Saturday, February 25, 2017

Oscar Predictions: The Shorts

I love the short film nominees. Honest I do, especially since it's become (relatively) easier to actually see them before the Oscars. But their increased availability -- whether through streaming or the annual Shorts HD theatrical package -- has made predicting them an exercise in masochism. It seems every time you think you have the Academy's patterns down in these categories, they always find some new way to subvert your expectations, and popular logic always seems to fly in the face of your gut instinct once you've seen them for yourself.

But predict them we do, and if I can ever manage to get any one out of the three of them right, I usually consider that a successful year. So check out out my picks after the cut. How poorly will I do?

Best Animated Short
The V.R. of Pearl is a nifty achievement, though not one that's appreciable in its standard screening format. Will enough voters have gone online and allowed themselves to explore its literal 3-dimensional storytelling multiple times?
Piper is the most adorable, and a visual treat at that. It may be Pixar's best shot in a while to break their 15-year losing streak here (their last winner was also about cute birds). The NFB's Blind Vaysha is the most aesthetically distinct of the lot, although its central metaphor might be spelled out a bit too bluntly by its narration. Another Canadian production, Robert Valley's Pear Cider and Cigarettes tells the most robust story, but may be too much of a downer for the Academy's taste. And if you wanna talk downers, Borrowed Time is tough to beat, but its technical merits, economical storytelling and sheer, concentrated emotional impact will surely attract some voters' favour.

Will win: Piper
Could win: Pearl
Should win: Pearl

Best Live-Action Short
I've been lucky in predicting this category the last few years, but I don't expect my streak to survive through tomorrow night. All five of these are appealing in different ways, and trying to decide which type of appeal is more predominant within the Academy is throwing darts. Ennemis Interieurs -- a tightly calibrated citizenship-application-turned-terrorism-interogation -- taps into the zeitgeist while featuring a pair of impressive performances. La Femme et la TGV -- about an old-fashioned woman who begins a romantic daily correspondence with a passing train conductor -- offers twee whimsy dressed in polished production. Silent Nights -- which chronicles the relationship between a Danish Salvation Army volunteer and a refugee from Ghana -- tells the fullest story, but often feels more like a blueprint for a feature, each scene seeming severely truncated.
Sing -- the charming tale of a friendship between two Hungarian school girls and how they deal with their duplicitous choir teacher -- could be spoiler for its satisfying ending and touching child performances. Timecode -- night- and day-shift parking attendants begin dance flirting with each other using the garage security cameras -- feels like the only one that can't win for being too slight, but its marriage of visual storytelling and physical expression is a wonderment.

Will win: Ennemis Interieurs
Could win: Any of them but Timecode
Should win: Timecode

Best Documentary, Short Subjects
As soon as I saw Joe's Violin I immediately worried that it would be nominated and win. I still hold that worry. It's easily prescribed catharsis and practically staged emotional payoffs of a Holocaust survivor who donates his precious violin to a lucky school student is the least depressing of the five. It's main competition seems to be The White Helmet's, Netflix's intense account of rescue workers in war-torn Syria. But I might take a flyer on the more optimistically tinged Watani: My Homeland, which tracks the three year journey of a Syrian family fleeing Aleppo and settling in Germany. The finest (and shortest) of the lot is 4.1 Miles, a visceral portrait of the Syria crisis as waves of refuges crash upon the shores of Italy. Netflix's Extremis is also an impressive piece of observational filmmaking, allowing us to be the fly on the wall of an intensive care ward where many patient's families must decide whether or not to pull the plug.

Will win: Joe's Violin
Could win: The White Helmets or Watani: My Homeland
Should win: 4.1 Miles
Should be nominated: Frame 394

No comments:

Post a Comment