Oscarologist Tariq Khan (Fox News) is quite good at crystal-balling those obscure, below-the-line categories. In the cases of best animated and live-action shorts, for example, he got both predictions right last year: "La Petite Maison en Cubes" and "Spielzeugland." These races are particularly tough to forecast because you really need to see the shorts -- just like academy members, who may only cast ballots in these races if they attend screenings. Tariq has done so and he wrote up these thoughts for Gold Derby readers:
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM: "A Matter of Loaf and Death" blew the competition away. It's by far the longest (at 29 minutes) and was able to show the type of story arc and plot development normally showcased in feature films. Elements of romance, comedy, mystery and drama are all included, as well as the splendid animation by three-time Oscar winner Nick Park ("The Wrong Trousers," "A Close Shave," and "Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit"). Of the remaining nominees, "French Roast" and "The Lady and the Reaper" were both entertaining, but it seems impossible for either of them to prevail over "A Matter of Loaf and Death."
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM: This category is much harder to predict, with no clear-cut victor among the five. My first inclination was to go with "The Door," about a family dealing with the impact of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. However, I surveyed the people in my theater after the presentation and there wasn't a single vote for it. (Possibly because the film is so bleak, I suspect.) So I'm going with "Kavi," which could perhaps be described as a mini-"Slumdog Millionaire." It's about a young boy in India forced to work as a modern-day slave, instead of going to school. The acting is quite good and you feel the same kind of connection to the central character as you did to Jamal in "Slumdog." Throw in bonus points for addressing the plight of present-day slavery, and you might have an Oscar winner here. Two other contenders -- "Instead of Abracadabra" and "The New Tenants" – elicited laughs from my audience (and around the same amount of votes as "Kavi" in my survey) – but may not have enough substance to win over Academy votes, especially from the type of more serious members who will take the time to attend screenings and vote in this category.
Photos: "Kavi" (KaviTheMovie.com), "A Matter of Loaf and Death" (BBC)