Oscars 2020 slugfest: Will the winner of Best Documentary Short be hopeful or just depressing? [WATCH]

“It definitely seems to check all the boxes of what you would want,” Charlie Bright says about Best Documentary Short front-runner “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone” to me and our fellow Gold Derby contributor Kevin Jacobsen in a slugfest over the three Oscar races for short films (watch above). Bright continues about the film that follows schoolgirls in Afghanistan, “It definitely jumps out and it has that gravitas to it ⁠— and the girls in it are just very endearing; it’s hard not to be just rooting for them in life in general, considering the situation that they might be facing.” The optimism of the Lifetime-produced nominee contrasts it with bleak competitors like Field of Vision’s “In the Absence” and Netflix’s “Life Overtakes Me.”

With The New York Times’ “Walk Run Cha-Cha” being “definitely the least essential” option (albeit “very charming”), MTV’s “St. Louis Superman” is the only nominee other than “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone” that balances its message and tone; Gold Derby’s combined racetrack odds peg it as the challenger. “St. Louis Superman” further stands out with its narrative through-line of a single central character, as well as its “recognizable” subject matter that is decidedly topical and American.

“In the Absence” ranks fourth, but the three of us agree that it is the best of the bunch, so Jacobsen concludes, “That would be the alternative.” The film explores the sinking of a ferry that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of schoolchildren and the resignation of the South Korean president. “The films that make me the angriest because of the injustice portrayed — those are also usually not the ones that actually win,” I explain before qualifying, “I do want to look into if there is just consensus that everybody thinks it’s the best.”

Make your Oscar predictions so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until the ceremony on February 9. And join in the fun debate over the 92nd Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums.

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