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December 04 2018
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2019 Oscars Predictions: What Short Films Have The Best Odds?

We guess the nominees for Best Live Action, Animated and Documentary Short before the Academy announces its shortlist on December 17th.

For the first time ever, the Academy is releasing the shortlist for all short film categories on the same day: December 17th. Until then, all we can do is speculate. Though nothing’s ever a lock in the short categories (except for Bao), we try to guess the nominations for the 2019 Oscars. We’ve mostly taken into consideration what festivals these films have won at and the likelihood of those prizes leading to an Oscar nomination. Otherwise, it’s just an educated hunch.




“Fauve” is available in its entirety right now.


This short about two boys taking on Mother Nature has already won at some pretty important festivals: Palm Springs, Rhode Island and Aspen Shorts. Can it go all the way to La La Land? Time will only tell. But it’s got about as much momentum as a narrative short can have at this time of year. The main question here will be whether the voters will resonate with its story, or just consider it a technical achievement and pass. We have high hopes it makes it all the way to February.

The Passage

“The Passage” is an absurdist comedy now being distributed through TBS.


While Fauve won Best Drama at this year’s Aspen Shortsfest, The Passage took Best Comedy. The reason we’re putting our money on Aspen winners? Seven Oscar-nominated Live Action Shorts have come from Aspen in just the last ten years. Those are the best odds of any festival in recent memory. But this absurdist comedy isn’t just resting on that laurel. They recently won the Jury Prize at the final Los Angeles Film Festival. While comedies have historically been a harder sell in this category, this would be the film to mix things up.

The Peculiar Abilities of Mr. Mahler

“Mr. Mahler” looks gorgeous and mysterious…but will it be enough?


It’s a German genre short that’s really made a world tour out of awards recognition. Most important were its wins in Boulder International and Clermont-Ferrand, two festivals that ushered in many Oscar nominees. Its supernatural conceit may keep voters away, but we believe its incredible cinematography and production design will more than compensate.

Shadow Animals

“Shadow Animals” proves to be a polarizing experience for voters.


After watching the trailer of this film, you’ll either be pulled in or you’ll be giving it a hard pass. Ultimately, its polarizing premise may be its undoing come nomination-time, but along the way it’s already seen success at Palm Springs and San Francisco, picking up key wins in both festivals. If the short film voters were to ever throw a curve-ball at us, it’d be with this selection.

Hair Wolf

“Hair Wolf” is the buzzy favorite among the nominations.


If the Oscars were akin to audience awards, Hair Wolf would certainly be in by now. It gains rave reviews everywhere it goes, most importantly winning the Short Jury Award at Sundance. Just like what happens occasionally in feature land, this is the rare short that started the year on fire and hasn’t really slowed down since. Will its rare blend of horror and comedy be too much for the Academy? We sure hope not!




Director Domee Shi explains the inspiration behind Oscar favorite, “Bao”


We’re saying it right now…this one’s a lock. Anything with the Pixar label is gold in this category and Bao should be no exception. The brain trust at Pixar seemed to be so pleased with this poignant short that its director, Domee Shi, is developing an animated feature for the company. An Oscar would certainly be icing on the cake for the entire creative team, and we’re just not sure anything will equal its chances of taking the trophy home.


“Weekends” is directed by another Pixar veteran. Will this be an upset?


When it comes to Oscar nominations in this category, there’s really only two festivals that matter: the Annies and the Annecy International. Weekends collected two wins (Jury and Audience) at the latter, so that tells us it’s in prime position to get one of the final slots. The director, Trevor Jimenez, has many key art department credits for animated features, so he may have some good graces with these voters.


“Coyote” is our wild card pick in this category.


This is a fun one. Though it hasn’t won in the two awards mentioned above, it has some strong festival stops on its resume, including Aspen and Palm Springs. The animated films nominated are typically more conservative choices, more interested in sweeping narratives than striking animation. So this may be a stretch. But whoever sees this film will not forget it.


“Obon” is a haunting story about memory, history and family ties.


We’re picking from the heart on this one. In a perfect blend of storytelling and animation, this re-telling of a coming-of-age story in the heart of Hiroshima during the fateful bombings truly leaves you moved and shaken. It may not come with the prestige of the others on this list, but its heart will (hopefully) be enough.


“Bilby” is Dreamworks’ answer to “Bao”. Will it be enough?


AKA the Dreamworks’ Bao. Whenever the big animation studios come out with short films, you can pretty much bet they’ll make the final five. This is the one most think could give Bao a run for it, but we’re not quite sure it has the reviews (and appeal) behind it that Pixar’s short does.


My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes

This short has attracted the niche and mainstream documentary crowds.


Another festival we haven’t mentioned yet is the Cinema Eye Honors Awards, a favored spot for short documentaries. Porno Tapes was nominated there, which automatically makes it a good contender. Add to that some wins at Rhode Island, SXSW and a nomination at Sundance, and we like this short as a dark horse to get in.

Baby Brother

Director Kamau Bilal has directed high-profile documentaries for HBO, like “Abortion”.


Baby Brother has a very similar resume to Porno Tapes. It’s story isn’t “spectacular” in that headline-catching way, which may ultimately hurt it. But we wouldn’t be surprised if it still edges its way in. Kamau Bilal is also an established documentary director, so this nomination would be well-deserved.


“Sideline” has a stunning premise, which could be enough to get a nomination.


This coverage of a controversial story about the NFL and Playboy Magazine was nominated at the holy grail for short docs: the International Documentary Association. That could be enough, but it also has been nominated at Tribeca, a buzzy place to win. Its splashy subject matter will interest many…but will the entire film be enough to make it in this crowded field?

Lessons From A School Shooting: Notes From Dunblane

“Lessons From A School Shooting” is a hopeful side story to a tragic event.


There’s always that one documentary that’s just hard to watch. Notes from Dunblane is tangentially about the Sandy Hook tragedy, but it takes a surprisingly hopeful angle that will appeal and inspire many. We think this documentary has as good a chance as any.

Pain is Mine

“Pain Is Mine” is a one-take documentary that promises a visceral experience.


Sometimes all it takes is a little bravura. “One day, One room, One take” is the tagline, and we know how much technical achievements in documentary can mean awards success. It’s already been nominated at Cameraimage (a big nom), so it’s more than poised to make a run through early 2019.

Stay tuned at for more short film coverage during awards season.

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