A Little Short – 95th Academy Awards Shortlists Announced!

Today’s the semi-big day! We’ve reached the last major milestone before the nominations for the 95th Academy Awards are revealed. With one month to go, the official shortlists have been released for 10 specialty categories. For all intents and purposes, the pre-Blitz has begun, and it’s time to plan viewing strategies for the next few weeks until the final field is announced.

Now, as ever, some categories, like the Shorts, are all but impossible to track down. There will be screenings in the Los Angeles area over the next month for Academy voters to view the shortlisted entries if they can, but for us plebeians, it’s a complete crap shoot. If we’re lucky, some will be available on YouTube or Vimeo, but for practical purposes, there’s not much that can be done before the final five nominees are announced and compiled into a single screener by ShortsTV for theatrical release in February.

As for the other seven, we get a decent idea of what films are on the Academy’s radar, at least those that impressed at the initial Bake-Off and internal competitions. Some of these titles will show up multiple times when the entire field is revealed in late January, while others will end their journeys right here, perhaps with a token nod along the way.

As always, I’ll link to relevant reviews for each film and provide whatever release information I’ve been able to find (except for the Shorts), so you can start ticking them off your own lists if you’re so inclined. I’ll also provide any instant reactions I have to these narrowed groups of candidates.

Here are the 10 shortlists:

Documentary Feature – 15 Films
All That Breathes – Limited Theatres
All the Beauty and Bloodshed – Limited Theatres
Bad Axe – VOD Rental
Children of the Mist – In Theatres 1/30
Descendant – Netflix
Fire of Love – Disney+
Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song – VOD Rental
Hidden Letters – TBD
A House Made of Splinters – TBD
The Janes – HBOMax
Last Flight Home – Paramount+
Moonage Daydream – VOD Rental
Navalny – HBOMax
Retrograde – Hulu
The Territory – Disney+

I mean, right off the bat, I’m confident in my ability to clear this shortlist for what I believe will be the fifth year in a row, and hopefully before the nominations come out. As of right now, there are only two that I don’t have access to, and I get the feeling they’ll be getting theatrical runs sooner rather than later. One other is slated for release after nominations come out, which is a risky move, and I won’t be surprised if it gets bumped up in a bid to improve its odds.

Documentary Short – 15 Films
American Justice on Trial: People v. Newton
Anastasia
Angola Do You Hear Us? Voices from a Plantation Prison
As Far as They Can Run
The Elephant Whisperers
The Flagmakers
Happiness Is £4 Million
Haulout
Holding Moses
How Do You Measure a Year?
The Martha Mitchell Effect
Nuisance Bear
Shut Up and Paint
Stranger at the Gate
38 at the Garden

Obviously, I haven’t seen any of these films, but as I do every year, I like to imagine what some of the films are about based on the creativity of the titles. How Do You Measure a Year? sounds like it has something to do with the musical, Rent, as it’s a lyric in the song, “Seasons of Love.” The Elephant Whisperers I hope is a look at the majesty of beautiful animals and a crusade against poachers. Nuisance Bear I can only imagine has to do with the worst unicycle-riding Russian, so… Vladimir Putin? Anyway, I’ll see what I can track down and hopefully I’ll get to see a few of these before the list is pared down, and I’ll be super excited to see what makes the final cut.

International Feature – 15 Films
Argentina, Argentina, 1985 – Amazon Prime
Austria, Corsage – In Theatres 12/30
Belgium, Close – Limited Theatres
Cambodia, Return to Seoul – Limited Theatres
Denmark, Holy Spider – Limited Theatres
France, Saint Omer – In Theatres 1/13
Germany, All Quiet on the Western Front – Netflix
India, Last Film Show – Limited Theatres
Ireland, The Quiet Girl – Limited Theatres
Mexico, Bardo, False Chronicle of a Hanful of Truths – Netflix
Morocco, The Blue Caftan – TBD
Pakistan, Joyland – TBD
Poland, EO – Limited Theatres
South Korea, Decision to Leave – Amazon Prime
Sweden, Cairo Conspiracy – TBD

I don’t think I did too bad for myself this year. I saw 14 foreign entries before the list came out, and of them, 10 made the list. I still have three to track down, but just like the documentaries, I’m fairly sure release dates will be announced in short order. I am a little bit surprised that Eternal Spring, which was trying to pull off the same feat as Flee did last year in getting nominations for Documentary, International, and Animated, is already out of the running in two of the three categories. I’m also a tad shocked that Last Film Show did make the cut, mostly because there is backlash about India submitting this and not RRR, which has been nominated for the Golden Globe. I wonder if this is in response to the HFPA trying to get one over on the Academy, or if it’s a side effect of the absolute deluge of films this Awards Season that pontificate about the power of movies, as it certainly fits that mold. Hopefully I can see the remaining five in quick succession to clear this field for the second time, and ideally for the first time before the nominations are revealed. Honestly, if the Academy ever wants to sell access to their online “Screening Room” for, say, $100, so we can watch the films in a non-voting capacity, I’d fork over the cash without hesitation.

Makeup and Hairstyling – 10 Films
All Quiet on the Western Front
Amsterdam – Hulu
Babylon – In Theatres 12/23
The Batman – VOD
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – In Theatres
Blonde – Netflix
Crimes of the Future – Hulu
Elvis – HBOMax
Emancipation – Limited Theatres/AppleTV
The Whale – In Theatres

You have to think that The Whale is the front-runner by a huge margin, given the prosthetics used on Brendan Fraser. Most of the other entries look like they’re just filling up slots, except for maybe Crimes of the Future. And the less we say about the blasphemous job they did on Tom Hanks in Elvis, the better.

Original Score – 15 Films
All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water – In Theatres
Babylon
The Banshees of Inisherin – In Theatres/HBOMax
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Devotion – In Theatres
Don’t Worry Darling – HBOMax
Everything Everywhere All at Once – VOD
The Fabelmans – In Theatres
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery – Netflix
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio – Netflix
Nope – Peacock
She Said – In Theatres
The Woman King – VOD
Women Talking – In Theatres 12/23

Not much to say about this group. I really can’t get into the scores until I just sit down and listen to them on Spotify. I do recall those from Everything Everywhere All at Once and Glass Onion, however as being particularly strong. I’m a little surprised that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross were left off this year, as their contributions to Bones and All and Empire of Light were major parts of the advertising for those films.

Original Song – 15 Songs/Films
“Time” from Amsterdam
“Nothing Is Lost (You Give Me Strength)” from Avatar: The Way of Water
“Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
“This Is A Life” from Everything Everywhere All at Once
“Ciao Papa” from Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
“Til You’re Home” from A Man Called Otto – In Theatres 12/30
“Naatu Naatu” from RRR – Netflix
“My Mind & Me” from Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me – AppleTV
“Good Afternoon” from Spirited – AppleTV
“Applause” from Tell It like a Woman – TBD
“Stand Up” from Till – VOD
“Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick – VOD
“Dust & Ash” from The Voice of Dust and Ash – TBD
“Carolina” from Where the Crawdads Sing – Netflix
“New Body Rhumba” from White Noise – Netflix 12/30

As always, I try to take songs within context of their respective films rather than just listening to the track. This is particularly true when it comes to pop singers and performers who get commissioned to write and record a song for the credits. Most of those that get nominated only end up that way so that the Academy can book big names for the ceremony. Hopefully this means that “Ciao Papa” and “Naatu Naatu” have the inside track. One is a sweet song from one of the best animated films of the year, and the other is perhaps the best overall scene of all 2022 cinema, a rousing, high energy song and dance number that utterly blew me away when I saw it on the big screen.

Animated Short – 15 Films
Black Slide
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
The Debutante
The Flying Sailor
The Garbage Man
Ice Merchants
It’s Nice in Here
More than I Want to Remember
My Year of Dicks
New Moon
An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It
Passenger
Save Ralph
Sierra
Steakhouse

I’ll be curious to see what makes the cut this year, but my heart is with My Year of Dicks. I got to see that when I covered the animation program for this year’s Brooklyn Film Festival. The film stood out above all the others and won the competition. I’ve been rooting for this insightful and creative exploration of puberty and repression with multiple art styles ever since, and I sincerely hope it gets nominated.

Live Action Short – 15 Films
All in Favor
Almost Home
An Irish Goodbye
Ivalu
Le Pupille
The Lone Wolf
Nakam
Night Ride
Plastic Killer
The Red Suitcase
The Right Words
Sideral
The Treatment
Tula
Warsha

Some of these titles have got me curious. Like, is Plastic Killer the proof of concept for M3GAN coming out next month? Is An Irish Goodbye a beer and a punch (I’m Irish, I can make that joke)? The short film categories are always my favorite, because even before you see them your imagination can soar!

Sound – 10 Films
All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
Babylon
The Batman
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Elvis
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Moonage Daydream
Top Gun: Maverick

I really love the inclusion of Moonage Daydream in this list, as documentaries rarely get a spotlight here. But what Brett Morgan did in using studio recordings, concerts, archive footage, interviews, and all sorts of other media definitely contributed to the stream of consciousness motif that he created for his film, once again making David Bowie larger than life. My guess is that it ultimately won’t get nominated, but I’d be thrilled if it did.

Visual Effects – 10 Films
All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Batman
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – Disney+
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore – VOD
Jurassic World Dominion – Peacock
Nope
Thirteen Lives – Amazon Prime
Top Gun: Maverick

I honestly don’t even know why we’re bothering with this one. We know Avatar is going to win. Out of all the films listed here, where it’s becoming more and more clear that all the voters care about is CGI, the obvious winner will be the one that made the entire movie out of CGI but at least had mo-cap actors and the occasional on-screen human so that it’s not fully animated. It’s sad, because there were some astounding practical effects in Nope, Top Gun, and The Batman to go with the CGI, and all of them will be ignored. Kudos to Thirteen Lives for getting this far. It’s the only one of the group I haven’t seen, but I have to imagine Ron Howard pooping directly onto the lens would be a better “visual” than any of the bullshit in Jurassic World.

***

And there you have it! Out of the 23 categories – ALL of which will be presented live next year – 10 of them have been officially narrowed down. What are your favorites? Who do you think is a dark horse? Do you have any information on the entries that I haven’t been able to pin down yet? It’s that time of year to start getting psyched, and not just because it’s Christmas on Sunday! Blitz Mode is on the horizon!

Join the conversation in the comments below! How many of these semifinalists have you seen? Are there any short films that have gotten your attention? Is the Academy going to fall over itself to give Taylor Swift an Oscar after they did the same thing last year for Billie Eilish? Let me know!

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