The Oscars Shortlists Give Us Insight On The Academy’s Thoughts In Nine Categories

Last night, in an unprecedented move, the Academy unveiled a new voting platform that gives us our first glimpse into their electoral mindset. You see, instead of having each branch vote for their favorites off a list of hundreds of films, they have simplified things, creating shortlists of ten to twenty films that have been determined the best of the best, and letting the branches vote for their favorites amongst a field of ten. This had been done before in the shorts categories, as well as Best Makeup and Hairstyling and Foreign Language Film, but yesterday’s announcement was different: not only was every shortlist revealed at the same time, but the Academy actually expanded the categories participating, so that we now have lists for Best Foreign Language Film, Best Documentary, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Visual Effects, and the shorts. So, who’s in, who’s out, and where are the surprises? Let’s take a look at what the Academy is dealing out and find out, shall we?

We’ll start with the feature categories, as they are perhaps the biggest deal. Honestly, there’s not much to be mad about in Best Foreign Language Film or Best Documentary – the Academy got it pretty right. In Foreign Language, all the deserving bit hitters are here – Roma, Burning, Cold War, and Shoplifters all made the cut. And best of all, the controversial Belgian film Girl was left off, saving the Academy from backlash and audiences from being subjected to torture porn. Am I a little disappointed that the twisted Border didn’t make the cut? Sure, but that’s less because it’s a good film and more because I was excited to try to explain it to people going forward (“so it’s about pedophile-fighting trolls…”). And hey, at least Border made it onto the Best Makeup shortlist. Honestly, this is the most excited I’ve been about the category in years. Ditto for Best Documentary Feature – all the docs you expected to make the cut, and considered worthy of making the cut, are here – RBG, Shirkers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Three Identical Strangers, Minding the Gap, Hale County and Crime+Punishment are all here, and I’m not sure there is a bad doc in sight. And I don’t have much to say on the short films, as I never know anything about them until they actually announce the Top Five and I see them. However, off the cuff, I will say I’m intrigued by A Night at the Garden, the documentary short about the infamous Bund (American pro-Nazis) rally held at Madison Square Garden that drew in over 20,000 people. Bao is excellent and I hope it wins Best Animated Short. And no film has ever had a better title than documentary than My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes. Here’s hoping this is a great year for short filmmaking.

Moving over to the craft categories, Best Original Score is the first place we start to see surprises. While my current Top Five is present (including the underrated Marco Beltrami score for A Quiet Place), the list also extends to scores that haven’t earned much buzz or have been described as outright bad. Specifically, we have appearances from Vice, Crazy Rich Asians, Fantastic Beasts 2: Electric Boogaloo (or whatever the hell they’re calling that film), and The Death of Stalin. Meanwhile, the terrific works from former Radiohead band members (Johnny Greenwood for You Were Never Really Here, Thom Yorke for Suspiria) went unnoticed. That’s a bit disappointing, but at least there’s still a chance for the Academy to get their nominations right instead of horribly wrong. And at least Yorke made it onto the song shortlist by surprise, earning a spot for “Suspirium.” Joining “Suspirium” as a delightful surprise entry on the list are “A Place Called Slaughter Race” from Ralph Breaks the Internet and “We Won’t Move” from The Hate U Give (both terrific songs, as well as the more expected double listing of Mary Poppins Returns, “All The Stars” from Black Panther (also on the Best Original Score list), and “Shallow” from A Star Is Born. As for the snubs, I’m a little disappointed that “Wrapped Up” from Vox Lux wasn’t shortlisted, and I’m a little surprised that “Requiem for A Private War” didn’t make the cut. These two could have and should have been major contenders in the race, and instead they were left off in favor of “Treasure” from Beautiful Boy (a film I saw and literally didn’t know had an original song; having listened to it to write this article, I’m glad I don’t remember it). And when it comes to the visuals, it looks like you can bet on a tough seven-way race in Best Makeup and Hairstyling, as frontrunners Black Panther, Suspiria, and Vice are joined by strong challengers Bohemian Rhapsody, Mary Queen of Scots, and Border, with Stan & Ollie playing upset. And in Visual Effects, the presumed frontrunners of Black Panther, First Man, and Avengers: Infinity War all managed to make the shortlist, unlike some favorites like 2 Fantastic 2 Beasts. To the shock of many, Paddington 2 was left out of Visual Effects, presumed by many to be the critical and commercial favorite’s best chance at Oscar glory. However, if you’re a fan of small bears wearing people clothes who get into mischief while doing good, fear not: the equally extraordinary (but far more depressing) work on Christopher Robin did make the shortlist. Hopefully it has a better chance of making it than surreal nominee Welcome to Marwen, which I am still not convinced actually exists.

So that wraps up the Oscar shortlists for this year. They don’t tell us much just yet, but what they do tell us is substantial. We know that Black Panther is on every list it’s eligible for, and should have a big day come Oscar Tuesday. We know that Vice (despite its rough day critically yesterday) is still well-liked by the Academy, thanks to its naming in Best Original Score and Best Makeup. And we know that Bohemian Rhapsody has the energy to be more than just an acting play. I will be posting my predictions based on this information in the next day or so, and my Final Oscar Predictions heading into 2019 will be up on the site by the end of the week. Until then, you can see the full shortlists below.

Best Documentary Feature

  • Charm City
  • Communion
  • Crime+Punishment
  • Dark Money
  • The Distant Barking of Dogs
  • Free Solo
  • Hale County This Morning, This Evening
  • Minding the Gap
  • Of Fathers and Sons
  • On Her Shoulders
  • RBG
  • Shirkers
  • The Silence of Others
  • Three Identical Strangers
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Best Original Score

  • Annihilation
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  • Black Panther
  • BlacKkKlansman
  • Crazy Rich Asians
  • The Death of Stalin
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
  • First Man
  • If Beale Street Could Talk
  • Isle of Dogs
  • Mary Poppins Returns
  • A Quiet Place
  • Ready Player One
  • Vice

Best Original Song

  • “When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  • “Treasure” – Beautiful Boy
  • “All The Stars” – Black Panther
  • “Revelation” – Boy Erased
  • “Girl In The Movies” – Dumplin’
  • “We Won’t Move” – The Hate U Give
  • “The Place Where Lost Things Go” – Mary Poppins Returns
  • “Trip A Little Light Fantastic” – Mary Poppins Returns
  • “Keep Reachin’” – Quincy
  • “I’ll Fight” – RBG
  • “A Place Called Slaughter Race” – Ralph Breaks the Internet
  • “OYAHYTT” – Sorry To Bother You
  • “Shallow” – A Star Is Born
  • “Suspirium” – Suspiria
  • “The Big Unknown” – Widows

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Ayka (Kazakhstan)
  • Birds of Passage (Colombia)
  • Burning (South Korea)
  • Capernaum (Lebanon)
  • Cold War (Poland)
  • The Guilty (Denmark)
  • Never Look Away (Germany)
  • Roma (Mexico)
  • Shoplifters (Japan) 

Best Live Action Short Film

  • Caroline
  • Chuchotage
  • Detainment
  • Fauve
  • Icare
  • Marguerite
  • May Day
  • Mother
  • Skin
  • Wale

Best Animated Short Film

  • Age of Sail
  • Animal Behaviour
  • Bao
  • Bilby
  • Bird Karma
  • Late Afternoon
  • Lost & Found
  • One Small Step
  • Pépé le Morse
  • Weekends

Best Documentary Short Film

  • Black Sheep
  • End Game
  • Lifeboat
  • Los Comandos
  • My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes
  • A Night at the Garden
  • End of Sentence.
  • ’63 Boycott
  • Women of the Gulag
  • Zion

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  • Black Panther
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Border
  • Mary Queen of Scots
  • Stan & Ollie
  • Suspiria
  • Vice 

Best Visual Effects

  • Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Black Panther
  • Christopher Robin
  • First Man
  • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
  • Mary Poppins Returns
  • Ready Player One
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story
  • Welcome to Marwen

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