idea of where this category will fall.

 BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING

Nominees:

The Revenant (2015)Will Win: The Revenant

Dark Horse: Almost uncontested

My Favorite: Bridge of Spies or Spotlight

Should Have Been Nominated: Steven Spielberg (Bridge of Spies), Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight), Alex Garland (Ex Machina)

In short, most of the logic for Best Picture carries over to this category as it would any year. For whatever reason, the general vibe is that less of the Best Picture uncertainty trickles down with it this year.

Many of my favorite films from a directing/cast/performance standpoint somehow don’t make an appearance here, but Spotlight is definitely deserving!

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Nominees:

The Revenant (2015)Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)

Dark Horse: Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)

My Favorite: Jacob Tremblay (Room) or Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)

Should Have Been Nominated: Jacob Tremblay (Room)

Eddie Redmayne seemed to have all the early buzz here, but that has fizzled in favor of the always vocal “it’s time to give Leo an Oscar already” crowd. Redmayne might have the better performance, but he suffers from having won last year – and it’s been years since the same person has won in back-to-back years here.

That’s probably the only excuse the Academy needs to give Leo his moment while they can (though he certainly has had more deserving performances in recent years than this one). The physical abuse he took with the makeup and cold arctic temperatures on this shoot doesn’t hurt either. He’s already beat out Redmayne in the corresponding SAG awards race, which shares a very similar voting base with the Academy.

The best performance of the year comes from 7-year-old Jacob Tremblay in Room – and though young talent is always overlooked at the Oscars, he has at least seen recognition for the role at some of the smaller awards shows already this year.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Nominees:

Room (2015)Will Win: Brie Larson (Room)

Dark Horse: Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)

My Favorite: Brie Larson (Room)

There’s more competition and a tighter race between the males than the females this year. The results of the Best Actress race probably won’t surprise many.

Brie Larson won the corresponding SAG award, and it’s really pretty hard to find anyone who will claim on of the other nominees had a better performance. This one could be pretty close to unanimous – and is likely the only win Room will get from it’s 4 nominations.

The Academy does love Jennifer Lawrence (and traditionally, her director David O. Russell), so that’s your best dark horse pick, though it would be the first big shocker on the ballot – and a big one at that. This is Joy‘s only nomination and thus the only chance to give the David O. Russell film a win, despite the fact that all his films from recent memory were perennially up for multiple awards.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Nominees:

Bridge of Spies (2015)Will Win: Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)

Dark Horse: Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

My Favorite: Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)

Should Have Been Nominated: Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina)

This is perhaps the most contested acting race for a few years now and the first complete toss-up on your ballot. One could usually look to the SAG awards for guidance, but the winner there isn’t even nominated here.

Most wisdom points to a very close two-horse race between Rylance and Stallone.

If they split too many votes, it could go to Hardy though, more for his other body of work than this particular performance (and perhaps even as a consolation price for not being able to give as many awards to Mad Max as the voters would like).

I’m putting Rylance in front mostly because that’s my personal favorite in the category. With only one nomination, any awards for Creed are a bit tougher sell. Between six nominations, this is Bridge of Spies best shot at a win. The film rides on Rylance’s stellar performance, often even more so than leading co-star, Tom Hanks.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Nominees:

The Danish Girl (2015)Will Win: Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)

Dark Horse: Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

My Favorite: Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)

Should Have Been Nominated: Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)

Alicia Vikander had two of the best performances of the year in The Danish Girl and Ex Machina (not to mention a memorable role in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and a handful of other films). It would be hard to see anyone else winning this award, with Winslet a distant second.

Except that, by all rights, she shouldn’t be here at all.

Arguably the main character in The Danish Girl, Vikander actually has significantly more screentime (73 minutes or about 62% of the film) and more dialogue than co-star Eddie Redmayne – who was nominated for Best (Lead) Actor.

The argument was by promoting Vikander as a supporting actress she would have a better chance at winning, although in hindsight she probably would have won either category. Eddie Redmayne might have benefited more from that twisted logic, since he will presumably lose to Leo in their Best Actor race.

However, it gets even stranger. Rooney Mara actually has more screentime (71 minutes or 70% of the film) in Carol than Cate Blanchett (65 minutes or 54% of the film) so inexplicably Mara is up in the supporting category and Blanchett is up for the lead. If you’re one of those people who thought it weird that Anthony Hopkins won Best (Lead) Actor for his 16 minute portrayal, your life just got a whole lot stranger.

BEST WRITING, ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Nominees:

Spotlight (2015)Will Win: Spotlight

Dark Horse: Bridge of Spies

My Favorite: Ex Machina

Should Have Been Nominated: The Hateful Eight

Both writing categories should be absolute sure bets.

It makes sense. With the exclusion of The Revenant from either category, Spotlight and The Big Short become the two favorites in opposite categories. They won’t steal votes from each other. Both have already won at the Writer’s Guild (WGA) against similar, if not stronger, competition.

So basically, no surprises here. For the sake of naming a dark horse, the Coen Brothers have a lot of name recognition going for them as writers – but go with the top pick here for sure.

There was more competition on the adapted side, but Ex Machina was one of my overall favorites of the year from a writing perspective. As was dialogue heavy The Hateful Eight, which would have been a great addition to this category, though not as strong as Ex Machina.

BEST WRITING, ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Nominees:

The Big Short (2015)Will Win: The Big Short

Dark Horse: The Martian

My Favorite: When Marnie Was There or Steve Jobs (overall); out of the nominees The Martian, with apologies to The Big Short and Room

Should Have Been Nominated: When Marnie Was There, Steve Jobs, Me Earl and the Dying Girl

The Adapted Screenplay category has significantly more traffic this year than the Original Screenplay category, which might explain why so many great screenplay’s were overlooked in my opinion.

Aaron Sorkin (Steve Jobs) got some deserved awards love elsewhere, but foreign animated films (When Marnie Was There) just aren’t in consideration for many major domestic awards.

Personal wishlists aside, this one is all but locked up for all the same reasons stated for the original screenplays. I had some trouble even naming a dark horse just because both writing races seem like a solid lock.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY

Nominees:

The Revenant (2015)Will Win: The Revenant

Dark Horse: The Hateful Eight

My Favorite: Bridges of Spies (overall), The Hateful Eight (based on the nominations)

Should Have Been Nominated: Bridges of SpiesSpectre, Son of Saul, arguably Ex Machina or The Danish Girl

This is one of the surer wins for The Revenant in theory. Lubezski is famous for believing the only reasonable light is natural light. He’ll probably win his 3rd consecutive Oscar on Sunday…and yet somehow it’ll be the first he gets where he actually followed his own philosophy. The other two were Birdman and Gravity (where the actors were actually in a giant box built out of artificial lights).

The Revenant sticks tightly to his philosophy of only natural light, more like his earlier works like Tree of Life. Let’s be honest though, it would have been more amazing had they dragged lights back-and-forth daily for the length of the two-hour commute over the frozen tundra.

Of course, if voters decide that 3 wins in three years is excessive, they could give the award to The Hateful Eight, whose groundbreaking use of 70mm Ultra Panavision film (and 70mm Roadshow Edition release) is worthy by itself. That said, the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) didn’t feel this way – they’ve handed Lubezski the comparable award all three times.

I can’t believe Kaminski’s Bridge of Spies isn’t in this line-up. Known as one of history’s premiere cinematographers, that was actaually one of his best works. How can it get any better? Son of Saul also took a very interesting approach here that gave it much of the critical appeal it has received.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION DESIGN

Nominees:

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Dark Horse: The Danish Girl

My Favorite: either

Should Have Been Nominated: Star Wars: The Force AwakensEx Machina

Despite its 10 nominations, Mad Max is both most likely and most deserving of wins for it’s production design and related aspects.

The main competition here and in costume design is The Danish Girl.

Up against several solid period pieces, Mad Max just has a larger scale and very singular look that will give it a huge edge. The Danish Girl really isn’t that far behind though, and is probably the most striking of the period pieces.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN

Nominees:

The Danish Girl (2015)Will Win: The Danish Girl

Dark Horse: Mad Max: Fury Road

My Favorite: The Danish Girl

Another close race. I’m giving this one to The Danish Girl only because I don’t think production design, costumes, and hair/makeup will all go to the same film two years in a row (last year, The Grand Budapest Hotel took all three). Traditionally, the category goes to something more of this sort.

In my mind, The Danish Girl is a perfect marriage of production design, costumes, and cinematography creating a very exact look.

Stronger competition in those other two categories means that is best rewarded here.

Many disagree and Mad Max could easily pull this one off instead. Sandy Powell is usually a safe bet as well, but since she’s running against herself this year, a win for her is more difficult.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Nominees:

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Dark Horse: The Revenant

My Favorite: three solid picks

Mad Max has a lot of people with makeup. The Revenant has one person with a lot of makeup. Both are really pretty astounding. It’s probably not widely known how much of the effects work on The Revenant was makeup, whereas Mad Max makes this more self-evident.

So again, this could go either way, but score it for Max since The Revenant is expected to do well elsewhere.

I wish The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared had gotten more attention in some other categories besides this one. It’s a nice little foreign film that could have done with some more attention.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING

Nominees:

The Revenant (2015)Will Win: The Revenant

Dark Horse: Mad Max: Fury Road

My Favorite: The Hateful Eight (overall), Spotlight (from this list), with apologies to The Revenant

Should Have Been Nominated: The Hateful Eight, Steve Jobs, possibly Bridge of Spies or Spectre

Reading the pundits weigh in on this one makes my head spin. The general consensus is that Mad Max or Star Wars had the edge because they are both popular with the below-the-line type talent. Furthermore, The Revenant is well liked, but too much of a slow drag to win.

That perspective shows a fundamental misunderstanding both of how this category works and how Academy voting works in reality. First, the vast majority of Academy voters are actors, not below-the-line crew. So, while a film like Mad Max got many nominations in technical categories by the various branches of the Academy that puts up nominations, it doesn’t benefit from that same support when choosing the winner.

Second, from the actor’s perspective, a good edit compliments the performances and gives them the time needed to play out to maximum effect. Pacing is paramount to realize the performance correctly. The Revenant wins here mainly because, like most winners in this category, it feels necessarily long. It’s about someone stranded in the wilderness for a long time. Therefore, it needs to feel like a long film. Therefore, its edit does the job the best.

Mad Max is a constant action scene full of quick cuts – and that’s a pain to edit. I give it the dark horse pick just because it doesn’t take a genius to recognize it probably was the most time consuming assembly.

I myself prefer when a long film feels short, without missing a beat. The Hateful Eight was a 3-hour film that hit all the beats, but still seemingly ended WAY too fast. It would have been great to see it here. Steve JobsBridge of Spies, and Spectre fit that bill only with a shorter runtime. Compare this to Star Wars where there was probably an hour left on the cutting room floor that absolutely needed to be in the final cut for it to make sense.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING

Nominees:

The Revenant (2015)Will Win: The Revenant

Dark Horse: Mad Max: Fury Road or Star Wars: The Force Awakens

My Favorite: too close to call

Sound is the most crucial and usually the most overlooked part of the filmmaking process. For this reason, you tend to see Best Picture winners doing well here, unless a solid sci-fi film takes them down.

The only serious Best Picture contenders here are The Revenant and Mad Max on a longshot.

I’m putting the former in the lead, in part because the design of the bear sound effect has gotten some heavy press recently.

But this is a close category, because either Star Wars or Mad Max could take the sci-fi vote (or split it, favoring The Revenant) and both are films that really only have support in the below-the-line technical categories. Several votes will go their way here because they are well liked overall, but not likely to win in bigger categories. In fact, sound is probably the only place Star Wars is fully deserving of a win.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING

Nominees:

The Revenant (2015)Will Win: The Revenant

Dark Horse: Mad Max: Fury Road or Star Wars: The Force Awakens

My Favorite: too close to call

Yes, this is technically different than sound editing. No, the voters don’t necessarily understand the difference.

Yes, nominating and giving the win to Whiplash here (and not in Sound Editing) last year was a positive step towards recognizing the difference. But substituting Bridge of Spies for Sicario doesn’t really make me think the two categories will play out differently like Whiplash did last year.

Expect his one to go the same way as Sound Editing like in a more typical year. You can of course, split your ballot between the two categories for a pretty sure chance at one out of two, but I think The Revenant is worth the risk as a leader, particularly since the would-be dark horse vote could go a couple different ways anyway.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS

Nominees:

The Revenant (2015)Will Win: The Revenant

Dark Horse: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

My Favorite: Ex Machina

Even though I’ve gotten this category right three years in a row, I always call this race with a lot of caution. I still remember that the Academy used to get this wrong A LOT. Hugo and The Golden Compass have won this award and Avatar somehow beat out District 9?

Traditionally, the Academy votes based on ‘Most’ Visual Effects, which is often the opposite of ‘Best.’ Recently, they’ve given it to a film that was more widely nominated and respected (HugoInsterstellarLife of PiGravity). So, while most people are split between Star Wars and The Revenant, recent history favors The Revenant.

If they really want to give awards recognition to the fact that Star Wars is back (favoring tradition), then this is probably the most likely place to see it.

I prefer the unnoticeable, but important, effects in Ex Machina because you never notice they exist. The Martian also shows a good balance of quality and quantity if you insist on the number of effects playing a role in the decision.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC, ORIGINAL SCORE

Nominees:

The Hateful Eight (2015)Will Win: The Hateful Eight

Dark Horse: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

My Favorite: Carol as a standalone album, all bring a solid synergy with the film though

Any year where Ennio Morricone, Thomas Newman, or John Williams puts out a score, you’re looking at an Oscar contender. Jóhann Jóhannsson returns (presumably last year’s runner-up) and Carter Burwell arguably wrote the year’s best music for Carol. That’s quite the lineup!

Williams has won this category many times, but his Star Wars score lacks the usual iconic centerpiece – a scene where the music takes over and drives the picture (think “Duel of the Fates,” “Across the Stars,” “Battle of the Heroes,” “Cantina Band,” “Binary Sunset,” or “The Imperial March.”)

Admittedly, that’s not a reason to outright disqualify him, since it shows more of a shortcoming in the director than the composer. However, Ennio Morricone has the same storied history as a film composer and hasn’t won yet. That gives him a huge edge.

The Hateful Eight is also Tarantino’s first film with an original score, and it’s awesome his favorite composer was able to come on-board to write it. This will be an award people want to give Tarantino as well – his musical selections from the past have always stood out, but all being previously published works til now, they haven’t actually been eligible for an Oscar.

Carol is the score I’d most want to listen to on repeat, but as a less popular film, it may be overlooked. This category also tends to go to a score that fits its film well instead of one that stands out on its own.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC, ORIGINAL SONG

Nominees:

The Hunting Ground (2015)Will Win: “Til It Happens to You,” The Hunting Ground

Dark Horse: Fifty Shades of Grey or Spectre

My Favorite: “Writing’s on the Wall,” Spectre

Should Have Been Nominated: “Love Me Like You Do,” Fifty Shades of Grey

It’s tempting to go with the well-known properties in Fifty Shades of Grey or Spectre. However, keep in mind Bond songs don’t win as often as most people think. Youth was a major player at Cannes. The remaining two films were shortlisted for Best Documentary Feature. So, none of the five are completely unknown to Academy voters.

That said, experts are handing this one to Gaga, who for her part is not an unknown property at all. Should that miss the mark, return to the well-known films to find your dark horse candidate.

Strangely, “Earned It” was nominated from Fifty Shades over “Love Me Like You Do” despite the latter working its way into pop music culture much more thoroughly.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Nominees:

Amy (2015)Will Win: Amy

Dark Horse: The Look of Silence

My Favorite: Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (of those nominated), A Faster Horse (overall)

Should Have Been Nominated: Racing ExtinctionA Faster Horse

Not Yet Screened, But Strangely Absent: Where to Invade Next?He Named Me Malala

Amy has all the buzz and positive reviews going for it, and has pretty much cleaned up at the earlier awards shows. The best bet for an upset would be Joshua Oppenheimer’s sequel to The Act of Killing (2012), The Look of Silence.

Interestingly enough, The Act of Killing was named by many (including myself) as the likely winner of this category two years ago – and many to this day incorrectly recall it as that year’s winner. In actuality, that prize was taken by 20 Feet from Stardom – somewhat similar to this year’s Amy. It could come down to whether Academy voters recognize the resemblance in this year’s race and see Oppenheimer handing them a chance to correct their mistake.

Uncharacteristically, I think I preferred the documentary shorts to any of the nominated features this year simply because the features failed to capture the balance and importance of deep issues the way they usually do. Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom satisfies the latter while the shorts fill the void on both counts.

One odd note is that Michael Moore (who is a leader of the Academy’s Documentary Branch) didn’t make the nominations. Yes, Where to Invade Next? was eligible and did make the initial 15 film shortlist for the category.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Nominees:

Son of Saul (2015)Will Win: Son of Saul

Dark Horse: Mustang

My Favorite: When Marnie Was There, TheebSon of Saul, or Mustang [Not Screened: Embrace of the Serpent]

Should Have Been Nominated: When Marnie Was ThereThe 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Not Yet Screened, But Strangely Absent: Victoria

The first rule of Oscar pool ballots comes into play here: never vote against a film about the Holocaust.

In that case, that film is the very deserving Son of Saul and pretty much gives you a free space on what can often be a tricky category. The category remains interesting for a couple reasons.

First, what isn’t here. Victoria (Germany) was getting much buzz and amazing reviews in the USA and many presumed it the early winner. Surprisingly, it didn’t make the shortlist. When Marnie Was There and The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (which did make the Academy shortlist) could have shown up here, but showed up solely in other categories instead (Animated Feature and Make-up & Hairstyling).

Second, all of the five nominees are tracking quite well in the US considering this is a category where most of the films usually don’t gain much traction domestically. This is particularly true of A War and Mustang, the latter having the more rabid fan base and earning it my dark horse pick.

Third, Colombia is technically in the running here, so if you see Steve Harvey walk out on stage, all bets are off.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Nominees:

Inside Out (2016)Will Win: Inside Out

Dark Horse: Anomalisa (though quite unlikely)

My Favorite: When Marnie Was There

This is usually a category that interests me less than the others each year, but there are certainly some fine entries on the list this time around.

I’m not usual fan of anime, but Studio Ghibli’s When Marine Was There (their first release following Miyazaki’s departure after former nominee, The Wind Rises) was a fabulous stand out this year, with the others trailing behind at the top of their own niches.

Of course, the token anime nominee (Studio Ghibli or not) never wins, though Pixar hasn’t been the leader in this category for a while now either.

They upset Walt Disney Animation’s critically acclaimed Wreck It Ralph! with their own less popular Brave in 2013 before ceding the category to Disney in the years since (FrozenBig Hero 6). This year, Disney is absent and Pixar has the strong lock, as Inside Out is the only nominee with multiple nominations (Best Animated Feature & Original Screenplay) while their other eligible release, The Good Dinosaur, doesn’t even make an appearance. That means the Anomalisa buzz gets it a likely distant second place, unless you’re up for a long shot gamble.

BEST SHORT FILM, ANIMATED

Sanjay's Super Team (2015)Nominees:

Will Win: “Sanjay’s Super Team”

Dark Horse: “Bear Story” or “World of Tomorrow

My Favorite: “We Can’t Live Without Cosmos”

With 7 wins to date for Animated Feature and 8 for Animated Short, Pixar traditionally does a little better in this category than even in the feature category. That’s why I’m not willing to go against their track record here.

It’s not a sure bet this time though. “Sanjay’s Super Team” played in front of The Good Dinosaur, which might mean it’s not as prestigiously tied to the Pixar brand as some of their shorts. Nor are the reviews for this one as good as most – though they are better than those for “Lava,” which was paired with Inside Out.

“Bear Story” has the feel of a winner in this category, specifically Mr. Hurlbot from the 2014 Oscars. “World of Tomorrow” is insanly interesting and on many people’s list, but that may be more of an aspiration than reality.

I though “We Can’t Live Without Cosmos” was the clear winner as per my personal tastes.

BEST SHORT FILM, LIVE ACTION

Nominees:

"Day One" (2015)

Will Win: “Day One”

Dark Horse: “Shok” or “Everything Will Be Okay”

My Favorite: “Day One”

I’ve made it a point for the past several years to see all the nominations in this category theatrically via the ShortsHD theatrical package – an annual theatrical experience I highly recommend.

Coming off a year where this category had the weakest slate in recent memory, this year’s nominees were back to the usual stunning experience.

Yes, a few people will vote against “Day One.” No, they do not have a soul.

BEST DOCUMENTARY, SHORT SUBJECT

Nominees:

Will Win: Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah"Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah" (2015)

Dark Horse: “Body Team 12

My Favorite(s): “Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah,” “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, and “Last Day of Freedom”

Usually, the big 6 categories (picture, director, acting x4) are the easiest to predict and the 3 short categories are the complete toss-up. Well, it would appear we have the exact opposite this year.

With “Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah” you have your second “free space” on your Oscar ballot. Much like with Son of Saul, the first rule of casting a winning Oscar ballot is “never vote against a Holocaust film” – and this time, the word is right there in the title, so even people who didn’t watch the nominees can’t miss it.

It also benefits from having the highest production value of the five shorts and being a ‘making of’ documentary for a classic Hollywood epic. The Academy just loves voting for films ostensibly about themself – see recent Best Picture winners The Artist and Argo.

“A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness,” and “Last Day of Freedom” are probably the most moving of the five – and dig deeper into their respective issues. Neither rises to the production value of the beautiful “Lanzmann” interview, though as an entirely animated piece “Last Day of Freedom” skirts this in an intriguing way.


Brendan Shick

Brendan Shick is a freelance DP, gaffer, and sports broadcaster serving primarily the Chicago, IL; Pittsburgh, PA; Grand Rapids, MI; and Fort Wayne, IN, regions. You can find out more by following this blog, his recent work on Vimeo, or by connecting with him on Twitter or LinkedIn. Brendan is also an occasional contributor to the Project Updates feed for one of his most recent films, To Turn Back Time.


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