Once again, the short film nominees have been made available to the general public courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. The nominees for Best Live-Action Short and Best Documentary Short Subjects are all pretty strong contenders this year, making it tougher to guess who will win. As though the super competitive fields didn't complicate things enough, the decision to distribute the live-action shorts to Academy members via screener DVDs adds further layers of nuance to the prediction game. I could run around in circles trying to analyze these races, but I think it's better to just go with my gut in a couple of short paragraphs.
Traditionally, the Oscar for Best Live-Action Short has been frequently awarded to films with polished production values, which might bode well for the beautifully made Death of a Shadow. However, with a larger pool voting on the category, perhaps the film's bizarre concept might be a turn off. They might go for something with more emotional resonance, like Curfew, the only American production on the ballot. Asad and Buzkashi Boys are nifty bookends in that they both perceive foreign nations replete with violence through the eyes of children. That sort of thing has turned the trick in the past, but those voters might be divided between the two. The one that feels i fifth place is Henry, which could appeal to the Academy's older demographic, although its thematic similarities to the revered quintuple-nominee Amour cause it to pale in comparison.
Will win: Curfew
Runner-up: Death of a Shadow
Should win: Curfew
As for the Documentary Short Subjects, there are some warring opinions out there in the Oscarweb as to whether emotional reaction or subject matter will triumph. The past four winners of this category have featured stories of hope from developing nations, which makes Open Heart – about the only hospital in Sudan able to treat eight children with heart disease – look like a pretty typical winner. It could be trumped, however, by the emotional power of Inocente or Mondays at Racine, which respectively follow an impoverished teenage artist and a hair salon for female cancer patients. Redemption – about can collectors in New York – might strike a chord with the economy-conscious voters, while King's Point – a depressing look at retirees in Florida – could certainly strike a chord with older voters. Since this is now one of only two categories that still require voters to attend sanctioned screenings (the other being Foreign Film), I see no reason not to stick with the established trend of this category and predict Open Heart. Not a safe guess, but no guess would be safe. Any of them could win.
Will win: Open Heart