We are approaching the end of these daily Oscar predictions, and are starting to get into the predictions I’m sure will be changing in the coming months. I’m more sure of that here than anywhere else, as we discuss the Features today. When I say the Features, I’m referring to the trio of Best Animated Feature, Best Documentary Feature, and Best Foreign Language Film. While the Animated category is the one more closely followed by the general population, each of these fields has a long list of potential gems usually unnoticed to the rest of society. So here’s your little look behind the curtains that are the Bathroom Break categories.
Honestly, this has been an impressive year for animation, with each new film pushing the envelope in terms of animation, vocal performance or story. Any combination of the contenders here stands a chance of being nominated. However, if you ask me, the only people who should be sitting pretty work at Disney. Disney (or one of the companies that Disney owns) has the three highest spots on the list of highest grossing films this year, with a fourth coming in at sixth. I’d say they are poised for triple nominations in this field, with Finding Dory, Zootopia and Moana each looking to make a claim for the animation award. Dory has the critics and fishbowls full of money in its corner, and Zootopia is one of the smartest films of the year, but I’d say Moana is the underdog-visually stunning, already classic music, and The Rock. Any of the three could take the prize, but no matter what, expect all three to be nominated.
After that, it’s a bit more challenging. However, I’d say that, due to the usual pattern of a Japanese anime film getting a nomination, I’d say the critically beloved “masterpiece” that is The Red Turtle to receive a nomination. Critics out of the Cannes Film Festival went as far as to say it is the best animated film ever made, and I’m sure the Academy will at least nominate it. We’ll see if it holds up later this year, when the film will become a Critics award darling.
Finally, we have no less than six real contenders (sorry, Angry Birds) for the final slot. Do I pick the beauty of stop motion with Laika’s Kubo and the Two Strings (a studio which has received three nominations in the past)? The R-rated Sausage Party with a stellar voice cast and a disturbing topic? What about the recent box office smash that is The Secret Life of Pets? Anime is always strong, especially when you consider manga adaptations like Miss Hokusai. And Trolls could be a Shrek-like smash, and even if it sucks, it wouldn’t be the first time a film got nominated in this category solely based on music (looking at you, Despicable Me 2). These all stand a strong chance of getting nominated, but I’m going to go with Sing, because a) Illumination got Despicable Me 2 a nomination and nearly got Minions nominated, so they clearly have some clout, 2) I like the director, 3) I like the concept, 4) I like the voice cast, which ties into 5) MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY AS A KOALA THAT SOUNDS LIKE MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY PRETENDING TO BE A KOALA. I’ve written more about this subject here, where you can watch the trailer, but if the Academy understands taste at all, this will be you #5 pick.
Foreign Language Film
Why in God’s name am I trying to predict this now? It’s only going to change in three months as the countries begin to pick the one film representing them (I know, I think this is a stupid way of doing things too). Well, I’m a glutton for punishment. And I have faith that at least three of these films will appear on the Academy’ shortlist later this year. So until then, I’ll just give you a rundown on the great films in Germany and the like coming out this year.
The frontrunner, by far, has to be the German comedy (I feel weird writing this sentence) Toni Erdmann. The film follows a practical joker father who wants to get back in touch with his daughter by creating a ridiculous alter ego. The film climaxes with a karaoke scene that left audience in tears and caused thunderous applause at the Cannes Film Festival, and I think it will be a major contender later this year.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s Aquarius has been stirring up controversy, and we’ll have to keep an eye on if the country embraces art or censorship (I’m hoping for the former, but I’m not optimistic). Until then, I predict it will be the #2 contender. The Romanians also have a potential contender with Graduation, a film about a doctor. These simple dramas always have a habit of sneaking in, and if it is a strong film, I expect this to be no different.
In the final two spots, I’m going with more absurd picks. My #4 prediction is the Iranian film The Salesman. Directed by a former winner in this category, the film follows a couple whose relationship begins to sour as they put on a production of Death of a Salesman. The film won two awards at the Cannes Film Festival, but honestly I would have picked it solely because Salesman happens to be my favorite play. And finally, we have Park Chan-Woo’s lesbian thriller The Handmaiden. The film is supposedly a Korean thriller similar to Hitchcock’s Rebecca, which sounds fairly interesting. Chan-Woo is known for his high-concept thrillers, directing the outstanding Oldboy in 2003. Chan-Woo is not yet Oscar nominated, so this may be the Academy’s chance to make up for the wrongdoing of the past.
Best Documentary Feature
And now for the real fun: the movies that you actually can’t use to distract you from the horrors of the real world. The rule of thumb here is two films about the triumph of the human spirit, three films that emotionally destroy you. Last year’s winner did a little bit of both. So let’s explore the most boring category of the entire ceremony, shall we?
I think there are two locks at this point, both of which explore America as a whole by using one strange human being. These are Weiner and O.J.: Made in America. Weiner follows Anthony Weiner, the infamous politician who just wanted to do what is best for America, and yet could never get into office because he had trouble keeping it in his pants and off-camera (I’m going to rise above making the obvious “Weiner” joke because I am an adult). The film follows his campaign because Weiner thought it would be his big comeback story. It wasn’t, so instead we get an inside look into American politics as one man’s dreams fall apart. And speaking of people falling apart, let’s talk about O.J. O.J.: Made in America was supposed to be one of those ESPN 30 for 30 documentaries before the director thought he could uncover a history of America’s issues with race, money and celebrity by making a nine-hour miniseries. The final result was so groundbreaking and immersive, ESPN realized they had a shot at the Oscars AND the Emmys, so they took their shot. I’ve seen this film, and it truly is remarkable, and will suck you in immediately. While this is probably a risky pick (the Academy hates television-based stuff, as well as anything nine hours long), I think the power of the film will win them over in the end. Check it out here in order to prepare for the Oscars in six months.
After that, who knows where the Academy will go? I have my doubts about the Academy picking something as bizarre as Tickled, but it is one of the better documentaries of the year, and I think the groundswell of critics supporting it will turn the tide for a nomination. Meanwhile, if the country remains this angry over guns for the next six months (which, let’s face it, isn’t necessarily likely), then the powerful Newtown, about the families of the children in the Newtown massacre, could end up striking a chord and sneaking in. Finally, I am torn. There are many strong contenders for this final slot. We have Alex Gibney’s malware doc Zero Days, Jim: The James Foley Story, an avant=garde documentary following Christine Chubbuck, the reporter who shot herself on live television, titled Kim Plays Christine, the story of a boy with autism finding himself through Disney titled Life, Animated, and especially Terrence Malick’s documentary about Life Itself titled Voyage of Time (which happens to also have a Documentary Short version, which I will be covering Friday). However, despite the odds of another Netflix-based year, I’m going to go with the Sundance darling Sonita, about the Afghan rapper Sonita Alizadeh, who uses her music to stand up against forced marriages in her home country. These are the types of documentaries that normally get nominated, and I wouldn’t expect that to change now.
Well, I hope you enjoyed my look into the three categories I’m most certainly going to be wrong on. Tune in sporadically throughout the year for me to update these lists (which I will most certainly do), and you can check out my full predictions here, here and here. Until then, you can see my five predictions located below.
Best Animated Feature
- Finding Dory
- The Red Turtle
Best Foreign Language Film
- Toni Erdmann
- The Salesman
- The Handmaiden
Best Documentary Feature
- J.: Made In America