Ah, the short film. The neglected stepchild of the cinematic world. The art form that can’t get any love from mainstream audiences. Most people won’t watch a short unless it’s showing in front of an animated feature. Hopefully, the new YouTube era can change that. Still, though, most people see shorts as nothing more than the stepping stone to making “real” films. Which is a shame, since there’s power in brevity.

The three Oscar categories that deal with shorts are the ones that seem most likely to get cut from the broadcast sooner or later. Very few people care about them. And many find that these categories will frustrate their chances of winning their Oscar pools, since barely anyone has seen them and thus can predict which ones the Academy will favor. Well, I’ve seen all the Oscar-nominated short documentaries, and here are my prognostications:

Mondays at Racine


What it’s about: A Long Island beauty salon that gives free service once a month to women undergoing chemotherapy. The film follows both the proprietors of the shop and a few of their regular customers.

Who’s nominated: Director Cynthia Wade and producer Robin Honan. This is Honan’s first nomination, while Wade won this category back in 2007 for Freeheld.

Why it might win: Because it’s a bona fide weeper, and the Academy might be willing to hand over the accolade for it. I found it quite harrowing, and probably the best of this bunch.


Kings Point

kings point

What it’s about: The residents of a Florida retirement home, all of whom are former residents of NYC. The movie covers a decade in just 40 minutes, and we see the characters go through many changes while basically staying the same.

Who’s nominated: Director Sari Gilman and producer Jedd Wider. This is the first Oscar nomination for either of them. It’s also the directorial debut for Gilman, whose done extensive work editing docs up until now.

Why it might win: Because it’s about old white people, and the Academy is mostly composed of old white people. I liked it, even though it was about old white people.




What it’s about: The lives of “canners” in New York – people who make a living (such as it is) by collecting and redeeming recyclable cans for change.

Who’s nominated: Directors Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill, both of whom were previously nominated in this category for their 2009 short doc China’s Unnatural Disaster: Tears of the Sichuan Province. 

Why it might win: Because it lays bare the lives of poor people, and the Academy sometimes likes to reward such films because it makes them feel like they’ve done something about the issue. It’s an alright film, with a few moments of terrific emotion.


Open Heart

Open Heart

What it’s about: Eight Rwandan children who travel to the Salam Center in Sudan for life-saving heart surgery, the only free hospital in all of Africa capable of providing the care that they need.

Who’s nominated: Director Kief Davidson and producer Cori Shepherd Stern. This is the first Oscar nomination for either of them. Both of them have done extensive producing work in the past.

Why it might win: Because the Academy has a marked predilection for singling out movies about afflicted third world children getting treatment. See: Smile Pinki, Saving Face. It’s not so much a real movie to me as it is an advertisement for the issue of juvenile heart disease in Africa, but since people need to know about this issue, more power to the doc.




What it’s about: Inocente, a homeless teenager who wants to become an artist.

Who’s nominated: Married directors/producers Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, who were previously nominated for Best Documentary Feature for their 2007 film War/Dance. They’ve both done extensive work for National Geographic, and their film Life According to Sam premiered at this year’s Sundance.

Why it might win: Because it has the inspiration factor in spades, which the Academy is more likely to recognize than anything else about any of these movies. I liked it a lot, and while Mondays at Racine is my personal favorite, I wouldn’t be upset if this one won.


Who will win?

I think you can count out Mondays at Racine because it’s about women, and the Academy is mostly comprised of men. Redemption feels too slight to have a real chance at winning. Kings Point might have the outside odds, but I believe the real race is between Inocente and Open Heart. I’m going to give the edge to Inocente, because it’s the better film and deals with some issues that feel more relevant to American-based voters (homelessness, illegal immigration, education). The movies the Academy singled out this year are pretty good for the most part, though none of them really feel like anything we’ll still be talking about years down the line.

Road to the Oscars Series

January 14: Best Visual Effects – Ian Murphy

January 16: Best Sound Editing – Ian Murphy

January 18: Best Sound Mixing – Michael Benedict

January 21: Best Cinematography – Scott Youngbauer

January 23: Best Costume Design – Ian Murphy

January 25: Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Rebecca Susmarski

January 28: Best Film Editing – Dan Schindel

January 30: Best Production Design – Scott Youngbauer

February 1: Best Animated Feature – Carlos Aguilar

February 4: Best Documentary Feature – Dan Schindel

February 7: Best Documentary Short Subject – Dan Schindel

February 8: Best Live Action Short – Carlos Aguilar

February 9: Best Animated Short – Kit Bowen

February 10: Best Foreign Language Film – Carlos Aguilar

February 11: Best Original Score – Adam Spunberg

February 12: Best Original Song – Adam Spunberg

February 13: Best Original Screenplay – Dan Schindel

February 14: Best Adapted Screenplay – Jeremy Martin

February 16: Best Supporting Actor – Angela Stern

February 17: Best Supporting Actress – Hiko Mitsuzuka

February 18: Best Actress – Andrew Payne

February 19: Best Actor – Kit Bowen

February 20: Best Director – Andrew Payne

February 21: Best Picture – Kit Bowen

February 24: 85th Annual Academy Awards