Oscarathon 2016 heads towards the end with the last in a five-part series predicting this year’s Academy Award winners and losers. Each of these posts will take on one or more awards, and we’ll keep coming back to each in the run up to the official ceremony in our continuing coverage of the 2016 Oscar race. Enjoy!
Almost there! Just a couple more categories to cover and update before final predictions go up Sunday. This last group is different than the others because there have either been clear frontrunners or they are the shorts categories, which no one knows how to pick that well anyhow. Let’s get on with it, shall we?
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
- Oh, hey, one of my favorite categories to mock. This category already only exists because many live action filmmakers don’t want animated films to be nominated for the big prizes, which is dumb; but to make things worse, the Academy has basically given up at this point and just decided to give the award to whatever Disney or Pixar make as long as it is better than Cars. Which is a shame, because there is so much more to this category than whatever Disney and Pixar make. On the plus side, in order to look like they aren’t totally just picking whichever film their kids or grandkids tell them to pick, the Academy has started nominating smaller animated films from other countries (generally distributed here by GKids). Those films are never going to win, but at least it prevents the category from simply being the whatever each major animation studio makes in a given year. This year was a rather strong one for animation, so there were quite a number of snubs, starting of course with The Boy and The Beast, which continued the trend of Mamoru Hisoda being ignored by the Academy. The Academy decided against allowing Pixar to have a double helping of nominees and excluded The Good Dinosaur, at least acknowledging that Pixar can’t literally do whatever it wants and still get a nomination. The Peanuts Movie brought the voice of Charles Schultz’s beloved comic strip to the big screen. Minions made over a billion dollars, and was one of the major reasons Universal had such a crazily lucrative year in 2015. Another GKids contender, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet fell just short of a nomination as its attempts to blend poetry and cinema didn’t resonate quite as well as the other GKids films. Home was quite lucrative and much better than people expected. Ultimately, other than the complete wild card with Boy and the World, the Academy leaned on what it knows and nominated films with Oscar pedigree either because of its studio or creative talent.
Current Predicted Winner: Inside Out
- Inside Out
- Boy and the World
- When Marnie Was There
- Shaun the Sheep Movie
So These Got Nominated Because of Who Made Them
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There
- There is nothing terribly wrong with either of these movies, but a lot of what got them nominated was simply who made them. Shaun the Sheep Movie is another in a line of stop motion claymation films from Aardman Studios (Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run, The Pirates!). Pretty much every Aardman film gets a nomination, because once you get into the animation nomination circle you basically stay there, no matter what film you make as long as it is a quality film at some level. Add in the Academy’s inferiority complex/love towards all things British, and Shaun the Sheep was destined to be nominated. Of course, the film is also pretty delightful, so that helps in this case, but even if it wasn’t it likely would have still gotten a nomination.
- Meanwhile, When Marnie Was There is as of now the last film to be made by Studio Ghibli after Hayao Miyazaki chose to retire. Miyazaki’s films are the only type of anime that the Academy was ever willing to acknowledge and honor. These factors plus strong support from GKids got this film an unexpected nomination despite it being a middling Ghibli film at best.
- Both are fringe contenders at best, and neither have any shot at winning.
The Complete Wild Card
Boy and the World
- Talk about the little movie that could. After years of garnering recognition and awards abroad, this film snagged an Oscar nomination that came as a surprise to many (not me, obviously seeing as it made my Top 10 List for 2015). This is a special film with buzzy subject matter, and if this was any other category it would have a outside shot at winning. Unfortunately, Disney or Pixar didn’t make it, so it has no chance of winning. Still, this nomination in itself is a win, and continues to prove that GKids really knows how to work the nomination circuit.
The One Film With a Puncher’s Chance
- This is a type of animation that we simply don’t get much of in America– adult and introspective. It really feels more like a European animated film than an American one. Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson created a brilliant movie about the human condition, and used stop motion and puppets to do so. Originally starting as a Kickstarter, this film used support from festival buzz to gain a nomination, and still has just enough chatter that it is not absolutely impossible that it could pull off the upset.
As much shit as I have given the Academy for their Pixar and Disney support, that doesn’t change the fact that in this case that support is warranted. Inside Out is a stunningly touching and beautiful film that personifies emotions to show its main character growing up. This film is astounding, and absolutely deserving of the praise it has garnered as it’s more or less swept at every Best Animated Film award it was nominated for. Would it be a tragedy if Anomalisa somehow pulled off the upset? No, these films are pretty much equal (with a slight edge to Inside Out), and it would be nice to see the Academy not award Pixar/Disney for the fourth year in a row. But at the same time, to live in a world in which Brave and Big Hero 6 won Oscars but this film didn’t would just be too sad a thought to consider. It would be nice if it won for a better reason than it being the film that Academy members’ kids have seen from this list, but sometimes you just have to take what you can get.
Who Should Win: Inside Out (though Anomalisa is a close second)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: The Boy and the Beast
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Look, it’s the other category that is totally messed up. The nomination process for this category is rather tedious, and the number of people that can actually participate in watching is rather limited, which means it is hard for non-traditional films to gain traction because older Academy members are mostly the only people with the time to participate. Even the shortlist process is problematic; a country can get only one film entered, even if it generates multiple films in a year that would otherwise be nomination-worthy; and more and more often now countries are submitting films that have nothing to do with their place of origin. What a silly category. All that doesn’t mean there aren’t quality films nominated, but this award has an even higher level of snubs than others. First off, there are the four films that made it to the semi-finals, so to speak, but didn’t get nominated: Finland’s The Fencer, Belgium’s The Brand New Testament, Germany’s Labyrinth of Lies, and Ireland’s Viva. Then there are the ones that never even got onto this shortlist, such as Austria’s Goodnight Mommy, Brazil’s The Second Mother, Iceland’s Rams, Iran’s Muhammad: The Messenger of God, Israel’s, Baba Joon, Montenegro’s You Carry Me, Palestine’s The Wanted 18, Poland’s 11 Minutes, Sweden’s A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, Taiwan’s The Assassin, and Portugal’s Arabian Nights – Volume 2, The Desolate One. And keep in mind once again that this is after each country picked just one film to represent them, so there are even more films that have been ignored that I am not even going to start to get into. Also, before you ask I have seen pretty much none of these, because watching foreign films even in Los Angeles is still a difficult process (lord knows I wanted to see Arabian Nights). So this category more than any other has more qualified candidates than spots, as basically every country in the world other than ours gets to compete for five spots. Yep, this is quite the category.
Lost In The Shuffle
Embrace of the Serpent
From everything I have heard, these are all quality films, but they have simply been lost in the confusion of the season. Each has won awards of some kind, but they just don’t have the buzz of that the top two films have. This category has done some weird things in the past, but if somehow one of these three films emerged victorious it would be a pretty massive upset.
Primed for a Upset?
I can’t help but wonder whether, if the voters in this category skewed younger, this film be more of at least of a co-favorite instead of a dangerous underdog. This debut film by Deniz Gamze Erguven is a powerful showcase of hope and despair. It’s France’s submission, but more or less a Turkish film in every way, seeing as it is set in Turkey and made by a Turkish-born director. This film is actually about something different than the standard historical fare that typifies foreign films at the Oscars. It’s racked up quite a few awards, including a solid haul at the Caesar Awards, but it has just run into a juggernaut this year, which combined with Mustang being a debut film is likely to keep it from winning the trophy.
The Reigning King
Son of Saul
This Hungarian film has dominated the awards circuit, picking up every award it could (other than like the Palme d’Or) including the Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Satellite Awards. The film is actually pretty good, which is nice considering that, if we are being honest, even if it hadn’t been good, there is a decent chance it would still be set to win the Oscar because it is about the Holocaust, and the Academy loves giving out awards to Holocaust movies. Sad but true. The fact that Son of Saul is so well-received is a bonus, and why it seems very unlikely anything will usurp this film from embarking on its final victory lap.
Current Predicted Winner: Son of Saul
- Son of Saul
- A War
- Embrace of the Serpent
Who Should Win: Mustang
Who Should Have Been Nominated: The Assassin
Docs are always a fun category. This year got even more interesting because Netflix was able to break through with not one, but two nominations, making it easier than ever to actually watch some of these documentaries. This year’s group fits the mold of a lot of past slates, but there were still some notable snubs. He Named Me Malala seemed like it would fill the inspirational spot that generally goes to a film, but the Academy passed on it. Filmmakers with past award pedigrees were mostly past over for films like Racing Extinction (which did get a Best Song nomination–about which there is, of course, now controversy), Where to Invade Next, and Going Clear: Scientology and the Science of Belief. Best of Enemies and Listen to Me Marlon also missed the cut, as did Meru, which would have seemed to have a strong shot.
Netflix’s Second Choice
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom
- This film’s greatest strength should be that it has the Netflix marketing machine behind it, but it seems to have been the streaming juggernaut’s second choice. That might have been a mistake, because instead they threw their support behind the film that may just have too much in common with the frontrunner. I kind of wonder whether, if this film were about the freedom fight of a country that wasn’t the Ukraine, it would get more buzz, but ultimately it was doomed to lose anyway without the support of its own distributor.
Lost the Buzz War
- This film sounds impressive. Two vigilante groups, one American and one Mexican, fight against the Mexican cartels. I feel like I should know more about this movie, and that it should be talked about more, but instead, there’s relatively nothing. This film has lost the buzz war, and now feels like it has little chance of pulling off the upset.
The Pedigree Film
The Look of Silence
- Joshua Oppenheimer is back with a companion piece to his 2012 Oscar-nominated The Act of Killing. It’s racked up quite a few awards, and this should really be more of a two horse race than it is. The Academy, however, feels like it is never willing to actually give the trophy to a film like The Look of Silence, which takes a solemn, devastating look at the legacy of genocide. Instead it looks like the Academy is leaning toward a movie that may or may not be better but is definitely sexier.
Netflix’s First Choice
What Happened, Miss Simone?
- Netflix is making a bold gambit: knowing how popular Amy has been, it seems to have thrown more of its support behind What Happened, Miss Simone?, hoping to try and sway Amy voters to it instead of going directly against the film. It feels like a risky gambit, but if Netflix rightly surmises that a film like Amy is going to win, then it might as well try to present a film of its own in a similar lane. Also helping this film’s chances is that a win for it would definitely help the Academy’s optics this year. Miss Simone is a definitely a sleeper.
The Star of the Show
- The buzziest of the films. This movie has picked up wins than any other doc at the more traditional award ceremonies like the BAFTAs, Eddies, and Satellite Awards. With director Asif Kapadia (Senna) behind it, this film is on quite a roll, one likely to lead it to a big Oscar win. I could go into more detail, but really this is a massive favorite, and there is little reason to believe it isn’t winning on Sunday.
Current Predicted Winner: Amy
- What Happened, Miss Simone?
- The Look of Silence
- Cartel Land
- Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom
Who Should Win: The Look of Silence
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Meru
Now time for everyone’s favorite Oscar pool tiebreakers!
DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)
I’ll just say it: unlike the other two short categories, I have not been able to see any of the documentary shorts, so I don’t have any real analysis beyond how the subject matter usually plays at the Oscars (please don’t hate the messenger for this) and my meta-analysis of trends from other other Oscar prognosticators. Also, as will be the case with the other short categories, the only real list of snubs I have are the films that didn’t get nominated from the ten-film short list that was used to ultimately pick the nominees. So those would be 50 Feet from Syria, Minerita, My Enemy, My Brother, Starting Point, and The Testimony.
Too Close To Home
Last Day of Freedom
- This film looks at the US’s troubled relationship with its military, healthcare, race, and mental illness–ie., a bunch of things people don’t actually want to talk about, so it probably will have trouble winning.
Not Sad Enough
Chau, beyond the Lines
- A teenager with a birth defect from Agent Orange trying to become a professional artist and clothing designer… probably not enough there to gain buzz over other choices.
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
- Hollywood loves celebrating art that is, in itself, celebrating art, so a short about Claude Lanzmann discussing making Shoah and what led him to do so in his life is exactly the kind of thing that could win. That said, this category usually avoids that choice. (Not to mention Shoah itself never got an Oscar nomination–possibly due to its more than nine hour running time. – Ed)
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
- Now we’re talking. This is a film about the horrific practice of honor killings of women in Pakistan. This tale of someone who survived such an attempt is the type of story that plays well at the Oscars. This could definitely win, but hasn’t gotten the buzz that the favorite has.
Looks Like a Winner
Body Team 12
- Look at this description: In Monrovia, Liberia, Garmai Sumo is the only female member of Body Team 12, one of the many teams collecting the bodies of those who died from Ebola during the height of the 2014 outbreak. Despite the perilous nature of her job and the distrust with which she is often met, Garmai remains dedicated to her work.
- We have a winner!
Current Predicted Winner: Body Team 12
- Body Team 12
- A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
- Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
- Chau, beyond the Lines
- Last Day of Freedom
Who Should Win: Body Team 12 and The Last Day of Freedom seem the most interesting
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Pass
SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
- This category is weird. Unlike Best Animated Feature, it has generally resisted the urge to simply give everything to Pixar/ Disney, but last year felt like a potential shift, and just like the feature category you have to wonder about this category as well. On the other hand, this category has generally shown a much greater willingness to look beyond the US for its nominations. So the collection of films always ends up being quite the varied group. The potential snubs for this category is a bit bigger, because there are the films that made the short list–Carface (Autos Portraits), If I Was God…, Love in the Time of March Madness, My Home, and An Object at Rest–plus and a couple more that were shown with the actual nominees in the theatrically distributed shorts package, The Short Story of a Fox and a Mouse, The Loneliest Spotlight, and Catch It.
So Glad It Got Nominated, But Not Winning
- This represents a bold move for the Oscars. This a film unquestionably not for children as it is full of nudity and violence. This film is beautiful and exquisitely drawn, but there really isn’t much too it, even accounting for the fact that it is a short. It is great it got nominated and all, but while the Academy was willing to nominate such an adult film, there is no chance it will actually vote for a film to win that children simply should not watch.
Really It Could Be Any Of These
- The next four films all could win, but there are also plenty of reasons why each could lose, even the current very slight favorite. So I’ll just lay out the case for each.
We Can’t Live without Cosmos
- This is a sweet and touching film and about space, friendship, loss, dreams, and the Soviet Union. It is the kind of thing that has won this award in the past, but the problem is that it just feels less buzzy than the rest, and that will probably cost it in the end. But unlike Prologue, it can’t be discounted.
World of Tomorrow
- The fact that Donald Herzfeldt hasn’t won an Oscar yet is quite sad, and if this category wasn’t all over the place, he would easily win this time, as outside of Bear Story none of the other films are even close to the combination of depth, emotional resonance, and entertainment value of World of Tomorrow. The problem is that this film just may be too far over the head of most people, and its questionable how much kids will actually like it, which likely plays a bigger part in this award than it actually should.
- Often this category comes down to a race between the Disney/Pixar choice and one other film that is able to click with people. Bear Story is the film probably closest to hitting the non-mainstream bone this year, as it spins a haunting tale of loss and recovery starring bears instead of people. In a non-World of Tomorrow year, it would be the top film in this field. This film has a real chance to connect with voters and topple the Disney giant once again.
Sanjay’s Super Team
- Then there is the most publicized of these films, as Sanjay was paired with Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur in theaters. Paperman and Feast have proven in past years that the Pixar/Disney giant can come through in this category, but more often than not this always feels like a set up. Everyone picks the buzzy mainstream short, and then everyone is wrong. It doesn’t help that this film is nowhere near as strong as the previously mentioned films, that no Pixar short has won since 2001 with For the Birds, and that The Good Dinosaur is no Inside Out. Still, there is a good chance that the optics of this film winning will really appeal to voters, as will the fact that their children are sure to love this film more than the others. I guess it is a slight favorite, but it is very likely I may go against this anyhow in my final prediction.
Current Predicted Winner: Sanjay’s Super Team
- Sanjay’s Super Team
- Bear Story
- World of Tomorrow
- We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
Who Should Win: World of Tomorrow
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Ooh, I can do this one, but I don’t actually have a problem with any of the films nominated or snubbed. For the sake of continuity, let’s go with The Loneliest Spotlight, because Bill Plympton is awesome.
SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
Even more than the Documentary Short category, this one comes down to subject matter–and the more overly dramatic, the better. Showier pieces usually shine, but this year nothing really stands out, so everything is about even. The snubs in this would once again be the other films on the shortlist: Bad Hunter, Bis Gleich (Till Then), Contrapelo (Against the Grain), The Free Man (Zi You Ren), and Winter Light. Overall, this category is pretty much a toss up.
If the Academy Goes Light
- A cute romance that was a nice change of pace after the heaviness of a lot of these films. The Academy has shown love for British films like this in the past, but there is just so little to this movie. It has a very sweet ending, though, and with no other film especially standing out this year, this is all going to come down to passion votes. This is the type of film that could inspire such passion.
- This film is the popular pick among most critics, and is a nice commentary on the practicality of the rules of religion when those rules go against the spirit. I would probably be higher on this film if I found it as funny as most people do. Unlike The Stutterer, this is a light film with a bit of bite to it, which could allow it to overcome the Academy’s tendency to go dark and dramatic over light.
If the Academy Goes Dark
- If there was a film that fit the over-dramatic maudlin style that the Academy favors, it is probably this one. It has regret, war, children, and a gut-wrenching ending. If only it hadn’t played its hand so early and prepped you more for the sad ending to come. There really isn’t enough to this movie, but it packs the emotional punch necessary to get the votes needed to win.
Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)
- This is another film that could fit the bill for dramatic flair, except that it actually shows a surprising amount of restraint. Considering how bonkers the premise is, that is quite impressive, but this restraint feels like it could cost the film overall, because it leaves the film without the superficial kick that a lot of these shorts end up having. It probably should win, but Shok is probably going to draw more people in if the Academy goes this direction.
If the Academy Goes Somewhere In Between
- This film involves US military in the Middle East and the translator that helps them. While not a light film, exactly, this short does move toward a more triumphant beat than either Shok or Everything Will Be Okay. The problem is, this movie doesn’t really know what the hell it is saying, and the ending is really ambiguous. That lack of definition will probably cost it.
Current Predicted Winner: Shok
- Ave Maria
- Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)
- Day One
Who Should Win: Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Pass
That’s it for now. The end is almost here! Come back Sunday, February 28 2016 for our live-blogging of the Oscarcast, and stay tuned for my final Oscar ballot.