We call them The Other Best Pictures. In rare occasions, some of the feature-length Others make it into the Best Picture category — including this year with Roma receiving nominations as both Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film. Still, it’s very rare. Even though some of them might be worthy of bigger prizes, these films can still rule in their own categories. We call them The Other Best Pictures out of respect. These are our predictions.
Best Animated Feature
Kieran Fisher: This year’s nominees are a strong bunch, but a couple of contenders stand out. Brad Bird movies are no strangers to picking up Oscar victories in this department, so Incredibles 2 may have struck a chord with the Academy. Of course, given that Toy Story 3 is the only sequel to ever win this award, not to mention that the first Incredibles movie already collected the prize in 2004, I’m choosing to believe that the award will go to something fresh and original. Isle of Dogs is another strong contender but an Oscar win has so far eluded Wes Anderson, despite his movies being nominated several times. Isle of Dogs is a movie that boasts incredible artistic achievement, but the controversy surrounding its appropriation of Japanese culture means it’s not the safest bet to put money on.
However, when it comes to animated movies that are inventive, immersive, fun, cinematic, and free of controversy, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is untouchable. And given the film’s widespread critical acclaim for being not just a game-changing animated movie but also as a standout entry in the superhero genre as a whole, I can’t imagine this one being overlooked. The animated category has been kind to superhero movies in the past, after all. Ultimately, though, Into the Spider-Verse is bold, imaginative, and utterly brilliant. That’s why it’s going to win.
What should win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
What will win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Best Foreign Language Film
Luke Hicks: Cold War, shot by Łukasz Żal, is bursting with energy and agony in every frame to match the doomed romantic journey at the heart of Paweł Pawlikowski’s film. The beauty of this film radiates through the cinematography. Watch for how Żal’s camera always finds Joanna Kulig’s Zula in a crowd as the light catches her perfectly. Watch for the way we follow Zula through a bar as she dances and dazzles thanks to the swift movement of the camera. Watch for the stunning use of light and shadow that makes this black and white film come alive. Cold War is a perfect example of how gorgeous cinematography can serve both style and substance. It envelops us completely, ensures we fall in love with these characters, and renders its world in gorgeous images that make this period piece feel both undeniably faithful to its historical moment and utterly timeless.
Roma, also a black and white foreign film, is shot and directed by Alfonso Cuaron and features cinematography that is more conspicuous — some might even say ostentatious — when compared to Cold War or any of the other nominees. It’s impossible to ignore that this is certainly a good looking film; every shot appears to have been meticulously arranged to capture Cuaron’s vision of 1970s Mexico City. Roma is filled to the brim with beautiful image after beautiful image and it would be a huge surprise if the majority of Academy voters weren’t captivated by the film’s cinematography and eager to award Cuaron’s work.
What should win: Cold War
What will win: Roma
Best Documentary Feature
Christopher Campbell: This year’s bunch of feature documentary contenders is one of the best in a long time. There isn’t a bad film in the group, even if RBG is easily a minor work compared to the rest with regards to its craft. We’ve got an obligatory doc focused on the Middle East, complete with a director denied entry to the US to celebrate at the Oscars ceremony: Of Fathers and Sons. There’s a nontraditional artistic film that’s pretty much a compilation of many perfect shots: Hale County This Morning, This Evening. There’s a feat of skill on both the side of the subject and the side of the filmmakers: Free Solo. RBG is the token feel-good biographical work (somehow in place of the much better Won’t You Be My Neighbor?). And then there’s Minding the Gap.
Bing Liu’s Minding the Gap is a unique work that balances the personal and the objective for a study of abuse and the different ways three friends grew up and dealt with it. This is at once a thrilling coming-of-age story, then a chillingly emotional portrait of both childhood and adulthood. The accessibility of its skate doc facade pulls the audience into a complex work that’s part subjective therapy session and part empathetic character piece. It’s really (arguably), the best nominee of the entire 2019 awards.
It’s the one I see the most people — most importantly, Hollywood people — talking about. It’s the one that won the 2018 Nonfics poll, which traditionally predicts the Academy’s choice in even years. On a rare occasion, Minding the Gap is both the best choice and the populist choice, and it’s all but a sure thing for the Oscar. So long as RBG doesn’t just win because people in Hollywood love Ruth Bader Ginsburg and tend to look at the subject rather than the film itself when it comes to docs.
What should win: Minding the Gap
What will win: Minding the Gap
Best Animated Short
Christopher Campbell: No matter what wins this award, Disney and Pixar still get to celebrate. They have their own token contender, with Pixar’s Bao, but then they also are a heavy influence on One Small Step, which is made by former employees of Walt Disney Animation Studios, and also Weekends was made independently but with Pixar equipment by a Pixar animator thanks to Pixar’s special program for such out-of-house projects. Then there’s Cartoon Saloon’s first nomination in the animated short category, with Late Afternoon, and the National Film Board of Canada’s 75th nominee, Animal Behaviour, which is directed by a couple who’ve won before, decades ago.
As I note in my ranking of these films, I love Weekends and think it’s one of the best, if not the best, representations of life as a child of divorce, forced back and forth through joint custody. Middle-class life, that is, I suppose. It’s got the realistic details and the imagination-fueled feeling of that somewhat nomadic experience. But Bao, the animation style of which personally rubbed me the wrong way when I first saw it (and the story of which made my daughter scream at the end), has a lot of goodwill in its favor. The film has received a lot of praise for its representation of a Chinese-Canadian household, particularly its matriarch, and their culinary culture. Pixar can’t win every year, and surprisingly they haven’t won that much despite all their nominations, but this should be one of their times. Of course, I also thought Pixar would win last year. If it’s not Bao, I think the just fine Late Afternoon could be a safe pick.
What should win: Weekends
What will win: Bao
Best Documentary Short
Christopher Campbell: For once, the documentary short category is not the most harrowing lot of nominees at the Oscars (see the live-action shorts). Still, it is full of devastating subject matter. You’ve got another doc (like 4.1 Miles two years ago) spotlighting the refugee crisis, with specific attention on the dangerous migration across the Mediterranean and the heroes helping to rescue thousands of men, women, and children: Lifeboat. There’s another doc (like Extremis two years ago) depicting end-of-life care and the heroic doctors trying to eliminate the stigmatic perception of death: End Game. There’s a very brief archival doc showing a Nazi rally held 80 years ago in New York City: A Night at the Garden. And there’s the toss up between my two best-ranked picks: Black Sheep and Period. End of Sentence.
Black Sheep is a disturbing but complicated story, told through a monologue with well-produced dramatizations for illustration, about a young black boy in England and how he dealt with the racists in his new suburban neighborhood. It’s a film that definitely stands out, one I haven’t been able to stop thinking about, but its style is not what the Academy voters are into. Some don’t even consider it an actual documentary. Period. End of Sentence, which looks at the introduction of sanitary pads to an Indian region where menstruation has historically been a taboo topic, is more the kind of doc that wins here, covering an issue in a hopeful way and spotlighting empowered women making a change. Maybe voters will want Marshall Curry to finally win on his third try, which could make A Night at the Garden a dark horse possibility, but I’m pretty sure that this is Netflix’s time to take the award again here, with Period, after losing last year.
What should win: Black Sheep
What will win: Period. End of Sentence
Best Live-Action Short
Christopher Campbell: This year’s live-action short nominees are a problematic group — or at least a very disturbing one. You’ve got four films (Detainment, Fauve, Mother, Skin) in which a young boy is harmed or killed for various reason and effect. Then you’ve got a fifth film (Marguerite) that is misguided in its well-intended portrayal of same-sex love lost. For my favorite, I’ve gone with one of the four that was difficult to watch as a father, but Fauve is at least the most interesting cinematic work, kind of like a mix of Korine and Antonioni.
My prediction, though, is that the Academy chooses the worst one, again. This time, that’s Skin, a very misguided look at a racist family with the most outrageous short film punchline of all time. It’s not surprisingly a critical failure but is shockingly (or maybe not?) very popular with the short film program audience. There’s a good reason why this was one of the categories that was to be presented during a commercial break. When Skin wins, it’s likely to be an awkward moment. Perhaps Marguerite could sneak in as a second favorite audience choice. Still awkward but not quite as offensive.
What should win: Fauve
What will win: Skin
To read our breakdowns and analysis of every one of this year’s categories, follow the links below:
- Skip to The Final Ballot
- Best Picture and Best Director
- The Other Best Pictures
- The Acting Awards
- The Writing Awards
- The Sound and Song Awards
- The Technical Awards