Oscars Predictions: Documentary (Feature), Documentary (Short Subject), Short Film (Live Action) & Short Film (Animated)
These are the categories that make or break an Oscar ballot. While everyone else is busy arguing over who will win best actress or whether Nomadland really has what it takes to win best picture it’s these 4 categories that can make you feel like a god among men at your Oscar party. However, guessing correctly on all 4 can be quite a challenge for several reasons. Not only are these some of the least talked about categories every year, it can be hard to find a place to watch more than a handful of the nominees. Thankfully streaming sites or Youtube have a few available but some are just straight up nearly impossible to find. Live action shorts, animated shorts and documentary shorts are never nominated in any other category than the one, and even documentary features are rarely nominated outside of their own category as well. This adds 20 new films to watch for Oscar fans, most of which are already working hard watching the other 30 plus films nominated. For this reason many of these films fall by the wayside and with limited exposure it creates a very difficult game of guessing which one will be the big winner on Oscar night. But with a little research and the help of Oscar experts it’s not impossible to give yourself a pretty damn good shot.
Short Film (Animated)
If Anything Happens I Love You
And the Oscar goes to… If Anything Happens I Love You. It’s hard to argue against this short. One that offers a glimpse at the grief that ravages a married couple's life in the aftermath of losing their daughter in a school shooting. It’s stylistically put together and if anyone is going in unaware of the contents of this film they’re sure to leave in a somber mood and wiping tears from their eyes. This category doesn’t always go to the more adult themed short but I think given the state of the country today it actually gives this film a leg up.
Upset: Burrow. Pixar’s latest short film that went along with Soul would become the 6th Pixar short to win if it were to be victorious in this category. The short follows a little bunny who is looking for a place to make his house but keeps on stumbling into the other homes of various animals living underneath the ground. It’s about coming together and finding a home when it seems like all hope is lost and with a sweet, 2D animation style I could see it beating out the heavier If Anything Happens I Love You.
Short Film (Live Action)
The Letter Room
Two Distant Strangers
And the Oscar goes to… Feeling Through. This award could go one of several ways: the first, Feeling Through, is the story of a homeless teen and his encounter with a blind-deaf man one late night in the city. Two Distant Strangers brings a Groundhog Day spin to the Black Lives Matter movement and gives us a constantly recurring nightmare of a day for a black man (Joey Bada$$) and an altercation with a white cop that always ends up with him killed no matter what he does differently each time he wakes up. The Letter Room brings star power to the race with Oscar Isaac starring as a corrections facility officer in charge of the mail room who creates a connection to a death row inmate after browsing through his mail. My favorite of these films, The Present, is a tragic look at an Israeli father and his daughter and their struggle to bring a present home to his wife for their anniversary. If any of the first three win I won’t be shocked, The Letter Room and Feeling Through are definitely the better written and made films of the bunch, while Two Distant Strangers, despite its provocative subject matter was lazily written and poorly acted by everyone in the film not named Joey Bada$$.
Upset: The Letter Room, Two Distant Strangers and The Present. I do think that The Present is the outlier of these three being that some of it is in a different language and it definitely doesn’t feel as urgent of a film as the others nominees that are telling a much more current story given political issues in this country. I’m disappointed by this because it was the only film that left any kind of impression on me. I think a very strong case could be made for The Letter Room given its production value and its male lead. A recognizable face gives Academy voters something to connect to and sets the film apart from the others.
The Mole Agent
My Octopus Teacher
And the Oscar goes to… My Octopus Teacher. This can be a difficult category to predict because oftentimes some of the biggest documentaries of the year aren’t even nominated, like Won’t You Be My Neighbor? in 2019 or Apollo 11 last year. Both of those films won the PGA but failed to garner Oscar nominations which oddly enough isn’t uncommon. However every documentary since 2009 to win the PGA and be nominated for the Oscar has gone on to win. Fun fact, My Octopus Teacher won the PGA which puts it squarely in the driver's seat heading into Oscar night.
Upset: Time, Crip Camp, Collective. Time and Collective feel like the biggest threats here. Both received raving critical reviews and had either one of them won the PGA they would most likely be my number 1 pick based off of history alone. Time was a huge hit when it premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and is the most timely (ha ha) documentary but historically that doesn’t always translate into Oscar wins. The doc follows a black woman, Fox Rich, as she fights for the release of her husband who is serving a 60-year prison sentence. Collective is another very well received documentary that is a lot of Oscar experts number 1 in this category and could be a waiting in the wings to snatch this award.
Documentary (Short Subject)
A Concerto is a Conversation
Do Not Split
A Love Song for Latasha
And the Oscar goes to… A Love Song for Latasha. Full disclosure: I have always struggled with predicting this category. Documentary shorts are hard to gauge and it’s tough to figure out which way the Academy will lean. What I’ve noticed in the past, however, is that the winner is oftentimes the more thoughtful, introspective documentary and not as brash or in your face. A Love Song for Latasha checks the boxes and delivers a heartfelt, beautifully put together story of a young black girl and her murder by a convenience store clerk in 1991. My vote in this category is split between A Love Song for Latasha and A Concerto is a Conversation and could very well change before the ceremony.
Upset: A Concerto is a Conversation. This documentary follows Kris Bowers, the composer of the best picture winning Green Book and this years Oscar nominated The United States vs. Billie Holiday, and a conversation he has with his grandfather where the older gentleman reflects on his youth, growing up in the state of Florida in the 1940s and his eventual move to Los Angeles and the life he started there. My knock on this film would be that it feels almost a little too polished and the conversation feels more movie-like than a documentary.
The Oscars air live on ABC on Sunday, April 25th at 8:00 PM Eastern Time. Follow along during the ceremony on the LoveCinema Twitter and stay tuned to LoveCinema for more Oscar predictions in the coming days.