The shorts categories tend to make or, more often than not, break Oscar predictions. Even after watching each of the nominated shorts, I’ve no concrete idea about which ones will triumph on Oscar Night, but here are my best guesses.
Best Animated Short
Get a Horse! played in front of animated feature film front-runner and box-office smash Frozen, so there’s no question of which contender has the most exposure. It’s the big studio contender in the midst of smaller, independent shorts. The short plays around with the evolution of animation, which can only help its case because that makes it look important.
I hope Mr. Hublot pulls off an upset, its warmth and sensitivity making it more impressive than the innovation of Horse in my book. Maybe the British bloc brings in enough support for Room on the Broom, with voice performances from Brits Timothy Spall, Simon Pegg, and supporting actress nominee Sally Hawkins, to upset.
1. Get a Horse! (Lauren MacMullan)
2. Mr. Hublot (Laurent Witz)
3. Room on the Broom (Max Lang and Jan Lachauer)
4. Feral (Daniel Sousa)
5. Possessions (Shuhei Morita)
Best Documentary (Short Subject)
Cavedigger lacks the emotional grab the other four shorts have, so it looks like it’s between the other four. The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life seems like the most obvious bet: It’s highly emotional, some of the filmmaking itself is rather unique, and much of the narrative focuses on the Holocaust.
The vérité approach works better for Karama Has No Walls than it does for Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall; Facing Fear might be too conventional to win here despite its huge emotional pull.
1. The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (Malcolm Clarke)
2. Karama Has No Walls (Sara Ishaq)
3. Facing Fear (Jason Cohen)
4. Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall
5. Cavedigger (Jeffrey Karoff)
Best Live-Action Short
Predicting a winner for this category perhaps perplexes more than its animated and documentary counterparts – the only one on the outside looking in, I feel, is Do I Have to Take Care of Everything. The shortest of the nominees, its premise is perhaps too light for voters to take seriously.
Helium is touching, well-made, and brilliantly acted. I can see Oscar voters rallying around this more than the others based solely on its story of a janitor who befriends a terminally ill boy. (Casper Crump’s work as the janitor is revelatory.)
But I could say the same for That Wasn’t Me, about a shared experience between a Spanish aid worker and an African child soldier. Alejandra Lorente plays the aid worker with complication and conviction, and like Helium, the story sounds like an Oscar-winning one.
Just Before Losing Everything makes for perhaps the best entry, an emotional, engaging tale that works more in subtlety than the other nominees. But I’m a sucker for this kind of filmmaking, so maybe that’s just me. Léa Drucker’s stunning performance helps – again, these shorts feature some incredible performances.
The Voorman Problem features Martin Freeman of Sherlock and The Hobbit fame, and it’s the only nominee in the English language, so this might be the one nominee voters decide to watch (if they even bother to watch any). Its premise could go either way with voters, I suppose.
Perhaps I trust the motion-picture academy’s honor system more than I should, but Helium just makes sense as the winner here.