OSCAR PREDICTIONS 2015: The minor film categories

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The 87th Academy Awards, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, are set for Sunday, February 22nd and it's time to analyze just who or what is going to be walking off that stage with an Oscar.  If you follow my website, you will know that I've been tabulating all of the minor and lead-up award winners in all of the Oscar categories since last November on my 2015 Awards Tracker.  To put it in educational terms to match this website's theme, those numbers have been my "data analysis" to predicting just what films are going to win.   It's time to begin making my formal and official Oscar predictions.  In this third post, we look at the obscure minor film categories that include foreign films, documentaries, animated films, and short films.  Get the dartboard out and let's do this!


The nominees:   "Ida," "Leviathan," "Tangerines," "Timbuktu," "Wild Tales"

AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category):  

13- "Force Majeure," 11- "Ida," 7- "Two Days, One Night," 2- "We Are the Best!," 1- "Leviathan," 1- "The Raid 2," 1- "Wild Tales," 1- "Timbuktu," 1- "Winters Sleep" 

Who was snubbed:  Among the critics and the foreign film fan circles, there are three big snubs here.  Though not as widely known as other foreign film winners in the past like "The Artist" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," the overwhelming most highly regarded foreign language film of last year was "Force Majeure," a probing post-disaster family conundrum.  As you can see from the Awards tracker data, it's been the frontrunner and it was egregiously snubbed by the Academy.  Second, boosted by Marion Cotillard's lead performance nominated for Best Actress, the Dardienne brothers film "Two Days, One Night" was also left out of the race.  Lastly, Turkey's "Winters Sleep" won the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, against mainstream competition and other Oscar nominees, and it couldn't crack the final five.

Happy to be there:  Of the five nominated films, the one film among them that hasn't won any awards in this category is the pacifist "Tangerines" from Estonia-Georgia.  That one flew under the radar compared to the other four.  

Who should win and will win:  Normally, I'm pretty decent about catching a few solid foreign films a year.  My time at the 50th Chicago International Film Festival this past year helped that, where I saw "Two Days, One Night" and "Winters Sleep."  This year, though, I haven't seen any of the five nominees.  If I had a vote, it would be for "Two Days, One Night," but, again, it wasn't nominated.  This time, I have to side with the data.  "Ida" is the best contender left standing.  It's not "Amour" or "The Artist" in terms of nomination love in other categories, but its nod for Best Cinematography definitely raises its profile.  The Academy is always fickle in this category where the slam dunk front-runner on paper loses quite often.  Still, from a prediction standpoint, I have to take the odds and that points to "Ida."


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

AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category):  

30- "The LEGO Movie," 4- "How to Train Your Dragon 2," 3- "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya," 3- "The Boxtrolls," 1- "Big Hero 6"

Who was snubbed:  Let the rant begin!  I don't know what an animated feature has to do to be nominated for the Academy Award more than "The LEGO Movie."  The storytelling, technology, appeal, and precision are there on every level.  Its subtraction was the biggest snub of the entire Oscar field by a country mile.  It's a head-scratcher of epic proportions.  Even if voters feel like it shouldn't win, I don't know how you don't consider "The LEGO Movie" one of the five best to even get nominated.  This is downright sinful and out of touch.  "This is why we can't have nice things."

Happy to be there:  In one way, considering the sharp knife that chopped off "The LEGO Movie," all five should be happy they were spared.  Of the five nominees, the smallest contribution getting the biggest stage of attention is "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya," a hand-drawn Japanese folk tale from director Isao Takahata.  It's always nice to see a foreign entry make the field and the film has a perfect 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating among critics.  It deserved to be there and probably should win.  I admit that I haven't seen it yet to get my personal vote for "should."

Who should win:  Without "The LEGO Movie," the quality of the potential winner has to take a step down.  My vote would go to Disney's "Big Hero 6."  Walt Disney Animation continued its hot streak away from Pixar with this fun Marvel-infused superhero adventure that had some nice messages about kids and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education.  Let "Frozen" win one for the girls and "Big Hero 6" win one for the boys.  

Who will win:  Once again, without "The LEGO Movie," this category is up for grabs.  "Big Hero 6," thanks to the Disney and Marvel clout behind it and the influence of an Oscar telecast being aired on a Disney-affiliated television channel (ABC), has a strong chance to win by resume and references alone.  I don't know if it's that easy.  Ever since "The LEGO Movie" lost the Golden Globe to "How to Train Your Dragon 2," the DreamWorks film has been gaining steam and filling in the void left by backlash towards "The LEGO Movie."  The biggest indicator from a data standpoint was its recent straight-up win of the Annie Award in the field of animation over "The LEGO Movie" as a fellow nominee.  It's the smart bet and I'm taking it.


The nominees:  "The Bigger Picture," "The Dam Keeper," "Feast," "Me and My Moulton," "A Single Life"

AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category):  NONE

No one was snubbed and everyone is happy to here:  Everybody loves animated features, but, unless you're Pixar or Disney, no one remembers the animated shorts.  As always, this is a category that is lucky to still be included in an already over-long awards night.  All of them are lucky to be even getting talked about for their four minutes.  

Who should win:  Call me a populist, but that adorable animated dog from "Feast," the animated short that played before Disney's "Big Hero 6," did enough for me to get my heartfelt vote.  I'll be the one that admits that I had Disney in the bag for winning this award last year for "Get a Horse!" featuring Mickey Mouse's valiant return to animation.  I thought had enough clout to win last year and it didn't.  So, if Mickey Mouse himself can't win, then some dog eating spaghetti isn't enough. 

Who will win:  This is a category where I have to look elsewhere for prognostication.  Normally I have tea leaves and data to look at, but not in this small category.  In the large majority of the sources and reviews I'm reading pertaining to this year's crop on Animated Shorts, I see "The Dam Keeper" coming up on top the most.  That's where my dartboard dart is going to go for the sake of accurate prediction.  Now, I just need to find a shot to see it.  


The nominees:  "Citizenfour," "Finding Vivian Meier," "Last Days in Vietnam," "The Salt of the Earth," "Virunga"

AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category):  

22- "Citizenfour," 16- "Life Itself," 3- "The Overnighters,"  2- "Finding Vivian Maier," 1- "Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon," 1- "Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me," 1- "Rich Hill," 1- "Beats of Antonov," 1- "Keep On, Keepin' On"

Who was snubbed:  The big name omission here is "Life Itself," the largely industry-embraced story of the late film critic Roger Ebert.  It's had a nationwide run and a high profile showing on CNN to boost its profile.  You would think in an industry that loves self-gratification and honoring each other that something like "Life Itself" would be a shoe-in.  Maybe that old Chicagoan wrote too many "thumbs down" reviews.  Even so, to not respect the film itself is a crappy way to get back at a dead guy; shady business, if that's the case.

Happy to be there:  All four nominees not named "Citizenfour" should be happy to be there.  Documentaries have their merit, but there are still a reasonably obscure genre of films for most.  Like I was saying earlier, these four minutes of nomination and showtime are the most attention they will get all year and sometimes their whole lives.  

Who should win and will win:  Even though this category can be a lot like Best Foreign Language Film where the front-runner gets cast aside for something random when the envelope is opened, I think "Citizenfour" is running away and hiding with this award.  The data shows it and the voting elsewhere shows it too.  Despite the fickle possibility, I'm calling the Edward Snowden-centered tell-all doc a lock.


The nominees:  "Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1," "Joanna," "Our Curse," "The Reaper (La Parka)," "White Earth"

AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category):  NONE

No one was snubbed and everyone is happy be here:  SEE BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM.  The same usual disclaimer applies.  

Who should win:  These films are even harder to find and see than the feature documentaries and foreign language films.  Get out the dartboard on your own and pick a fun-sounding title.  I have not seen any of these.  Joking aside, I do have to complement how some artsy theater chains are screening all of these short subject documentary, short film, and animated short nominees together in single seating viewings.  It would be nice to see the nominees side-by-side in an accommodating way.  Someday, with continued attention, maybe more people (myself included) can see these works more readily.

Who will win:  Like Best Animated Short, I have to defer to other outside research and reviews against the lack of data in this category.  The bulk of what I'm finding is honoring and signaling out "Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1" from HBO.  The cable TV network has long made excellent documentaries and this one seems to match voting likes and dislikes, especially in a year where something like "American Sniper" is such large hit.  I'll put my vote on that, but, as always, get out the dartboard and let the guessing continue.


The nominees:  "Aya," "Boogaloo and Graham," "Butter Lamp," "Parvaneh," "The Phone Call"

AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category):  NONE

No one was snubbed and everyone is happy to be here:  SEE BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM AND BEST DOCUMENTARY-SHORT SUBJECT.  The same usual disclaimer applies again.  

Who should win and will win:  Oh boy.  Thanks for sticking with me, folks.  One more obscure award and one more dartboard and we're done.  Once more, I had to dig deeper elsewhere to get a pulse for where this award and popularity within the category is leaning towards.  All signs I'm seeing point to "The Phone Call" which stars former Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins and Oscar winner Jim Broadbent.  The presence of a few recognizable faces can't hurt in this category, but I thought that last year with a face like Martin Freeman and "The Voorman Problem" and lost.  I can't help it.  The smart money is on the familiar faces.  I'll take "The Phone Call."