The 88th Academy Awards, hosted by Chris Rock, are rapidly approaching on Sunday, February 28, 2015. Who or what will walk off that stage with an Oscar? On this website, I’ve been tabulating all of the minor and lead-up award winners in all of the Oscar categories since last November on my 2016 Awards Tracker. Those results have been my data trends to predict what films are going to win. Through several editorial features, here is my analysis to formulate my official Academy Award predictions. In this second post, we look at the obscure minor film categories that include foreign films, documentaries, animated films, and short films. Get the dartboard out, but stick with me and I will win you your Oscar pool!
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The nominees: “Mustang,” “Son of Saul,” “Theeb,” “A War,” “Embrace of the Serpent”
AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category): 22- “Son of Saul,” 3- “Phoenix,” 3- “Timbuktu,” 3- “The Assassin,” 2- “Goodnight Mommy,” 2- “The Look of Silence,” and two others with one.
Who was snubbed: According to the data, one popular snub is the martial arts wuxia film “The Assassin” from Taiwan. The film was up for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and won Best Director at their awards. The other is “Phoenix,” a German film about a Holocaust survivor who is searching for her husband after undergoing facial reconstruction surgery.
Happy to be there: Everything not named “Son of Saul” should be happy to be there. “Son of Saul” has been the juggernaut and the other nominees are far behind in buzz or momentum.
Who should win and will win: Label this one as a lock. A win for “Son of Saul” will give its origin country, Hungary, its first-ever Oscar. I haven’t been lucky enough to see this one, but I haven’t heard a bad thing about it. The 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes should tell you something too.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
The nominees: “Inside Out,” “Shaun the Sheep Movie,” “When Marnie Was There,” “Anomalisa,” and “Boy and the World”
AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category): 39- “Inside Out,” 5- “Anomalisa,” and three others with one
Who was snubbed: The Academy voters sided with smaller independent films instead of big names. The general public has likely asked where “The Good Dinosaur” and “The Peanuts Movie” are on this list. Both aren’t that great to be Oscar-worthy, but are notable omissions.
Happy to be there: It bears repeating, but everything not made by Pixar should be awfully glad to be present and noticed. They’ll be the rowdy people in the back slamming cocktails and stealing the nice silverware. The creators of the other films get to go to an awards show and don’t have to be sober enough to give a speech.
Who should win and will win: Not giving this Oscar to “Inside Out” would be a crime on par with “The LEGO Movie” not even being nominated last year. It’s the universal choice with universal acclaim. The fact that it’s a contender in the Best Original Screenplay category with live-action films proves this film’s appreciation and superiority. Lock this pick in.
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
The nominees: “Prologue,” “Sanjay’s Super Team,” “We Can’t Live Without Cosmos,” “World of Tomorrow,” “Bear Story”
AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category): 1- “World of Tomorrow”
Who was snubbed: We’ve reached an obscure artistic category where 95% of the general movie-going public never see short films unless they are screened in front of Disney films. The one they will possibly remember, “Sanjay’s Super Team” is here, so it’s hard to know what’s missing.
Happy to be there: I say this every year, but every single one of these films is lucky to even get air time, and that includes the Pixar big-wig.
Who should win: Call me a centrist, but I would take “Sanjay’s Super Team” on Pixar principle. Disney/Pixar has not been the juggernaut in this smaller category the way they are in the Animated Feature department. The voters are not afraid to go smaller.
Who will win: I will trust the one piece of data in this category and call for “World of Tomorrow” to be the winner. The Annie Awards are the top commendations in the animation field. If they sided with “World of Tomorrow,” that’s good enough for me. Cross your fingers.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
The nominees: “Amy,” “The Look of Silence,” “Cartel Land,” “What Happened, Miss Simone?,” “Winter of Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom”
AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category): 30- “Amy,” 9- “The Look of Silence,” and nine others with one win.
Who was snubbed: Thanks to its high-profile release through HBO, “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” is the most popular and eye-opening (literally) documentary to miss this field. Fans of world peace might have been looking for “He Named Me Malala” featuring Nobel Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai, while fans of anarchy probably wanted Michael Moore’s latest “Where to Invade Next.” As a wannabe film snob myself, one of my votes would have went to “Hitchcock/Truffaut.”
Happy to be there: Everything not named “Amy” and “The Look of Silence” better be pleased to make the finals. Those two documentaries have the overwhelming majority of lead-up awards on the Awards Tracker data.
Who should win: When you think of film sequels or companion pieces, you don’t readily think of documentaries. “The Look of Silence” is the follow-up to the 2014 Oscar nominee “The Art of Killing.” Both films are at 95+% in Rotten Tomatoes and have appeared in year-end “10 Best” lists. That’s something the eventual winner cannot claim.
Who will win: There is little doubt that “Amy” is running away and hiding with this Oscar. It’s a superbly crafted documentary contained a wealth of behind-the-scenes footage from the life and success of the late pop star Amy Winehouse. It’s one of the few documentaries I’ve ever seen that isn’t composed of talking head interviews. Everything is impressive narration to actual personal video.
BEST DOCUMENTARY- SHORT SUBJECT
The nominees: “Body Team 12,” “Chau, Beyond the Lines,” “Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah,” “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness,” “Last Day of Freedom”
AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category): 1- “Last Day of Freedom”
Who was snubbed: Here we go again. If you thought the viewership of the Best Animated Short was small, welcome to even smaller. Anyone who can name a snub in this category is smarter than all of us.
Happy to be there: The theme of lucky to be on the big stage continues. When people complain about how long the Oscars are, they cheaply look to categories like this as a place to trim time.
Who should win and will win: The single tea leaf of data in this category comes from the International Documentary Association. They bestowed their top prize to “Last Day of Freedom,” but I’m going to be a rebel to my usual goal of trusting the data and throw a dart at “Body Team 12” as the eventual winner. Let’s gamble!
BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM
The nominees: “Ava Maria,” “Day One,” “Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut),” “Shok,” “Stutterer”
AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category): 1- “Stutterer”
Who was snubbed: (See Best Documentary-Short Subject)
Happy to be there: (See Best Documentary-Short Subject)
Who should win and will win: I’m going to gamble against data for the second category in a row. I think “Shok” beats “Stutterer,” the one film with a win in this category, courtesy of the London Film Critics Circle. Spin that roulette wheel!