Monday, February 13th, 2012
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Your Ultimate Oscar Ballot Cheat Sheet for Nominated Shorts

Each year on your pre-party Oscar ballot, you likely take a wild stab at some of the more minor categories. But this is where experienced home Academy Awards predictors clean up. If you want to win that pool, you gotta bone up. And I can help you.

If you haven't watched all the short films… you're not alone! And it would not be a waste of your time to go watch them all. But I've seen all the nominees for Animated Short and for Live Action, and I've got a pretty good idea about what's going to score. Obviously, TONS of spoilers ahead.

Disclaimer: I am pretty good at this, but I could be totally, utterly wrong! Use my choices at your own risk, and don't hate me.

Live Action

1. Raju: This seems to me what is most likely to win. It's long (24 minutes) and extremely beautiful. It's about a German couple who go to India to adopt a boy and lose him on the streets and then find out he's not an orphan. The dude who stars in it is stunning. So it has great acting, internationality, gorgeous cinematography, and it feels very accomplished. I don't like it as much as the hilarious Norwegian movie that is next on this list, but it's good, and it seems like it has it all. The dude, by the way, is Wotan Wilke Möhring. He's like a cross between Daniel Craig and Michael Fassbender. SEE WHAT I'M SAYING? (Count me in the… WOTAN CLAN. (Yes.))

2. Tuba Atlantic: This is what should win. Perhaps it will? Unlikely. But you should actually just go watch this right now, before I spoil it for you. This weirdo and hilarious film from Norway is about a crotchety old man who's told he has six days to live. So he goes home to his cabin on the edge of nowhere and the ocean and shoots a bunch of seagulls with his old machine gun. This girl shows up, in order to get her Angel of Death badge. He teaches her how to kill seagulls. He's desperate to talk to his brother who lives in New Jersey but can't get the phone number and so has to restart one of their childhood inventions, a giant tuba that can be heard across the Atlantic, if the wind's blowing the right way. Man I love this movie. Includes footage of a small appliance being dropped on a seagull. It's really the only funny and original and different film in the bunch; but it might be too weird for the voters.

3. The Shore: A lesser contender. Bonus: contains Ciarán Hinds, and a bunch of Irish people. Other bonus: is about poverty and reconciliation. Downside: isn't that great, and doesn't know how to play its comedy for comedy or its pathos for pathos. Probably safe to disregard.

4. Time Freak: This is very funny and well done, but feels slight next to the others. That's not a fault of its own. It's about an annoying dude who invents a time machine and spends a year-and-a-half fixing the day previous, instead of, like, seeing ancient Rome. But it's very student film—if exceptional student film!—and doesn't seem likely to win.

5. Pentecost: Also funny. Bonus: stars a kid. Other bonus: turns the film tropes of "team preparing for a big game" around and uses them on a team of altar boys preparing for a big mass. But seems also less impressive in comparison.

Animated Short

1. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore: I hated this so much. It also has a very good shot of winning. It's extremely technically accomplished. Unfortunately it also begins with the destruction of New Orleans by windstorm? But isn't a Katrina allegory? And so this guy is swept off to be the custodian of a magical library of flying books? It made me feel bad, and it was sort of nonsensical. BUT, you know, incredibly well-done as a piece of animation. The story was underdeveloped… but that's never stopped an Academy voter.

2. Wild Life: This is the one that should win. It's executed like a constantly moving brushy painting. It's absolutely, stunningly gorgeous. It's really really wonderful. The story, such as it is, is about a rich English man who moves to the wilds of Canada in 1909 to be a rancher, and never does anything, and then winter comes, and then he disappears. I'm not sure that it could win however; it's romantic, and elliptic. But VOTE WITH THE HEART. If you take a fall, you did it for art and beauty!

3. A Morning Stroll: I would put this as tied for second in the "could win" rankings. It's three takes on "a chicken turns the corner in a city," set in three different eras; roughly, the past, the present and the future. I LOL'd, because it went the extra mile with the final segment. (SPOILER: ZOMBIES.) A really nice showcase of the animators; a great audition reel for a career in animation.

4. Dimanche/Sunday: Super-cute and quirky and funny, about a boy who goes to an adult's party, and likes to put loonies and toonies under the tracks of the nearby train, and the giant bear who lives with his head in his grandparents' wall. Too strange, probably, to win. But worth enjoying.

5. La Luna: Somewhat slight, and skewed pretty young, about the moon's janitors, basically. Very pretty, sweet; not so substantial.

Short Documentary

I refuse to watch documentaries (I do have a life!) but isn't the rule to always vote for the one about Iraq? So do that. Except WAIT. This year we have Iraq AND there's a documentary about saving the women who have acid thrown on their faces in Pakistan. So definitely do that. (Disclaimer: there's a Civil Rights documentary and a Japanese tsunami documentary. You could also flip a four-sided die. Sorry for the cynicism!)

9 Comments / Post A Comment

libmas (#231)

Tuba Atlantic is unbelievably wonderful. I have resolved to watch it every time I think too long about death. I think La Luna will win Animated, because Pixar and heart-tugging. The books one? Yeah, if you have to make a movie about the glories of reading, you've got some internal conflict in your project.

@libmas RIGHT? I bow to you. Also look how charming the director is! http://www.oscars.org/video/watch/38saa_clip_tuba_atlantic.html

NinetyNine (#98)

God this was needlessly long. Which one is about the Holocaust?

Art Yucko (#1,321)

"please excuse the autocorrect, I'm in line at Trader Joe's"

-sent from my iHitachi with G-Stim Attach

Marc Hobelman (#6,174)

I think Fantastic Flying…Mr. Morris Lessimore… is pretty blatant allegory. Isn't "writing a new chapter" the central theme? I mean, there is definitely a lot of distraction in there (the relationships he develops with individual books), but I think there's more to it than just a Katrina-as-backdrop non-story.

Ralph Haygood (#13,154)

"Tuba Atlantic: This is what should win." Yes! It's sublimely absurd. It's also, by the way, very beautifully filmed; the nighttime scenes are particularly lovely. Will it win? I really, really doubt it. I've already read two reviews by thick-headed critics who massively failed to appreciate it. I'm afraid it's too "quirky" or some such thing to receive Oscar approbation.

"Wild Life: This is the one that should win." Again, I agree, although I really like "Dimanche" and "A morning stroll" too. And, unlike "Tuba Atlantic," I suspect "Wild life" actually has a chance of winning.

Anyhow, I usually pay no attention to who wins. The things I like best are rarely very popular.

isabe7boje (#216,550)

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zinger (#171,774)

Have seen three of the four short documentaries in a traveling package at my local art-house theater. The clear winner among them is "Saving Face," about the acid attacks on women in Pakistan. Researched and shot over months, it follows two particular cases, the heroic efforts of the Pakistani doctor who returns from London to help, and the shifting of legal tides. The other two ("Incident in New Baghdad" about a soldier's remorse over being part of a misapplication of force in Iraq, and "The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom") are basically assembled from news footage. "Tsunami" is basically horror footage of people, cars and buildings swept away, followed by the assertion that the survivors will re-bloom, inspired by the example of the cherry blossom. Have not seen the civil rights doc which was not in the traveling package, but it has a way to go to beat "Saving Face," a film which did its homework. Just my $.02.

Matt Cornell (#8,797)

Thanks for trashing the flying books cartoon. It was so terrible & emotionally manipulative, I was suppressing laughter the entire time. I disagree about Raju. I think it's the usual white liberal with a conscience BS. Also, the woman in the story is so baby crazy, she wants to just steal a child? Tuba Atlantic all the way!

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