They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

Handicap of the Short Films

By J. Don Birnam

February 10, 2016

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Let’s take a break from The Revenant, Spotlight and The Big Short and look at the three categories that can win you your Oscar pool outright. The animated, live action, and documentary shorts is where new and innovative filmmakers test the waters. They are, by far, the three hardest categories to predict. They have been the difference between a losing and a winning Oscar ballot many a year. As I explained last year, the best way to do predictions there is to cross off the ones without a chance. Indeed, last year I went 3/3. This year, I feel much less confident—there is no clear consensus or movie that stands out. So caveat emptor (I say that every year—I hate prognosticating these!).

The handicap of the technical races so far is here and here. Twitter and Instagram have additional content.

Best Animated Short. For the life of me I can’t make heads or tails of this race. Any one of the five has a real shot this time around. There is no clear, knock-me-down entry. Most are predicting Sanjay’s Super Team, the Pixar/Disney entry that screened ahead of The Good Dinosaur. But Pixar entries tend to lose here, not win, except for last year’s Feast. This time, the short, which focuses on an Indian boy and his fantasies about superheroes while his dad is teaching him to pray, is not as aww inducing as the movie about the cute dog. Still, it has a definitive heart, so perhaps the other pundits are right.


I would discard the violent and graphic Prologue, which is beautifully drawn but does not seem to have a cogent point in its gruesome battle scenes. And while the Russian entry, We Can’t Live Without Cosmos, the story of two astronauts and the bond they form, also has a heart, it is perhaps too stoic to take the top prize.

In any other year, I would have picked Bear Story, the touching film about a bear who is captured by circus masters and separate from his family, for the win. Past wins for shorts like The Lost Thing indicate the branch likes emotional pieces with complex animation. I may still go for that one in the end. Finally, the very quirky and witty The World of Tomorrow may also have a chance, at least as the smartest of the bunch. The animation is dominated by line-drawn characters, however, so that may be a detriment. Still, it just won a prize for the Animators Guild, Annie, so that’s a good sign for it.

My gut is between World of Tomorrow and Bear Story.

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