We’re barely out of the gate and already we’re scrambling to figure out if success this year in Oscar’s three shorts categories will be determined by just how well—cannily, slyly, opportunistically, or otherwise—a film co-opts some aspect of our culture wars. Case in point: Victor Caire and Gabriel Grapperon’s Garden Party, which Slant’s gurus of gold agree has set a new bar for photorealism in animation—a bar so high that it makes Pixar’s Oscar-winning Piper from last year seem like it crawled out of the primordial muck.
Indeed, we were slack-jawed with awe for the better part of the short’s seven-minute running time, during which a series of frogs delightfully, mischievously turn a curiously deserted mansion into their gluttonous playground. And then the reason for why the manse is in ruins literally rises to the surface and none of us could agree on just how much the Trumpian overtones of the short were intended by the filmmakers as a wish-fulfillment fantasy.
If you believe that the Oscars this year will play out as an epic-sized feint toward wokeness, then Glen Keane’s Dear Basketball, a totem by writer-producer-actor Kobe Bryant to retired basketball player Kobe Bryant that, at its most successful, eclipses the narcissism of Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi moment, faces nothing short of a herculean uphill battle. At press time, over 13,000 people have signed a petition to rescind Bryant’s Oscar nomination for the film. In short, this controversy, which was already at a fever pitch hours after the Academy Award nominations were announced and IndieWire was placing the film in the context of the #MeToo/Time’s Up movement, feels like a challenge that even Bryant’s team of lawyers can’t help him to surmount.
Elsewhere, Dave Mullins and Dana Murray’s Lou, the Pixar short that ran in theaters last year before Cars 3, suggests that the bullies of the world are made at the precise moment that their toys are taken away from them. Your interpretive mileage will vary with how that message is in conversation with our cultural moment, but we’re of the opinion that Lou is too glib by half to even remotely register in the minds of most AMPAS voters as a cautionary tale about how Oscar-winning producer stalwarts are born.
Conversely, Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter’s Negative Space grapples, and in five short minutes, with the existential question of cause and effect in a way that’s nothing short of sublime. We were smitten with the film, about how the persnickety packing habits of a young man are informed by his relationship to his ever-traveling father, even before its deceptively sentimental finale threw us for a bracing wallop. But we’ve made the mistake in the past of rallying behind the most overly DIY candidate, and when there was another nominee in the category that was checking off more Oscar-friendly boxes.
And this year that film would appear to be part one of Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer’s Revolting Rhymes, a very long, very trendy, and very British adaptation of five of the six poems from the Roald Dahl book of the same time. The project is conspicuously geared toward granting its female characters the sort of agency they’ve rarely enjoyed in any fairy-tale retelling, and the stories are all braided together with a wryness and precision that recalls the work of, um, Martin McDonagh. And the icing on the cake is that the only one who gets thrown under the bus to give Little Red Riding Hood her Time’s Up moment is a greedy little piggy who always had it coming.
Will Win: Revolting Rhymes
Could Win: Garden Party
Should Win: Negative Space
Editor’s Note: The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2018, presented by ShortsHD, will open in theaters nationwide on February 8. For locations, click here.
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Adapted Screenplay
After walking back almost all of its bad decisions ahead of this year’s Oscars, there’s no way AMPAS isn’t going to do the right thing here.
Eric and I have done a good job this year of only selectively stealing each other’s behind-the-scenes jokes. We have, though, not been polite about stepping on each other’s toes in other ways. Okay, maybe just Eric, who in his impeccable take on the original screenplay free-for-all detailed how the guilds this year have almost willfully gone out of their way to “not tip the Oscar race too clearly toward any one film.” Case in point: Can You Ever Forgive Me? winning the WGA’s adapted screenplay trophy over presumed Oscar frontrunner BlacKkKlansman. A glitch in the matrix? We think so. Eric and I are still in agreement that the race for best picture this year is pretty wide open, though maybe a little less so in the wake of what seemed like an easy win for the Spike Lee joint. Nevertheless, we all know that there’s no Oscar narrative more powerful than “it’s about goddamn time,” and it was so powerful this year that even the diversity-challenged BAFTAs got the memo, giving their adapted screenplay prize to Lee, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott. To bamboozle Lee at this point would, admittedly, be so very 2019, but given that it’s walked back almost all of its bad decisions ahead of this year’s Oscars, there’s no way AMPAS isn’t going to do the right thing.
Will Win: BlacKkKlansman
Could Win: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Should Win: BlacKkKlansman
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Original Screenplay
This season, Hollywood is invested in celebrating the films they love while dodging the cultural bullets coming at them from every angle.
You know, if it weren’t for the show’s producers effectively and repeatedly saying everything about the Academy Awards is terrible and needs to be changed, and the year’s top-tier contenders inadvertently confirming their claims, this would’ve been a comparatively fun and suspenseful Oscar season. None of us who follow the Academy Awards expect great films to win; we just hope the marathon of precursors don’t turn into a Groundhog Day-style rinse and repeat for the same film, ad nauseam.
On that score, mission accomplished. The guilds have been handing their awards out this season as though they met beforehand and assigned each voting body a different title from Oscar’s best picture list so as not to tip the Oscar race too clearly toward any one film. SAG? Black Panther. PGA? Green Book. DGA? Roma. ASC? Cold War. ACE? Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Even awards-season kryptonite A Star Is Born got an award for contemporary makeup from the MUAHS. (That’s the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild, not the sound Lady Gaga fans have been making ever since A Star Is Born’s teaser trailer dropped last year.)
Not to be outdone, the Writers Guild of America announced their winners last weekend, and not only did presumed adapted screenplay frontrunner BlacKkKlansman wind up stymied by Can You Ever Forgive Me?, but the original screenplay prize went to Eighth Grade, which wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar. Bo Burnham twisted the knife into AMPAS during his acceptance speech: “To the other nominees in the category, have fun at the Oscars, losers!” In both his sarcasm and his surprise, it’s safe to say he speaks on behalf of us all.
As is always the case, WGA’s narrow eligibility rules kept a presumed favorite, The Favourite, out of this crucial trial heat. But as the balloting period comes to a close, the question remains just how much enthusiasm or affection voters have for either of the two films with the most nominations (Roma being the other). As a recent “can’t we all just get along” appeal by Time’s Stephanie Zacharek illustrates, the thing Hollywood is most invested in this season involves bending over backward, Matrix-style, to celebrate the films they love and still dodge the cultural bullets coming at them from every angle.
Maybe it’s just tunnel vision from the cultural vacuum Oscar voters all-too-understandably would prefer to live in this year, but doesn’t it seem like The Favourite’s tastefully ribald peppering of posh-accented C-words would be no match for the steady litany of neo-Archie Bunkerisms spewing from Viggo Mortensen’s crooked mouth? Especially with First Reformed’s Paul Schrader siphoning votes from among the academy’s presumably more vanguard new recruits? We’ll fold our words in half and eat them whole if we’re wrong, but Oscar’s old guard, unlike John Wayne, is still alive and, well, pissed.
Will Win: Green Book
Could Win: The Favourite
Should Win: First Reformed
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing
For appealing to voters’ nostalgia for drunken karaoke nights of yore, one film has the upper hand here.
Given what Eric wrote about the sound editing category yesterday, it now behooves me to not beat around the bush here. Also, it’s my birthday, and there are better things for me to do today than count all the ways that Eric and I talk ourselves out of correct guesses in the two sound categories, as well as step on each other’s toes throughout the entirety of our Oscar-prediction cycle. In short, it’s very noisy. Which is how Oscar likes it when it comes to sound, though maybe not as much the case with sound mixing, where the spoils quite often go to best picture nominees that also happen to be musicals (Les Misérables) or musical-adjacent (Whiplash). Only two films fit that bill this year, and since 2019 is already making a concerted effort to top 2018 as the worst year ever, there’s no reason to believe that the scarcely fat-bottomed mixing of Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody will take this in a walk, for appealing to voters’ nostalgia for drunken karaoke nights of yore.
Will Win: Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody
Could Win: A Star Is Born
Should Win: First Man