Best Original Song – A Star is Born
Shallow is the song that's been on every playlist and has been featured at every karaoke session since that first trailer for A Star Is Born dropped. In a film full of strong musical numbers, it's Shallow that sticks in people's minds, and for good reason. Even with competition as good as Diane Warren and Kendrick Lamar, this feels like Lady Gaga's prize for the taking.
Best Sound Editing – A Quiet Place
Sound awards are hard to predict in general terms because a lot of people don't entirely know what the job involves. Sound editing is the creation of sound effects to fill in the gaps that the shooting process may have missed. A lot of these elements are typically missed by general viewers, but this year, one of the nominees is a film where sound is the element you're forced to pay attention to. A Quiet Place lives and dies on its sound editing, making every breath or creak of a floorboard a heart-pounding experience. Without that, the film simply wouldn't work, and that will be noticed by Academy voters.
Best Sound Mixing – Roma
The Oscar for sound mixing celebrates the work of production sound mixing and re-recording. It's the process of combining various channels of sound to create a full rich aural experience. Plenty of films did a great job on that front this year, from A Star is Born’s overwhelming concert scenes to the hustle and bustle of Wakanda in Black Panther. However, the soundscape of Roma is a cinematic experience unto itself, one that helps to create a richly textured film in every capacity. It’s also helped by its momentum in other categories, as films winning lots of awards in certain categories are more likely to see that success spill over into other areas.
Best Live Action Short Film – Detainment
Vincent Lambe's short film Detainment comes into the category with the most buzz but not all of it is good. The story of two young boys detained for the kidnapping and murder of a toddler is inspired by the true story of the murder of James Bulger, and Bulger's mother has already decried the film as exploitative and inappropriate. Lambe has apologized to Bulger's mother for any offense caused. Whether this will impact the film's Oscar chances remains to be seen but the short has many fans in its corner who find its tackling of a shocking true event to be fair, empathetic yet still unflinching.
Best Animated Short Film – Bao
Name recognition doesn’t always help in a category like this, where winners often seem like they’re chosen at random, but never under-estimate the clout of Pixar. Bao, directed by Domee Shi (the first woman to direct a short film for Pixar), is an emotional short about family estrangement and the Asian-immigrant experience that manages to be incredibly moving, very cute and surprisingly horrifying.
Best Documentary – Short Subject – End Game
Netflix has cornered a neat little market for themselves with not only documentary films and series but shorts, a field of cinema that is oft-overlooked by studios and distributors alike. They won this award two years ago with The White Helmets. Having their nominee readily available to watch at home is a major benefit most of the nominated films don’t have. Their contender this year is End Game, which tells an intimate story about terminally ill patients seeking a better way to live out the rest of their days. The short is directed by legendary documentarians Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, who have won two Oscars with their work, The Times of Harvey Milk and Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt.