As usual, we begin this year with three categories I like to call Murderer’s Row, so named because usually I haven’t seen any of the short doc, narrative, or animated films, and they’d be ridiculously tough to call even if I had.
SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation
The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello
One Man Band
Will Win: The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation
Should Win: One Man Band
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this category, it’s that there is no way to figure out who’s going to win. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. You can’t count on star power, with Billy Crystal and John Goodman losing out while voicing Mike’s New Car. You can’t even count on Pixar, who’s only two for four. Luminaries in the field like Don Hertzfeldt and Bill Plympton are not locks. So really, you could pick any reason and be right or wrong. This time I’ll go for star power, with John Turturro and Eli Wallach (yes, Tuco) voicing a father and son.
As far as should, I’ve only seen Badgered in its entirety (you can watch it here) and a trailer for 9 (look for it here), which looks cool and apparently is going to be expanded to become Focus’ foray into the animated feature game, but nothing here shakes the faith I have in Pixar to do kick-ass shorts. One Man Band is the short that will precede Cars.
SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
Ausreisser (The Runaway)
The Last Farm
Our Time Is Up
Will Win: The Last Farm
Should Win: Our Time Is Up
Haven’t been able to see a smidge of any of these. Again, the Academy is very unpredictable here. In the past few years I’ve found that they pick the film that is a little bit less interesting, at least on paper. So I’m going with The Last Farm, which, as you might imagine, is about some old guy protecting his farm.
As far as best premise (which is really all I can judge here), although the thought of seeing Brendan Gleeson in a short thriller (Six Shooter) is intriguing, I have to go with Kevin Pollack as a therapist who discovers he only has a short time to live and starts getting blunt with his patients in Our Time Is Up. Especially when you throw in Hurley.
DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club
God Sleeps in Rwanda
The Mushroom Club
A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin
Will Win: God Sleeps in Rwanda
Should Win: God Sleeps in Rwanda
The heavy subjects tend to lead here. Chernobyl. The Holocaust. Y’know, light fare. So the first two docs deal with starvation and genocide in Africa respectively, and the “mushroom” in The Mushroom Club describes a cloud. Africa is a bit more of a hot topic right now, I’m gonna go with God Sleeps in Rwanda, which deals a little more directly with the issue, since Carter is about a photojournalist.
As intriguing as all of these sound, I think the question posed by God Sleeps is the most compelling. What do you do when, practically overnight, your population becomes 70% female?
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
March of the Penguins
Will Win: March of the Penguins
Should Win: Murderball
More often than not, critical buzz tends to lead here. Box office doesn’t hurt, either. Since this is the second-highest grossing doc in history, it’s already got the Academy’s attention. And as far as critical acclaim goes, the only film with more clout (far more clout, as it turns out) is the inexplicably ineligible Grizzly Man.
Don’t get me wrong. March is a decent flick. It joins a group of superb animal docs that came out last year, including Grizzly and The Wild Parakeets of Telegraph Hill (which would make an awesome double feature of unhealthy/healthy obsessions with nature). But Murderball surpasses these with its unsentimental yet moving presentation. Yes, it’s the hip, MTV-style one in the group, but in this case it works.
Memoirs of a Geisha
War of the Worlds
Will Win: Memoirs of a Geisha
Should Win: Not Memoirs of a Geisha
First off, let’s explain the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. Sound Editing, which involves taking all the snippets of sound you’ve got and splicing them together to make a coherent soundscape, happens after Sound Mixing, which happens when you first capture the sounds in question. At least that’s the best I can gather from the Interwebs.
Prestige, or really the sense of it, helps in this category. If a Titanic or a Braveheart is nominated, it has a better shot than escapist fare. This year, Geisha‘s up for six technical awards, and has the gloss (if not the critical acclaim) of a prestige picture. By the way, this award is the reason that it’s “the Academy Award-winning Pearl Harbor.”
Honestly, both Kong and Worlds have fantastic sound. As long as either one of them beats out Geisha, I’ll be happy. If I had to choose, though, I’d say Kong, for the sound in the insect pit alone.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Memoirs of a Geisha
Walk the Line
War of the Worlds
Will Win: Walk the Line
Should Win: King Kong
Again, prestige helps, which makes Geisha kind of a spoiler in my opinion. But Walk the Line has more, and after Ray‘s win last year, it seems like Sound Mixing in a movie with a lot of musical performances is something your average Academy member can probably wrap their head around judging a lot easier than how clearly they captured Mr. Tumnus’ dialogue.
Again, Kong, cos, why not?
In our next installment: How many songs do they have to write to convince you of the difficulty of pimping?