Final Oscar Predictions Part III: Foreign Affairs & Animated Worlds

how-to-train-your-dragon-2

This part will cover Best Foreign Language Film, Best Animated Feature, Best Documentary Feature as well as the three short categories that dumb people would like to have eliminated from the show.

ida-2

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Nominees:
Ida (Poland)
Leviathan (Russia)
Tangerines (Estonia)
Timbuktu (Mauritania)
Wild Tales (Argentina)

 

I’ve only seen three of the five nominees in this category so that means I’m just as qualified as your average Academy voter to make a pick in this category. The two I haven’t seen—Estonia’s Tangerines and Mauritania’s Timbuktu (now playing at Tower Theater and Bill Cosford Cinema in Miami)—were considered by many to be surprise nominees, especially over the more favored Force Majeure. Of the ones I’ve seen, Ida is the frontrunner. It won a bulk of critics prizes in December (including a nomination from Florida’s own FFCC), and then added the ever-important BAFTA to its cache. It also took home four major European Film Awards including Best Film and Best Cinematography which it’s also Oscar-nominated for. That second nomination gives it additional visibility on the ballot but whether or not it increases its chances is up for debate. Multiple nominations got wins for Amour and A Separation in 2012 and 2011 respectively but did Amelie, Pan’s Labyrinth and The White Ribbon no favors in their respective years. Russia’s Leviathan, a Cannes winner, is the best film of the three I’ve seen but it’s also a brutal watch. On the plus side, it won the Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. The last four Globe winners went on to win the Oscar too. But prior to that, their record is pretty spotty. The final nominee, Wild Tales, which opens the 2015 Miami International Film Festival next month, is a really uneven anthology film that barely has anything beneath the surface. It’s humorous and will do well with audiences but it would be a bizarre choice for a winner, especially considering the other classy options.

WILL WIN: Ida (Poland)
COULD WIN: Leviathan (Russia)
SHOULD WIN: Leviathan (Russia)
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Force Majeure (Sweden)

 

 

how-to-train-your-dragon-2

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Nominees:
Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya

 

Probably the biggest shocker of Oscar nomination morning was the perplexing absence of The LEGO Movie in the Best Animated Feature category. Widely established as the frontrunner for the award after its near-sweep of every critics and industry awards group, the whip-smart and subversive comedy would have made for a refreshing winner. But as we’ve seen in previous years (Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin), the animation branch is a notoriously prickly and cliquish group who are determined to keep out any non-traditionally animated features. With the frontrunner not in play, and no Pixar film either, this category becomes a free for all, very much like the Best Director category in 2012 when Ben Affleck missed out on a nomination. It would be wonderful to see GKIDS’ Song of the Sea or Studio Ghibli’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya pull off a shocking victory but I highly doubt many members will watch those two. I’d venture to say the same for Laika’s The Boxtrolls, a handsome feature that’s maybe a bit too quirky to win. This leaves us with the two powerhouse studio blockbusters: Disney’s vibrant Big Hero 6 and Dreamworks Animations’ sweeping How to Train Your Dragon 2. Disney might have the bigger bucks and Baymax will likely pull a lot of votes his way but I’m not so sure the rest of the Academy is ready to give a Marvel Studios movie an Oscar as yet. That means Annie Award-winner How to Train Your Dragon 2 is my pick for the prize. I’m already on the record calling it the year’s best animated feature so I’ll be thrilled if it wins.

WILL WIN: How to Train Your Dragon 2
COULD WIN: Big Hero 6
SHOULD WIN: How to Train Your Dragon 2
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: The LEGO Movie

 

 

citizenfour

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Nominees:
CITIZENFOUR
Finding Vivian Maier
Last Days in Vietnam
The Salt in the Earth
Virunga

 

What was supposed to be a two-horse race has been effectively reduced to a snooze-fest after Life Itself, Steve James’ devastating portrait of film critic Roger Ebert, was bizarrely left off the list of nominees. While Last Days in Vietnam, Finding Vivian Maier and Virunga are all terrific films that offer piercing, illuminating and shocking information on their respective subjects, this award was sewn up the moment CITIZENFOUR premiered at the New York Film Festival in October. No documentary released this year has had more hype or had reporters falling ass over elbow for it. While it’s a fantastic film on its own accord (it made my list of honorable mentions), I wonder if it would be sweeping every documentary prize if it weren’t for its exiled subject and subject matter. Once again, it would have been great to see Life Itself nominated here but I doubt Roger would have held a grudge. In fact, he would have probably laughed off the lack of nomination.

WILL WIN: CITIZENFOUR
COULD WIN: Last Days in Vietnam
SHOULD WIN: Last Days in Vietnam
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Life Itself

 

 

Oscar-Doc-Shorts-2015

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

Nominees:
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Joanna
Our Curse
The Reaper
White Earth

 

The three shorts categories tend to be a crapshoot. Even if you’ve seen all nominees in all three categories, it’s never easy because you can never tell how many voters are actually watching all fifteen shorts and casting their votes, and how many are abstaining completely. That being said, I haven’t seen any nominee in the Documentary Short Subject category but based on the synopsis of the five films (noted in my Oscar shorts article), I think Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 feels like a winner. It’s about American vets suffering from PTSD, a subject of one of this year’s Best Picture nominees, and it has an attractive title to boot. Joanna, which is about a woman who chronicles her last days on a blog, is an alternative. Why are all these nominees so heartbreaking?

WILL WIN: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
COULD WIN: Joanna
SHOULD WIN: Abstain
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Abstain

 

 

 Oscar-Live-Action-Shorts-2015

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT

Nominees:
Aya
Boogaloo and Graham
Butter Lamp
Parvaneh
The Phone Call

 

I’ve seen all five nominees here and The Phone Call feels like a slamdunk. It features recognizable movie stars (Sally Hawkins, Jim Broadbent) in leading roles (a trademark of many winners), centers on a tough subject (suicide) and just so happens to be a really emotional piece of work. Butter Lamp which might be my favorite of the group is comprised entirely of static shots featuring a chorus of Tibetans getting their photos taken. But its restraint will be confused for passiveness so it probably stands no shot. Boogaloo and Graham is the lightest of the lot but comedy rarely wins here, especially when it’s not done stylishly. Parvaneh is a sweet story about the friendship between an Afghan and German teenager but it doesn’t amount to much. As for Aya… despite the fine performances, I couldn’t get past the ridiculous conceit and idiotic central character.

WILL WIN: The Phone Call
COULD WIN: Parvaneh
SHOULD WIN: Butter Lamp
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Abstain

 

 

Oscar-Animated-Shorts-2015

BEST ANIMATED SHORT

Nominees:
The Bigger Picture
The Dam Keeper
Feast
Me and My Moulton
A Single Life

 

Oh, if only voters could be brave enough to vote for A Single Life, I’d be overjoyed. Running at a measly minute-and-a-half, this superb exercise in creativity is a tiny comedic masterpiece. But history tends to favor the longest nominee. In this case, it’s The Dam Keeper—a gorgeously drawn feature from a former Pixar employee that combines traditional animation with painterly drawings to tell a fable-esque tale about ecological disaster and bullying. A triple whammy! I was also quite fond of the traditionally animated Me and My Moulton which feels like something Wes Anderson would have made 20 years ago had he been an animator. I’m not so sure where the love for The Bigger Picture is coming from but I respect its technique. As for Feast, which was attached to all prints of Big Hero 6 in November, it’s cute but yet another pandering piece of work from the guys at Disney i.e. not really my thing. But it could be exactly what voters vibe to, based on its cutesy appeal.

WILL WIN: Feast
COULD WIN: The Dam Keeper
SHOULD WIN: A Single Life
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Footprints (by Bill Plympton)

 

 

PART 4: THE ACTORS I.E. #OSCARSOWHITE

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