Foreign language film
The nominees are • "Land of Mine" (Denmark), "A Man Called Ove" (Sweden), "The Salesman" (Iran), "Tanna" (Australia), "Toni Erdmann" (Germany).
What will win • The uproar over Donald Trump's travel ban, and how it will keep Iranian director Asghar Farhadi from attending the Oscars, has turned "The Salesman" into a cause celebre and the favorite to win.
What should win • It's a shame that the "protest vote" sentiment with "The Salesman" will outweigh the movie's real artistry. That said, my vote tips slightly toward the wildly unpredictable and winning comedy of "Toni Erdmann." (Both movies are now playing at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)
Animated feature film
The nominees are • "Kubo and the Two Strings," "Moana," "My Life as a Zucchini," "The Red Turtle," "Zootopia."
What will win • "Zootopia," with its timely message of inclusiveness, will win here.
What should win • The mythic beauty and technical brilliance of the stop-motion "Kubo and the Two Strings." (By the way, "The Red Turtle" opens this Friday at the Broadway; "My Life as a Zucchini," which played at Sundance, will arrive at the Broadway on March 17.)
The nominees are • "Fire at Sea," "I Am Not Your Negro," "Life, Animated," "O.J.: Made in America," "13th."
What will win • "O.J.: Made in America," Ezra Edelman's 7-1/2-hour dissection of the O.J. Simpson murder case and what it says about race relations and celebrity culture, is running away from the competition like a Ford Bronco on an L.A. freeway. (ESPN has it available, free, on its on-demand service, and other streaming services are also offering it.)
What should win • A hard choice, especially with three compelling docs about racial tensions in America. My pick would be Ava DuVernay's "13th," which raises uncomfortable issues about prisons, politics and profits. ("13th" can be seen on Netflix.)
Documentary short subject
The nominees are • "Extremis," "4.1 Miles," "Joe's Violin," "Watani: My Homeland," "The White Helmets."
What will win • The cynical impulse is to predict the most sentimental film, "Joe's Violin," about a Holocaust survivor who donates his violin to a school in the Bronx. But it's a wide-open category, and the timeliness of "The White Helmets," which follows members of the Syria Civil Defense as they rescue people from the rubble of that country's civil war, may put it on top.
What should win • Three of the five deal with the Syrian war and its subsequent refugee crisis. The most compelling is "Watani: My Homeland," which traces the journey of a Syrian resistance fighter's family from their bombed-out home to a new life in Germany.
Animated short film
The nominees are • "Blind Vaysha," "Borrowed Time," "Pear Cider and Cigarettes," "Pearl," "Piper."
What will win • Pixar's beachside fable "Piper," which is both technically adept (particularly in the feathers and water effects) and cute as a button.
What should win • "Piper" is the total package, a good story that's beautifully visualized.
Live action short film
The nominees are • "Ennemis Intérieurs," "La Femme et le TGV," "Silent Nights," "Sing," "Timecode."
What will win • The timely "Ennemis Intérieurs," a chilling two-hander about an Algerian native seeking French citizenship and facing an intrusive interrogation from a French cop, is the favorite to win.
What should win • "Timecode," a beautiful and simple story from Spain, about two parking-garage security officers finding a connection on the split shift.
For more information about the short-film nominees, read my reviews of the animated and live-action shorts, and of the documentary shorts slate. (All of them are playing at the Tower Theatre.)