Though it looks like the widely acclaimed ESPN Films epic “O.J.: Made in America” is a lock in the Oscar race for Best Documentary Feature with leading 2/9 odds, any long-time follower of the Academy Awards knows that upsets can and do happen in this category. That’s why the other two nominees about race in America, “13th” and “I Am Not Your Negro,” as well as the Italian-language “Fire at Sea,” and the heartwarming “Life Animated” still deserve your consideration when making your final Oscar predictions.
Below we break down the odds and accolades for each of the five nominees to help you finalize your own predictions in a field that could feature one of the year’s biggest upsets.
“O.J.: Made in America” – 2/9 odds
This exploration of race and celebrity in America told through the life, career and court battles of O.J. Simpson is the winningest nominee in the field. It’s already taken home equivalent prizes with the International Documentary Association (IDA), National Board of Review, Critics’ Choice and PGA. It also won the ACE Eddie Award for Best Edited Documentary Feature, the winner of which has taken home the Oscar in 7 of the last 10 years.
“13th” – 15/2 odds
Ava DuVernay’s film turns a sharp eye toward the Thirteenth Amendment, specifically the “punishment for a crime” clause, and its connection to the problem of mass incarceration and institutionalized racism in the United States. DuVernay’s work last made the Oscar cut when her 2014 film “Selma” was nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Picture and Best Original Song, winning the latter. “13th” has won its own share of awards so far this season, including the BAFTA and Critics’ Choice, though in the TV/Streaming category with the latter.
“I Am Not Your Negro” – 28/1 odds
Winner of the People’s Choice Award for documentaries at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, Raoul Peck’s film explores the history of race relations in the U.S. based on author James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript “Remember This House,” including his takes on the lives and work of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Though it failed to win any, the film picked up key bids with precursor groups Cinema Eye Honors, IDA and the Independent Spirit Awards.
“Fire at Sea” – 66/1 odds
Chosen by Italy as its submission in the Foreign Language Film Race, “Fire at Sea” juxtaposes the ordinary life of the inhabitants of the Sicilian island of Lampedusa with the refugees escaping to the island from across the Mediterranean Sea. As chair of the Berlin International Film Festival jury that awarded the film its top prize, the Golden Bear, Meryl Streep called the film “a daring hybrid of captured footage and deliberate storytelling that allows us to consider what documentary can do. It is urgent, imaginative and necessary filmmaking.” It, too, earned key nominations with Cinema Eye Honors, Critics’ Choice and IDA.
“Life, Animated” – 80/1 odds
Winner of the 2016 Sundance Directing Award: Documentary, “Life, Animated” is the story of an autistic boy and his family who used Disney animated films as a way of learning to express himself. Director Roger Ross Williams is an Oscar winner already, having won Best Documentary Short in 2010 for his film “Music by Prudence.” “Life, Animated” reaped significant nominations with Critics’ Choice, DGA and PGA and was listed by the National Board of Review in its Top Five Best Documentaries.
Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films are faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before winners are announced on February 26 at 5:00 pm PT/8:00 pm ET. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.