Oscar Shortlist Gives Boost to Group of Awards Season Contenders

The Oscar shortlists were announced Dec. 21, and for some, it was an early holiday gift, as well as marking the ramp-up of awards season as showbiz starts to hone campaigns and voters start to really survey the contours of the myriad kudos on offer.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Some 138 films were eligible for this category, with 15 making the cut, voted on by the Academy’s documentary branch, which will then determine the final nominees. Of the 15, some films were expected, such as front-runner Denmark’s “Flee,” which also made the international film shortlist (and has a good shot at an animated feature nomination). Music docs pepper the list, such as the Cannes-bowing “The Velvet Underground,” from Todd Haynes (Oscar-nommed for original screenplay for “Far From Heaven”). It explores the influential rock band and the New York City art scene that nurtured its songs. Also going into the final stretch as a frontrunner is Questlove’s Sundance hit “Summer of Soul (… Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised),” which has already scooped up tons of kudos, including Critics Choice and an AFI Award. Billie Eilish nabbed two slots on the shortlist: for doc “Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry” and her song from “No Time to Die.” Films on the list that also have traction in awards season include “The Rescue,” from Oscar-winners Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and 2019 Oscar nominees Julie Cohen and Betsy West, for “Julia.”

DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

Documentary branch members vote to determine the nominees.

“Águilas”
“Audible”
“A Broken House”
“Camp Confidential: America’s Secret Nazis”
“Coded: The Hidden Love of J. C. Leyendecker”
“Day of Rage”
“The Facility”
“Lead Me Home”
“Lynching Postcards: Token of a Great Day”
“The Queen of Basketball”
“Sophie & the Baron”
“Takeover”
“Terror Contagion”
“Three Songs for Benazir”
“When We Were Bullies”

INTERNATIONAL FEATURES

Films from 92 countries were eligible, and Academy members from all branches who met a minimum viewing requirement participated in the preliminary round of voting; in order to vote for the final nominations, Academy members from all branches can opt-in and must watch all 15 shortlisted films. There’s a lot of festival favorites and films that have already scooped up kudos from all over the world, including Japan’s rave-earning “Drive My Car” from Ryûsuke Hamaguchi; Oscar winner Paolo Sorrentino is back in the mix with “The Hand of God” from Italy; Denmark’s “Flee” from Jonas Poher Rasmussen; Oscar fixture Asghar Farhadi with Iran’s “A Hero”; rookie helmer Blert Basholli’s inspiring “Hive” from Kosovo; Tatiana Huezo’s powerful “Prayers for the Stolen” from Mexico; Joachim Trier’s awards magnet from Norway, “The Worst Person in the World.” It’s a deep bench of players, with some curves, such as Iceland’s superb genre entry “Lamb” and Bhutan, with “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom.” (This is the second film that Bhutan has entered in the race, the first one being 1999’s “The Cup.” It is also the second time that “Lunana” has been entered, it was withdrawn last year.)

MAKEUP AND HAIR STYLING

All members of the Academy’s makeup artists and hairstylists branch will be invited to watch short excerpts and interviews with the artists from each of the shortlisted films on Jan. 30; branch members will vote on the five to advance as nominees. “Coming 2 America” wasn’t such a surprise to those who were paying attention as the team had to create highly polished looks fit for kings and queens in the fictional kingdom of Zamunda, plus adhere to well-established characters from the 1998 blockbuster. Other high-profile contenders include “Cruella” with its 1970s London punk looks; “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” which transformed Jessica Chastain into now-iconic Tammy Faye Bakker; “The House of Gucci,” with another transformation, this time, Jared Leto into a middle-age frump; and “The Suicide Squad,” which had a large cast of characters, each with a well-known look.

ORIGINAL SCORE

Members of the music branch vote on what’s getting on the shortlist and the nominees — 136 scores were eligible. There are two possibilities for double nominations in the original score category. Oscar winner Hans Zimmer (“The Lion King”) nabbed two of the 15 spots with “Dune” and “No Time to Die” while Jonny Greenwood was shortlisted for “The Power of the Dog” and “Spencer.” Germaine Franco, who became the first Latina to join the music branch in 2019, is the lone woman represented among the shortlisted for the animated musical “Encanto.” Fresh off her Golden Globe nom, she could become one of the favorites if the film continues to gain traction in other races including animated feature and original song. One surprise inclusion is the horror film “Candyman” by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, who is one of three Black composers to make the shortlist, including Kris Bowers for “King Richard” and Jeymes Samuel for “The Harder They Fall.”

ORIGINAL SONG

We’re one step closer to seeing history being made with husband and wife Jay-Z and Beyoncé both making it for their two numbers on “The Harder They Fall” and “King Richard,” respectively, If both are nominated, it will be the first time in Oscar history that a husband and wife compete against one another in the same category. Last year’s surprise winner H.E.R. is back with the track from Halle Berry’s directorial debut, “Bruised,” while Sparks and Van Morrison are eyeing the older demographic of the Academy with the songs from “Annette” and “Belfast,” respectively.

SOUND

This is the first year that the Academy has presented a shortlist for sound, just two years after merging the awards for sound mixing and sound editing. It was a massive year for musicals, and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Tick, Tick … Boom!” and Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” will represent the genre. Both stand an excellent chance to make the final cut.

VISUAL EFFECTS

Marvel Studios owns this category, with “Black Widow,” “Eternals,” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” all making the cut. Taking cues from “Kong: Skull Island” that was nominated here, Warner Bros.’ “Godzilla vs. Kong” muscled its way in, alongside the sequel “The Matrix: Resurrections” and the category front-runner “Dune.” Kudos to the Academy for not forgetting “Free Guy.” All members of the visual effects branch will be invited to view 10-minute excerpts and interviews with the artists from each of the shortlisted films on Jan. 29, then branch members will vote to nominate five films.

ANIMATED SHORT FILM

Members of the short films and feature animation branch vote to determine the nominees.

“Affairs of the Art”
“Angakusajaujuq:
The Shaman’s Apprentice”
“Bad Seeds”
“Bestia”
“Boxballet”
“Flowing Home”
“Mum Is Pouring Rain”
“The Musician”
“Namoo”
“Only a Child”
“Robin Robin”
“Souvenir Souvenir”
“Step into the River”
“Us Again”
“The Windshield Wiper”

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

Members of the shorts and feature animation, directors, producers and writers branches vote to for the shortlist — out of 145 eligible films — and the nominees.

“Ala Kachuu — Take and Run”
“Censor of Dreams”
“The Criminals”
“Distances”
“The Dress”
“Frimas”
“Les Grandes Claques”
“The Long Goodbye”
“On My Mind”
“Please Hold”
“Stenofonen”
“Tala’vision”
“Under the Heavens”
“When the Sun Sets”
“You’re Dead Helen”

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