Win Your Oscar Pool: A review & guide to all 15 Oscar-nominated shorts

The Gold Knight is here to help you win your Oscar pool and get you in the know of the three Oscar-nominated Shorts categories. Here is a guide to each categories and a review of all 15 nominated shorts.

There are a three categories on the Oscars ballot that may elude many Oscar fans at home. Get them wrong and you could lose your Oscar pool.

Those are the three Short Film categories: Documentary, Animated and Live-Action. These can be the toughest to predict.

However, The Gold Knight is here to help you win your Oscar pool and get you in the know of the three Oscar-nominated Shorts categories so you can make informed choices on your ballot. Here is a guide to each category and a review of all 15 nominated shorts.

First off, what is a short? Rules for the Academy Awards define a short film as "an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits." Previews and advertisement are excluded, as well as sequences from feature-length films and unaired TV episodes.

Documentary: This nonfiction shorts deals creatively with cultural, artistic, historical, social, scientific, economic or other subjects, according to the rules. "It may be photographed in actual occurrence, or may employ partial reenactment, stock footage, stills, animation, stop-motion or other techniques, as long as the emphasis is on fact and not on fiction."

Animated: To be considered in this category, a short must be created by using a frame-by-frame technique, which usually falls into one of the two general fields of animation: character or abstract. Techniques include cel animation, computer animation, stop-motion and clay animation. (Documentary Shorts that are animated — there is one this year — may be submitted in either this category or the Documentary Short category, but not both.)

Live Action: This short uses live-action techniques as the basic medium of entertainment. (Documentary Shorts are not be accepted in this category.)

With definitions in mind, let's take a look at the three categories and the nominees within each.

A still from "Chau, Beyond the Lines"
Documentary Shorts
All five of these shorts deal with some of the most difficult topics we face as a society: disease, murder, war and capital punishment. Each put a face and a price on these topics, showing the consequences and nuance of each.

"Body Team 12"
This 13-minute film is the shortest short in the category, yet it still packs an emotional punch as the only woman on the team of 12 describes the struggle as her team removes the bodies of the dead affected by Ebola. As a mother herself, she empathizes with one mother who lost her son and wants him to have a proper burial. She has lost friends because they don't want to catch the disease. She just want her country, Liberia, back and healthy. This short put a human face on the Ebola outbreak.

"Chau, Beyond the Lines"
The spirit of young Chau is incredible despite his debilitating reality. He is one of millions in Vietnam living with birth defects due to Agent Orange. He lives at a care center for children with the birth defect. While he has an incredible spirit and enthusiasm, he struggles with the difficulties of realizing his dream. He wants to become an artist and clothing designer, despite being told by nurses at the center that his dreams are unrealistic. This movie will lift your spirit, while also breaking your heart.

"Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah"
Many of the people seeing this short will not have heard of French journalist turned filmmaker and philosopher Claude Lanzmann, nor his 10-hour Holocaust documentary masterpiece "Shoah" — including this reviewer. But what the audience finds and learns about is a man dedicated to telling a story that took 12 years and nearly cost him his life. He speaks with conviction and an air of French philosophy that he did not make the film, the film made him. It is a must-see interview that shares never-before-seen footage, and similar to the other films in this category, talks about the dark side of humanity.

"A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness"
The second part of the title says it all. This short depicts a culture that to our minds, is backwards. Honor is of important cultural significance for the neighborhood depicted in Punjab, Pakistan. It is a culture where woman are second-class citizens or not even that, according to narration in the short. Saba Qaiser, the young woman of 19 depicted in the film, has paid a heavy price for love. She wants to choose who to marry, not her parents. She was a target of violence by her father and uncle for damaging their honor. But she survived; however, forgiveness is the heavy price she pays for peace among the families and neighbors. "The world should see this so it never happens again," she says.

"Last Day of Freedom"
While I thought this atypically animated documentary would be distracting, the animation only adds to the short's emotional impact and makes this the standout of the field. A soldier who has served his country is not served well in return. A brother who is looking out for his brother and trying to do the right thing, is devastated and questioning if he indeed did do the right thing. The lapses in the criminal justice for his brother are devastating for the audience. This powerful movie with incredible narration is a must-see so this can never happen again.

Collectively, the five Documentary Shorts have a longer running time than last year's, but none seem burdensome and too long, just right. It is a great collection of storytelling. They also call to mind how terrible humans are to one another, but also show hope in telling these stories so they may not happen again.

WHAT WILL WIN*: "Chau, Beyond the Lines"
THE SPOILERS: "Last Day of Freedom" and "Claud Lanzmann…"

Animated Shorts
While Animated films typically deal with lighter topics, it can be quite incredible how filmmakers create highly compelling and emotional pieces with animation.

"Bear Story"
With impeccable animation, this short about a father bear going about his life without his family is touching and heartbreaking. It really speaks to what the genre can do, something Pixar knows all too well.

This short is baffling and incredibly violent. Reminiscent of the gratuitous violence and gore of Oscar front runner "The Revenant," this short is beautifully animated but loses this viewer because of something so graphic and unnecessary. Not for the squeamish. It may leave an impact on viewers but it also can leave audiences with nothing good to say about humanity.

"Sanjay's Super Team"
A diverse short with teachable moments, this entry from Disney-Pixar has heart and style. Sanjay's superhero is placed in the context of his father's religion to didactic results. This one could easily walk away with the statuette.

"We Can't Live Without Cosmos"
A touching story of best friends training to be Russian cosmonauts. The story is beautiful but the animation may not be showy enough to really stand out against the field.

"World of Tomorrow"
Presented as a bizarrely animated short, this look at the future may be a little too much for some and feels sterile when compared to the others. It's entertaining and abstract. It's interesting to note that this short won the Annie Award for Animated Short, but it may be too abstract to win.

WHAT WILL WIN*: "Bear Story"
THE SPOILERS: "Sanjay's Super Team" or "World of Tomorrow"

Live-Action Shorts
This category always features a few oddballs. Predicting which one will win can be tricky, especially if you only read the descriptions.

"Ave Maria"
This short is fun, irreverent and the perfect length at 15 minutes. A group of five nuns living in silence in the West Bank in Palestine is disturbed by a boisterous Israeli family trying to get home before the Sabbath when their car breaks down. This is where the fun ensues, but the short doesn't quite live up to its intriguing premise.

"Day One"
Not quite a documentary, this short is inspired by a true story and features a new translator on her first day as part of a U.S. Army unit. The hunt for a local terrorist turns into a universal story of love and family. This short, however, becomes too graphic at times. It is worth noting that this film already won an Oscar — a gold prize at the Student Academy Awards last summer, making it eligible for Oscars contention.

"Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)"
A short about a divorced father spending time with his 8-year-old daughter quickly turns into something else as the plot unfolds. As the daughter learns her father's plans, the story gets intense and quickly speaks of a desperate father looking to keep his family together. This film, similar to European shorts we've seen in the past, has impact and drive, but this one lacks the resonance to stay with you. (This short also won at the Student Academy Awards last summer.)

"Shok (Friend)"
One of the most powerful of films in this category, this short features a man who looks back on his childhood and a friendship during the Kosovo War that has stayed with him his entire life. It's worth watching the journey.

Easily the best and most heartwarming film of the group, "Shutterer" is a 12-minute, modern day love story of an awkward young man who lives with his father and fears the world because of his speech impediment. The Internet helps him gain confidence and find his voice, but it is meeting for the first time in public where he find the challenge. This short may be the best of the entire lineup. It exemplifies how good the genre can be and why it is important to keep the categories around.

WHAT WILL WIN*: "Stutterer" (This is a personal preference and the Academy may want to go with heavier subject matter.)
THE SPOILERS: "Shok" and "Everything Will Be Okay"

And with that, there is your guide to the Shorts categories. Let us know by commenting on this story and on social media if you've seen the films and if you think others will win.

*Just a note of caution: Predicting these categories is a tough task because the 6,000-plus voting members of the Academy can be difficult to figure out, but well-made, emotional movies with a message and hope tend to do well in these categories.

Learn more about watching all of the shorts yourself here.

The 88th Academy Awards, for outstanding film achievements of 2015, will be presented on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center, and will be televised live on ABC and in more than 225 countries worldwide.




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The Gold Knight - Latest Academy Awards news and insight: Win Your Oscar Pool: A review & guide to all 15 Oscar-nominated shorts
Win Your Oscar Pool: A review & guide to all 15 Oscar-nominated shorts
The Gold Knight is here to help you win your Oscar pool and get you in the know of the three Oscar-nominated Shorts categories. Here is a guide to each categories and a review of all 15 nominated shorts.
The Gold Knight - Latest Academy Awards news and insight
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