Saturday, March 13, 2021

Oscar Predictions: Best Documentary Short

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Monday, March 15th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in all categories.

Last year’s nominees:: In the Absence, Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl), Life Overtakes Me, St. Louis Superman, Walk Run Cha-Cha

I’m excited to have had the opportunity to watch all ten shortlisted films this year. Below, please find a short summary and review of each as I lead into my predictions:

Abortion Helpline, This Is Lisa (B+)
This film looks at an abortion hotline in Pennsylvania where all operators go by Lisa to help those calling in determine what they can afford and the safest way to go about it. It’s a brief showcase of the hard work they do and the legal structure that makes it necessary. While it doesn’t cover much in 13 minutes, what it does show is very worthwhile. Watch it now via Topic on Vimeo.

Call Center Blues (B+)
Another short about a call center is just as much about the people answering the phones as it is the ones who dialed looking for assistance. Immigration is a hot-button issue and this film looks at those who have been deported to Mexico and spend their time helping others thanks to their knowledge of English while continuing in many cases to fight to return to their homes in America. Watch it now via Topic on Vimeo.

Colette (B+)
A ninety-year-old French woman decides to visit a Nazi concentration camp for the first time in tribute to her brother, a member of the French resistance, who was killed there. The bond she forms with a young student and museum docent is powerful and affecting, and its lessons of resilience continue to be relevant. Watch it now on the Guardian.

A Concerto Is a Conversation (B+)
A musician talks to his grandfather about the many experiences he had in his life that contributed to his love of music and to his need to express what he encountered and went through in an artistic manner. It’s a very sweet and touching film that feels incredibly intimate, a simple conversation between a grandfather and his grandson shared warmly with an audience. Watch it now via The New York Times.

Do Not Split (B+)
In a year filled with news-making protests all around the world, this short focuses on Hong Kong and the rights of protesters to gather and have their voices heard. Its classification of masks as a way to hide one’s identity rather than to protect others due to coronavirus is intriguing in our current moment, but it only adds to the effectiveness of this harrowing and urgent film. Watch it now on Field of Vision.

Hunger Ward (B+)
This spotlight on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is certainly one of the most difficult and disturbing watches in this category, showing young children who weigh troublingly little. Its portrayal of the brave, hard work of the staff and the somehow-existent optimism of the literally starving patients is a forceful call to action. Watch it now on Pluto TV.

Hysterical Girl (B+)
This short reframes Dora, Freud’s only major female patient studied, from a woman’s perspective, collecting an assortment of clips from throughout history and modern times, including sexual assault trials very much in the public eye. Unlike the rest of this slate, it assembles footage to make a point rather than utilize interviews, presenting a fast-paced, entertaining thesis. Watch it now via The New York Times.

A Love Song for Latasha (B)
This tribute to a Black girl killed at the age of fifteen in 1992, shortly before the Los Angeles riots, is poetic and heartfelt, honoring her memory and challenging the system that could allow a teenager to be killed over a bottle of orange juice. It’s less structured overall than the rest, but still very moving. Watch it now on Netflix.

The Speed Cubers (B+)
This film begins as a chronicle of the championship rounds of Rubik’s cube competitions, but then it turns into a wonderful and inspiring portrait of the friendship between a teenage Australian talent and the autistic American who looks up to and respects him. It’s fun to watch them play and even more delightful to see how they interact. Watch it now on Netflix.

What Would Sophia Loren Do? (B-)
I’m not really sure what to make of this film, which begins with a woman who is most definitely not Sophia Loren talking about her obsession with the actress and how their lives have actually been somewhat similar. It’s somewhat interesting but ultimately feels more random than anything else, not quite the same caliber as the rest of these films. Watch it now on Netflix.

Predicted nominees: Colette, A Concerto is a Conversation, Do Not Split, Hunger Ward, The Speed Cubers

Forecasted winner: I’ll pick A Concerto is a Conversation.

No comments: