2016 Oscars Preview: Documentary Feature/Animated Feature

The Oscars are a week away!  All this week I am going to be breaking down 11 of the most major categories, starting here with Documentary Feature and Animated Feature and culminating Friday with Best Picture.

Best Documentary Feature:

Amy – A look at the meteoric rise and fall of Amy Winehouse, a woman with an immense voice and equally immense troubles with substance abuse.

Cartel Land – This documentary looks at the war on drugs and the border issue between the U.S. and Mexico of drugs passing through, with looks at efforts on both sides of the border to stem the tide.

The Look of Silence – A follow-up to 2013’s The Act of Killing by Joshua Oppenheimer, shining a light on the aftermath of the mass killings in Indonesia years ago through the prism of an eye doctor whose brother was executed.

What Happened, Miss Simone? – A look at the life of musician, civil rights activist Nina Simone and why she walked away from music at the height of her fame.

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom – This film documents the civil unrest in the Ukraine in 2013 and 2014, as protests turned to violent revolution calling for the ousting of the country’s president.

What should win: The Look of Silence.  I haven’t seen the Nina Simone doc or the Ukranian doc yet, though I may this week as both are Netflix documentaries.  But having seen the other three, I feel as strongly about The Look of Silence as I did about Oppenheimer’s The Act of KillingAmy and Cartel Land are both powerful in their own way, looking at individual tragedy and systemic problems, but Silence is about speaking truth to power and calling on a country to not gloss over its past and tries to shine a light on how no one is willing to take responsibility for an atrocity.

What will win: Amy.  The history of the Academy when it comes to the feature documentary category is notoriously dreadful (one of the greatest docs of all time, Hoop Dreams, lost to a documentary about a woman famous for making memorials).  The Academy loves docs that have a feel-good tone to them.  Short of that, as it seems they have this year, I think they’re likely to gravitate to the one that celebrates the life of an artist whose talent was snuffed out long before it should have been.

Best Animated Feature:

Anomalisa – Charlie Kaufman uses puppets and only three voice actors to bring to life he story of a man crippled by his mundane existence.

O Menino e o Mundo – aka, Boy & The World, this film from Brazil is about a boy who goes on an adventurous search for his father.

Inside Out – Pixar’s story of the interior life of a pre-teen girl who is controlled by her five basic emotions: Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness.

Shaun the Sheep Movie – A feature film based on the British stop-motion animated series has Shaun and company winding up in the Big City.

Omoide no Mani – aka, When Marnie Was There, this is a Japanese animated film about an emotionally distant teenage girl who strikes up a friendship with a girl who may or may not be real.

What should win: Inside Out.  This was a huge critical and financial hit for Pixar.  It packs a wallop of a message, about learning to live with sadness and embracing all of one’s emotions and the importance of shared memories and empathy.

What will win: Inside Out. Anomalisa seems to be the only other one that stands a chance, but even Charlie Kaufman’s name recognition isn’t enough to stand up to Pixar’s impressive movie.

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