HBO Documentary Films is looking to get back into the Oscar winner’s circle this year with “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1.” It is currently favored with 3/10 odds to win Sunday as Best Documentary Short.
The company has had a role in several of this category’s past winners as either a production company or distributor including “One Survivor Remembers” (1995), “King Gimp” (1999), and “Smile Pinki” (2008). The fact that HBO Docs is also headed up by Sheila Nevins doesn’t hurt either since she has won 27 individual Emmys, the most of any person in awards history.
Can “Crisis Hotline” lead HBO back to Oscar glory? Below, let’s take a closer look at each of the films nominated for Best Documentary Short Subject, all of which have earned their filmmakers their first Oscar nominations:
The film looks inside the workings of a veteran’s crisis center as the workers there talk to veterans who are contemplating suicide and try to talk them down from making a potentially devastating choice. The film by Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry is the clear frontrunner here with 3/10 odds of winning.
Pros: It’s hard to not to be incredibly moved by this film and for the people in the call center who are doing everything they can to help these callers. It also is the only one of the nominees in this category that has a feeling of importance to it, especially given last year’s horrible stories about the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
Cons: It’s understandable that the film doesn’t follow up with the vets whose calls are featured in the film, but there is a feeling of dread in knowing that the vets will have to deal with the nightmare that is the V.A.
The film shows a woman determined to enjoy her life as a wife and mother even as she is diagnosed with terminal cancer. This short by Aneta Kopacz is in second place with 5/1 odds of prevailing.
Pros: It’s the most bare of all the nominees in the sense that there’s no narrator, no person addressing the camera and nothing that guides the viewer except for what the people in it are saying.
Cons: The bareness could also hurt it in that the movie doesn’t feel like a documentary with how the people in it seem completely oblivious to the fact that they’re being filmed. There’s also a lack of resolution as the film shows the mother going through her struggle and then abruptly ends with a card saying she passed away in 2012.
A couple begins filming themselves in anticipation of their new son, Leo, arriving home from the hospital after he has been diagnosed with a rare breathing disorder that requires him to wear a ventilator when asleep. Tomasz Śliwiński, the father in the film, and Maciej Ślesicki are in third place with 25/1 odds.
Pros: Towards the end of the movie, the film captures several very joyful moments for the couple and the film has the most uplifting ending of all the nominees. It also fits in very well with the theme of overcoming personal obstacles that usually do well in this category, such as with “Smile Pinki” in 2008 and “Music by Prudence” in 2009.
Cons: To get to the joyful parts, you have to go through some very difficult to watch moments which include an uncomfortable scene of the parents changing Leo’s tracheotomy tubing and Śliwiński worrying that Leo will just commit suicide once he’s old enough to fully understand his illness.
Several children living in White Earth, North Dakota talk about their perspective on the oil rig jobs that have brought many people to the town and what that might mean for their future. J. Christian Jensen‘s film is in fourth place with 50/1 odds.
Pros: The film being a slice of modern Americana could go over well with the mostly American voting members of the Academy.
Cons: There seems to be a real lack of direction with where the film wants to go, which doesn’t usually go over well with Oscar voters.
“The Reaper (La Parka)”
This is the story of a man who has worked at a slaughterhouse in Mexico for the past 25 years as the executioner of cattle and his relationship with death. The short by Gabriel Serra Arguello is positioned at 100/1 odds of winning.
Pros: The film is very frank and does not look down on its subject. Also, in terms of what it shows in the slaughterhouse, there is nothing extremely graphic.
Cons: It’s a very depressing film with hardly anything emotionally uplifting to it, which Academy members will only go towards if the subject material is the Holocaust.
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