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Breaking Down The Races In The Three Short Form Oscar Categories

Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to be invited to attend an event for the Academy Award nominated short films. Mingling among the talented men and women up for Oscars in Best Animated Short, Best Documentary Short, and Best Live Action Short was an absolute pleasure. Moreover, it’s a chance to realize just what goes into getting these shorts made, how little money there is in it, and the complete passion projects that they are. Just getting nominated by the Academy is a major win for them. However, out of the fifteen, only three end up as winners, and that’s what we’ll be talking about today. I’ll run down each of the categories, tell you what’s nominated, and end up with a prediction about what might win, or at least what the frontrunners are. Remember, these are playing in theaters this weekend, so if you’re curious, be sure to check them out!

Below you’ll see my brief thoughts on all three of the Oscar short form categories. Then, I’ll make my picks. Give it a look and keep in mind that these are in advance of my final predictions, so there’s a chance this could still change.

Best Animated Short

The animated category always has the most widely seen of the lot, and that’s again true this year. Hair Love and Kitbull have been seen by (comparatively) the masses, which always gives them an upper hand. The former comes through Sony Pictures Animation, while the latter is Pixar (specifically the experimental SparkShorts program they run), and each has an emotional through line. Hair Love concerns a black father trying to do his daughter’s hair for the first time, and it packs a punch at the end. Kitbull is about the unlikely friendship between a pitbull and a stray kitten. The others here? There’s Dcera (Daughter), Memorable, and Sister. Dcera follows two people struggling to communicate, while Memorable follows a painter and his spouse. Both are lovely but won’t win. Then, there’s the sleeper of the category in Sister. Inspired by the Chinese “one child” policy, it sees a man looking back on his life and wondering what existence without his little sister would have been like. Again, emotion reigns supreme. Hair Love and Sister seem like the frontrunners here, and you could easily flip a coin between them.

Prediction: Hair Love
Alternate: Sister

Best Documentary Short

In the documentary field, there’s almost exclusively depressing material, so it pays to look at what has a message voters can get behind. If the Academy goes for the lightest, they’ll cite Walk Run Cha-Cha, about survivors of the Vietnam War finding happiness in dance. However, that appears unlikely. The seemingly safe bet here is Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl), the story of young Afghan girls learning how to read, write, and skateboard, in Kabul. Life Overtakes Me looks at refugees in Sweden who fall into a coma-style illness called Resignation Syndrome, while St. Louis Superman is about Ferguson based rapper and activist Bruce Franks Jr. Hoping to challenge Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl) is In the Absence, which concerns the sinking of a South Korean ferry. That being said, I don’t have a great feel for this category. I suppose any could win. My imaginary money, however, is on Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl).

Prediction: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)
Alternate: In the Absence

Best Live Action Short

This live action category is also pretty heavy, which makes predicting very hard. I honestly think all five are on almost equal ground. A Sister is about a kidnapped woman attempting to communicate with a 911 call center operator while her kidnapper is still around, tricking him by pretending she’s calling her sister. It’s well done, but voters rarely go for this sort of thing. The other four are on almost equal footing. Brotherhood centers on the turmoil of a Tunisian family when their eldest son returns home after fighting in Syria bringing his new and pregnant wife along with him. Nefta Football Club is the one lighter option (despite the synopsis), following young brothers who come across bags of drugs in the middle of the desert. The Neighbors’ Window sees a middle aged couple watching their younger neighbors across the way, with surprising results. It mixes tones well, and could be a compromise pick. Finally, there’s Saria, which follows two sisters attempting to escape a brutal orphanage. When in doubt, go for the one that has a message and tugs at the heartstrings, and this is that one. Frankly, it’s another pick em, though.

Prediction: Saria
Alternate: The Neighbors’ Window

Keep in mind, the nominated shorts are in theaters now, so while these are my thoughts, your mileage may vary. Either way, that’s how I see the short form categories. Sit tight for final Oscar predictions and then the actual awards show a week from tomorrow…

Stay tuned to see which three shorts wind up winning Academy Awards next weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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