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Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Animated Short

There may be no jokes in Weekends, but it certainly doesn’t lack for virtuosity.

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Weekends
Photo: Past Lives Productions

Of note in this category is that two films speak to a specifically Asian cultural experience, the weirdest of the lot being Pixar’s Bao, though none of Slant’s Oscar gurus are in agreement about just how successful that weirdness is. It’s easy to imagine the short, about a Chinese woman suffering from empty-nest syndrome who hallucinates a dumpling-as-son, being a whole lot less strange had it more fully immersed us in the woman’s life and relationship to food. At that same time, there’s also a sense that a stronger cultural anchor to the story might have made it seem as if Bao wasn’t using sentiment to obscure its main character’s, um, unsavory fantasies about her progeny’s future.

But we’ll take the unresolved weirdness of Bao to the canned artistry of Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas’s One Small Step, about a girl determined to become an astronaut and who undervalues the support of her loving father. The short, a dialogue-free mix of whimsy and melancholy, privileges emotion above all else, and gives the impression that it was made on the part of its clearly Up-enamored makers to land contracts at Pixar.

Like Marguerite in the live-action category, Late Afternoon is another two-hander about a woman in the throes of dementia. Like One Small Step, Louise Bagnall and Nuria González Blanco’s short puts emotion first, but its artistry—hand-drawn animation that gently revels in the curlicues of a woman’s memories under duress—is just distinctive enough to suggest it can eke out a victory here. But, then, it also has to compete with the gag that is Alison Snowden and David Fine’s Animal Behavior, about a group of animals grappling with their emotional and psychological problems in a group therapy session. Though clever for the way it ribs our preoccupation with (and suppression of) our power of instinct, it did provoke one of my fellow prognosticators to channel Trinity Taylor and ask, “Where are the jokes?!”

There may be no jokes in Weekends, but it certainly doesn’t lack for virtuosity. Director Trevor Jimenez’s elliptical approach to animation is the antithesis of the template-bound aesthetics of One Small Step. The short’s artistry, like it’s story turns, are purposefully, hauntingly half-shaded in—all the better to tune us into the confusions of a little boy torn between two worlds in the wake of his parents’ divorce. It’s also the only short in this category that was nominated for an Annie Award, and as the winner there it enters the Oscar race as the one to beat.

Will Win: Weekends

Could Win: Late Afternoon

Should Win: Weekends

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Awards

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.

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Green Book
Photo: Universal Pictures

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

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Awards

Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing

For appealing to voters’ nostalgia for drunken karaoke nights of yore, one film has the upper hand here.

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20th Century Fox
Photo: 20th Century Fox

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

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Awards

Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Sound Editing

If it were biologically possible to do so, both Ed and I would happily switch places with A Quiet Place’s Emily Blunt.

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First Man
Photo: Universal Pictures

If it were biologically possible to do so, both Ed and I would happily switch places with A Quiet Place’s Emily Blunt, because we’d much rather give birth in a tub while surrounded by murderous blind creatures than have to once again write our predictions for the sound categories. As adamant as we’ve been that the Academy owes it to the nominees to air every category, which they agreed to after an extended “just kidding,” it might have given us pause had the sound categories been among the four demoted by Oscar. But no, we must now endure our annual bout of penance, aware of the fact that actually knowing what the difference is between sound editing and sound mixing is almost a liability. In other words, we’ve talked ourselves out of correct guesses too many times, doubled down on the same movie taking both categories to hedge our bets too many times, and watched as the two categories split in the opposite way we expected too many times. So, as in A Quiet Place, the less said, the better. And while that film’s soundscapes are as unique and noisy as this category seems to prefer, First Man’s real-word gravitas and cacophonous Agena spin sequence should prevail.

Will Win: First Man

Could Win: A Quiet Place

Should Win: First Man

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