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The Oscars Are About to Dump a Load of Short Lists on Us – Here’s What to Expect

It won’t exactly be on a par with Oscars nominations morning, but Monday will be one of the biggest December days in the history of the Academy Awards.

That’s because for the first time, the Academy isn’t systematically doling out the short lists of films that remain in contention. Instead, they’re dropping all the lists at once in a single press release that will trim the fields in Best Documentary Feature, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Original Song and six other categories.

One drop, nine categories, a total of 101 films that’ll get good news and far more that’ll be disappointed.

The strategy of dumping all the Oscars short lists at once has not been greeted with universal approval. For one thing, contenders in the different categories were used to having their individual moments in the spotlight. Music Branch voters, who are facing a pair of short lists for the first time, now have far less time to listen and decide than they used to. And pundits will need to whip up instant analysis in nine categories simultaneously.

Also Read: Oscars' Best Picture Category Needs Fixing - Here's an Easy Way to Do It

But that’s the new rule, and all the lists will be out on the afternoon of Monday, Dec. 17.

(By the way, we hear that the news will come out in the afternoon because the procrastinators on the Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee aren’t getting together until Monday morning to decide which three songs they’ll be adding to the six-film short list chosen by Oscars voters.)

Here’s the category-by-category breakdown of what will be coming on Monday.

Best Foreign Language Film
Number of films on the short list: 9

Three films seem guaranteed to land a spot: Mexico’s “Roma,” Poland’s “Cold War” and Lebanon’s “Capernaum.” Belgium’s “Girl” isn’t far behind, and voters reportedly adored Germany’s “Never Look Away.” Denmark’s “The Guilty” is a satisfying film that impressed voters, Sweden’s “Border” a twisted one that did the same.

The executive committee that adds three films to the shortlist may be hard-pressed not to take one or both of the two Asian standouts, South Korea’s “Burning” and Japan’s Palme d’Or winner “Shoplifters.” And watch out for the Paraguayan film, “The Heiresses,” which has strong support in both the general and executive committees.

Other possibilities include Iceland’s “Woman at War,” Norway’s “What Will People Say,” Colombia’s “Birds of Passage,” Hungary’s “Sunset” and Romania’s “I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians.”

Also Read: Oscars Foreign Language Race 2018: Complete List of Submissions

Best Documentary Feature
Number of films on the short list: 15

The four box-office hits that made this one of the best years ever for nonfiction filmmaking should all land on the list: “Free Solo,” “RBG,” “Three Identical Strangers” and the de facto frontrunner, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” (On the other hand, it’d be uncharacteristic of the Academy not to leave at least one of them off the final list of five nominees, and not entirely surprising if one of them doesn’t make the short list.)

Ever since the doc-branch rules were changed to do away with special screening committees in this category, voters have gravitated toward the films that have gotten the most buzz and received the most nominations for the IDA Awards, the Cinema Eye Honors and the like. That should mean that critical and awards favorites like “Minding the Gap,” “Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” “Crime + Punishment,” “Bisbee ’17,” “Dark Money,” “Of Fathers and Sons” and “Shirkers” will all be in contention. And watch out for the Spanish film “The Silence of Others,” a potential sleeper.

We also shouldn’t rule out documentary legend Frederick Wiseman for “Monrovia, Indiana,” or other well-received docs like “On Her Shoulders,” “The Bleeding Edge” and “United Skates.” On the showbiz doc front, movies like “Hal,” “Filmworker” and “Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache” have a shot, as does the released-at-last Aretha Franklin movie “Amazing Grace” and the Quincy Jones doc “Quincy,” whose subject has been highly visible on the campaign circuit lately. And I refuse to abandon hope that voters will recognize Eugene Jarecki’s sharp Elvis-and-America meditation “The King.”

Finally, Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9,” the followup to the top-grossing nonfiction film of all time, has been bypassed by nearly all the precursor awards and may well be left off of this one as well. But Moore could still find a way in — after all, he was the prime mover on the changes that led to the current method of picking the short list, and he’s still a strong voice in the doc world.

Also Read: 'Minding the Gap' Wins Top Honor at IDA Documentary Awards

Best Original Song
Number of songs on the short list: 15

The two music categories are introducing short lists for the first time ever, presumably in order to give all the members of the music branch to hear and consider the 15 semi-finalists before voting for nominations. But that means they have less time to consider all the contenders, which this year number more than 70 in the song category.

Yes, we know that “Shallow,” the one song entered from “A Star Is Born,” will make it. And probably at least one of the two songs entered from “Mary Poppins Returns.” The Music Branch’s taste for hip-hop might be tested by “All the Stars” from “Black Panther,” but why wouldn’t they want Kendrick Lamar at the Oscars?

They also have to consider songs from luminaries like Dolly Parton (“Girl in the Movies” from “Dumplin'”), Annie Lennox (“Requiem for a Private War” from “A Private War”), plus two competitive songs from movies about Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “I’ll Fight” from “RBG” (written by nine-time nominee Diane Warren) and “Here Comes the Change” from “On the Basis of Sex.” “Revelation” from “Boy Erased” has a real shot, as does “Gravity” from “Free Solo.” And if they want to get truly adventurous, how about the Coup’s “OYAHYTT” from “Sorry to Bother You,” or Thom Yorke’s “Suspirium” from “Suspiria”? (Would the Radiohead frontman show up at the Oscars?)

The branch is well known for taking care of its own, which can’t hurt past winner Carole Bayer Sager’s “Living in the Moment” from “Book Club.” They also tend to like songs that are performed onscreen — which, in addition to being one more reason “Shallow” will get in, could help the songs from “Hearts Beat Loud,” the quintessential but twisted Disney-princess anthem from “Ralph Breaks the Internet” or the fatalistic cowboy tune “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”

And then there are songs from Patti Smith and Robyn Hitchcock and Elton John and Arlissa and Quincy Jones and Post Malone and Kendra Smith and Aoife O’Donovan and Imagine Dragons and Sade and David Crosby … It’s a deep list, not a shallow one. (Sorry.)

Also Read: How Movie Songs By Kendrick Lamar, Kesha and Troye Sivan Hope to Last Beyond Their Films (Video)

Best Original Score
Number of films on the short list: 15

As usual, more than 100 scores are in contention, with early awards singling out a group that includes “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Isle of Dogs,” “Mary Poppins Returns,” “A Quiet Place,” “Mary Queen of Scots” and “Green Book.” Most and perhaps all of those should make the list, with other contenders including “BlacKkKlansman,” “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” “On the Basis of Sex,” “The Hate U Give,” “Hereditary,” “Bad Times at the El Royale,” “Red Sparrow,” “The Predator” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Number of films on the short list: No more than 7

This is a category that’ll likely have three nominees, and one known for nominating films that won’t show up in any other category. This year, that could mean a “Suspiria” appearance on the short list. “Black Panther” and “The Avengers: Infinity War” will certainly be in play — and since makeup designed to make actors look like other people is usually a mainstay in the category, look for “Vice” and “Stan & Ollie” to show up as well. “Mary Queen of Scots” could make the cut too. And will Rami Malek’s Freddie Mercury teeth from “Bohemian Rhapsody” be enough to land that film a spot?

If a foreign film gets in, as one sometimes does (“A Man Called Ove,” “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared”), it could be “Border,” which turned a couple of actors into trolls.

Also Read: 'Border' Film Review: Are Moviegoers Ready for Hot, Hairy Troll Sex?

Best Visual Effects
Number of films on the short list: 10

A committee from the Visual Effects Branch has already narrowed the field to 20 films, so now it’s just a matter of cutting that number in half. The elaborate visions of “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Black Panther,” “Ready Player One” and perhaps “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story” are clearly contenders, with the subtler effects of “First Man” and the more retro charms of “Mary Poppins Returns” definitely in the mix as well.

Dark horses could include “Christopher Robin” and “Paddington 2” for their blend of live action and CG figures, and the stop-motion “Isle of Dogs,” which would be following in the footsteps of recent nominee “Kubo and the Two Strings.” Several late-breaking films have a shot as well, including “Aquaman,” “Bumblebee” and “Welcome to Marwen.”

Best Documentary Short
Number of films on the short list: 10

The shorts categories are hard to predict because most of the films haven’t been widely seen. But Academy volunteers have been watching them to compile the three lists, and it’s possible to pick up some buzz from festival screenings and awards campaigns.

Netflix has been a major player in doc shorts recently (it won its first Oscar for “The White Helmets”), and this year it has “Zion,” “Out of Many, One,” “End Game” and “Lessons From a School Shooting: Notes From Dunblane,” at least two of which should end up on the list. The New York Times Op-Docs series has “Dulce,” “Earthrise,” “We Became Fragments” and the wry and well-liked “My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes,” the only short nominated by both the IDA Awards and Cinema Eye Honors.

Other IDA and Cinema Eye nominees include “Black Sheep,” “Baby Brother,” “Concussion Protocol,” “Fear Us Women,” “Lifeboat,” “Los Comandos,” “Mosul,” “Sidelined,” “Skip Day,” “The Girl and the Picture,” “Volte” and “We Are Not Done Yet.” The DOC NYC short list also singled out “’63 Boycott,” “The Head & the Hand,” “RX Early Detection” and “Take Back the Harbor,” while “Lotte That Silhouette Girl” tells the story of a woman animation pioneer from the pre-Disney days and could be attractive to the Academy.

Also Read: ShortList 2018: How 'My Dead Dad's Porno Tapes' Explores Family Secrets (Video)

Best Animated Short
Number of films on the short list: 10

The Annie Awards, the top prize given to animated films, singled out “Grandpa Walrus,” “Lost & Found,” “Solar Walk,” “Untravel” and “Weekends.” Pixar’s big short this year is “Bao,” and Pixar’s big short usually gets nominated. DreamWorks Animation, which has less consistent success in the category, is represented by “Bilby” and “Bird Karma.”

Other possibilities include “La Noria,” “Animal Behavior,” “Crow: The Legend” and “Age of Sail,” a Google Spotlight VR short made by John Kahrs, who won an Oscar for “Paperman.” “Raccoon and the Light,” “Daisy,” “The Green Bird” and “Re-Gifted” qualified by winning Student Academy Awards, while “The Driver Is Red” won the industry prize at theWrap’s ShortList Film Festival.

Best Live-Action Short
Number of films on the short list: 10

In a category where it’s almost impossible to get an overview of the field unless you’re a festival shorts programmer, standouts include “Fauve,” “Wren Boys,” “Skin” and “Bonbone,” as well as “Souls of Totality,” featuring Tatiana Maslany, and “Dear Chickens,” with Philip Baker Hall.

Timely films about the refugee crisis in Europe include “Bismillah” and “Magic Alps,” and Student Academy Award qualifiers are “Spring Flower,” “Lalo’s House,” “This Is Your Cuba,” “Get Ready With Me,” “Almost Everything” and “A Siege”; if history is any guide, at least one of them will make the list.

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www.thewrap.com | 12/14/18 10:08 PM
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The Case for Making 3G Mobile Internet Access Free in Cuba

President Diaz-Canal's tweet on the annoucement of the 3G mobile access for Cuba.The economic and social benefits of free 3G Internet connectivity would easily outweigh the cost.

Last week ETECSA began offering 3G mobile access to Cuba's national intranet and the global Internet and President Diaz-Canal tweeted the news.

His tweet has received 216 comments so far and reading through them, many are effusively positive, like: "This is without a doubt a breakthrough that will benefit millions of Cuban families!! Congratulations!!" and "Excellent news comrade!"

Others were critical, noting that the prices are high relative to Cuban incomes (one said "absurd") and the technology is obsolete — "Congratulations, but they're 20 years late."

I cannot agree with the de rigueur/obligatory congratulations — third generation mobile is over 15 years old, only 66% of the population is covered, the price is very high relative to Cuban salaries (access to the national intranet is cheaper than global Internet access) and performance is unknown — but this is a faltering first step and, like WiFi hotspots, street nets, El Paquete Semanal, navigation rooms and home DSL, it should be seen as an interim, stopgap measure. Hopefully, the Cuban Internet will eventually leapfrog over current technology to next-generation technology — in the meantime stopgaps are better than nothing.

The next stopgap goal should be to make ubiquitous 3G mobile Internet access free — like free streets, sidewalks, education, etc. Doing so would create a nation of trained, demanding users leading to the development of innovative, practical applications.

ETECSA, Cuba's government monopoly ISP and phone company, may complain that they do not have the infrastructure to support the traffic that free 3G would generate and can not afford to build the capacity. I have no information on the specifications of the 3G base stations they are installing, but it is probably safe to assume that there is spare capacity since 3G data rates are far below those of today's LTE technology. (A friend just told me that he was seeing 1 Mbps in Havana).

The traffic from free 3G would also require backhaul capacity from the base stations and that can be provided by satellite as well as terrestrial fiber and wireless infrastructure. Cuba currently uses SES's O3b (other three billion) medium-Earth orbit (MEO) satellites for international connectivity and they could also use the O3b network for mobile backhaul. (Note that O3b capacity will increase dramatically in 2021).

O3b is operating MEO satellites today, and they will be joined in the early 2020s by low-Earth orbit satellite constellations from SpaceX, OneWeb and Telesat, which are also potential mobile backhaul providers.

Both ETECSA and the Cuban society can justify the investment needed to provide free 3G Internet access. Bob Metcalfe, the inventor of Ethernet, coined "Metcalfe's Law" saying that the effect of a network is proportional to the square of the number of users. While not a precise mathematical statement, there can be no doubt that the effect of a network on society and its value to whoever owns it increases rapidly as it grows.

As noted, 3G technology is obsolete and one day Cuba will be rolling out modern technology. When they do, people who have been using 3G will understand its value and the value of the applications they have been using and many will be willing to migrate to and pay for faster service.

In addition to trained users, free 3G would generate application developers and Internet entrepreneurs. They would develop 3G applications and content for Cuba and other Spanish speakers around the world and would transition to modern infrastructure when it becomes available.

I've been talking about free 3G from the standpoint of ETECSA and application developers and Internet entrepreneurs, but consider the social benefit of reducing the digital divide and improving government, education, health care, entertainment, tourism, finance, and other businesses, etc.

This has been a back-of-the-envelope case, but it seems clear that the economic and social benefits of free 3G Internet connectivity would easily outweigh the cost. Let's flesh the proposal out.

Written by Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University

www.circleid.com | 12/12/18 5:40 PM
Cuba’s Marcos Diaz Sosa Delivers ‘Shock’ to Ventana Sur
A disenchanted young pregnant woman is afraid of getting stuck in the small Cuban town where she lives. But when a tornado whisks her away to a luxury resort – where her competitive shooting skills turn her into a celebrity amongst the island’s Communist elite – she comes to realize, like a Hollywood heroine of […] variety.com | 12/11/18 11:27 AM
Cuba Rolls Out 3G Mobile Access

What if it were free?

After several months of trials, ETECSA announced the availablity of third-generation mobile access to their national intranet and the global Internet in a televised "round table."

As shown below, they have upgraded 789 mobile base stations to 3G reaching 66% of the population:

Pricing can be by the megabyte (1 CUC≈$1):

or in monthly packages:

The prices are quite steep for a typical Cuban and I suspect there would be relatively few subscribers among the 34% of the population that is not yet covered. Furthermore, many users will have to buy new phones to use the service. (There are still 1,084 second-generation mobile base stations in Cuba).

Network performance during the trials mentioned above was poor — connections were unreliable and slow. Part of that may have been due to the fact that access was free, but it remains to be seen how fast and reliable the mobile access will be. That will be determined by demand and infrastructure — the capacity of the base stations and backhaul.

Access to the national intranet costs less than access to the global Internet. While local access saves some congestion on Cuba's international links, it also encourages a Cuban "walled-garden." Cuba is developing local content and services, but they cannot compete with what is available globally. Cuba should open to the world and also aim to be a provider of Spanish-language content and services.

There is also a political dimension. Cuba's president, Miguel Díaz-Canel hinted at a walled-garden strategy when he addressed the Parliament saying "We need to be able to put the content of the revolution online," adding that Cubans could thus "counter the avalanche of pseudo-cultural, banal and vulgar content." I can't argue about banal and vulgar content (and worse), but the cure of a walled-garden in a nation with a government-monopoly Internet service provider is worse than the disease.

(Access to the national intranet portal has been blocked in the US — I'd be curious to hear from others who can access it).

If performance is good enough, mobile access will be more convenient and comfortable than the current WiFi hotspots or navigation rooms so it will become the way most Cubans go online. That would be an improvement, but far from ideal. As I have said many times, 3G mobile, WiFi hotspots, home DSL, public navigation rooms, street nets, and El Paquete Semanal are stopgap measures and Cuba should be planning to leapfrog current technology in the future.

We should not forget that 3G mobile technology is around 15-years old. Another interim step could be to augment Cuba's current O3b satellite and terrestrial connectivity to significantly increase backhaul capacity and offer free 3G mobile access. Doing so would lead to a population of trained, demanding users and enable many innovative, practical applications. That may sound crazy at first, but we take free sidewalks, roads, firefighting, etc. for granted and a few cities offer free public transport — why not ubiquitous, free 3G connectivity?

Coming back to Earth — ETECSA promised to make 3G mobile access widely available by the end of the year and they did it. You can watch the video of the televised announcement here:

Written by Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University

www.circleid.com | 12/7/18 2:58 AM
Cuba Will Allow Full Internet Access on Phones Starting This Week
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Cuba offers 3G mobile internet access to citizens
The state is offering its citizens mobile data contracts - but many will not be able to afford them. www.bbc.co.uk | 12/5/18 2:43 PM

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