“Extremis” is ahead to win the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Film on Sunday according to our official racetrack odds. But while most of our Top 24 Users (who did the best at predicting last year’s awards) and readers are predicting it will prevail, our Expert film journalists and the Gold Derby Editors who cover awards year-round are forecasting a victory for “Joe’s Violin.”
So which of these documentaries has the upper hand? Let’s take a closer look at all five of this year’s nominated shorts.
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“Extremis” (odds of winning: 13/8)
The agonizing thought process that goes into making end-of-life decisions are examined through the events that take place in the ICU of an Oakland, California hospital.
This is the second Oscar nomination for Dan Krauss. He was last nominated in 2005 for “The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club,” for which he also earned the Student Academy Award earlier that year.
Pros: The film shines a light on the painful deliberations that take place when someone is on end-of-life care. It’s also very emotional to see how people deal with similar problems in very different ways and you also feel for the doctors who are trying to help family members make the right choice.
Cons: The film does not have a very natural flow to it and feels like a lot is left unsaid about all the different circumstances that we are shown with the different patients.
Votes: 8 Experts, 2 Editors, 11 of the Top 24 Users and 58% of all Users.
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“Joe’s Violin” (odds of winning: 23/10)
A man who purchased a violin shortly after surviving a Siberian labor camp during World War II decides to donate it to an instrument drive. The violin ends up being given to a 12-year-old girl at a girl’s school in the Bronx and the two discuss the violin’s journey there and where it will go from here.
This is the first nomination for both Raphaela Neilhausen and Kahane Cooperman. Cooperman has won 11 Emmys as a producer of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” from 2003-2012 and once more in 2015.
Pros: This is by far the most positive and uplifting of the five nominees. Even though the subject didn’t survive the Holocaust, several of his relatives did and we know how much the Academy loves to reward Holocaust subject matter in the documentary categories.
Cons: Some might find the film to be very hammy and emotionally manipulative. The two central characters could have also been exposed to a bit more examination as well.
Votes: 10 Experts, 3 Editors, 8 of the Top 24 Users and 20% of all Users.
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“The White Helmets” (odds of winning: 3/1)
This short examines several men in Aleppo, Syria who volunteer with The White Helmets, an organization that goes into buildings that have been recently bombed and attempt to rescue any survivors that may be trapped in the rubble.
This marks the second Oscar nod for both Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara who were both nominated for Best Documentary Feature in 2014 for “Virunga.”
Pros: With the headlines that continue to unfold about the Syrian civil war, this movie feels very relevant. The main characters are established very well and there’s a very good balance in tone between the horrors of war and hope for the future. It can also renew one’s faith in mankind.
Cons: With another nominee this year that’s specifically about the Syrian conflict, the two could cancel each other out. Also, the second half of the documentary, which shows the subjects attending a training seminar in Turkey, could lead some to lose interest.
Votes: 7 Experts, 1 Editor, 4 of the Top 24 Users and 17% of all Users.
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“Watani: My Homeland” (odds of winning: 22/1)
After the father of a family in Aleppo is kidnapped by ISIS, the mother and her four children find themselves seeking to be taken as refugees by another country. They are relocated to the small town of Goslar in Germany and find themselves adjusting to their new living situation.
This is Marcel Mettelsiefen and Stephen Ellis’s first Oscar nomination.
Pros: The film is very relevant, especially with the recent policies put forward by President Donald Trump about dealing with refugees from Syria. The film also offers a great message of hope that can be hard to find in stories about the war-torn country.
Cons: To get to the feelings of hope, the viewer has to sit through a lot of heartbreak and that might be too much for some. Also, with “The White Helmets” dealing with the same subject, the votes for those two might just cancel themselves out.
Votes: 1 Expert and 3% of all Users.
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“4.1 Miles” (odds of winning: 28/1)
This short focuses on Kyriakos Papadopoulos, a captain in the Greek Coast Guard, who finds himself in the middle of the European migrant crisis of 2015. When thousands of migrants attempt to flee from the coast of Turkey through the Aegean Sea to Lesbos, Papadopoulos drives out to sea to try and save those who are making the harrowing journey.
This is the first Oscar nomination for Daphne Matziaraki.
Pros: This is another relevant documentary with a raw and gritty feel to it. It doesn’t clash with “White Helmets” or “Watani” because the nationality of the migrants is not discussed and stays as a broad subject.
Cons: The camera work can be very shaky and leave the viewer unsure as to what is actually happening. There’s also a sense that when everyone on the boat is trying to rescue people, it would be better for the camera-person to actually help out instead of just filming.
Votes: 1 Expert and 2% of all Users.
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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 2017 Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.