"Heroin(e)" Favored by Los Angeles Times for Oscar; Deadline gives Thumbs Up

Updated 2 years ago by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
"Heroin(e)"  Favored by Los Angeles Times for Oscar; Deadline gives Thumbs Up

The Los Angeles has given thumbs up to "Heroin(e)" as a favorite to win Best Short Documentary. Produced and directed by two West Virginia University filmmakers, Elaine and Kerrrin Sheldon,  the Netflix production features three Huntington women doing their unconventional part in the challenging plague that has overwhelmed Huntington , where the project was shot, and many , many other cities.

"This shorts category is the deepest and, thus, hardest to predict. "Heroin(e)" puts a human face on an urgent subject, the opioid epidemic, and comes from Netflix, giving it an edge in terms of viewership and promotion," wrote Glenn Whipp. 

Whipp's alternate choices are "Edith and Eddie"  and "Heaven is a Traffic Jam."

The Hollywood Reporter originally favored "Heroin(e), but they project "Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405." 

WILL WIN: Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405

Any of the five nominees are plausible winners. HBO's Traffic Stop, which looks at the life of a black woman who had an unpleasant interaction with a white cop, seems to be strongly dividing people. Heroin(e), which humanizes the opioid crisis, may benefit from being available on and promoted by Netflix. Edith+Eddie offers a moving portrait of a mixed-race couple who are forcibly separated from each other late in life, but it's a major downer. Knife Skills is probably the most feel-good and inspirational of the lot. But Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405 has an even better title, is more polished and complex and offers a bigger reveal at the end."

In addition,  The Reporter interviewed an Oscar voter.  This voter found "Heroin(e)" "interesting but nothing I haven't seen on the news." 

ANATOMY OF AN OSCAR VOTER (Hollywood Reporter) 

I eliminated Traffic Stop first. It’s a good subject for a short, but that woman [Breaion King] was the wrong vehicle for it. Everybody knows — and I taught my kids this — that if you’re pulled over by the cops, you put your hands on the steering wheel and you follow directions. You certainly don’t get out and you don’t do anything until they tell you to. It’s just common sense to me. She’s a smart woman, she’s not a dumb woman, so it just irritated me that she did absolutely everything wrong — she was hysterical and she was belligerent. If she had just behaved intelligently, she probably would have gotten, at most, a speeding ticket for $50, or maybe not gotten a ticket at all. Next I eliminated Knife Skills. I agree with its message about finding creative ways to rehabilitate prisoners, but it didn’t quite work as a movie. Then Heroin(e) — it was interesting, but nothing that I hadn’t seen on the news. Edith+Eddie was just heartbreaking. Ultimately, I went for Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405 because this woman [Mindy Alper] reveals her soul in such an interesting way. I know that something is not right with her, but she has the most amazing spirit, and what a great artist! I was riveted. They couldn’t have found a better subject."

Golden Derby favors "Edith & Eddie," concerning a newlywed couple 96 and 95 living in Alexandra, Virginia. 

Derby has predictions by the Top 24 "users" with the highest score of advance analysis one year ago. Four of these readers went for Heroin(e).

Awards favors "Edith & Eddie," but foresees "Heroin(e)" as a runner up. 

However, DEADLINE, which has emerged as one of the major on line entertainment business media websites gives a nod to "Heroin(e).

"Heroin(e)"  Favored by Los Angeles Times for Oscar; Deadline gives Thumbs Up

They write: 

A fine group of films with the standouts being Heroin(e), Traffic Stop and Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405, which could win just on the basis of its title. Edith + Eddie and Knife Skills bring up the rear. Traffic Stop has real timeliness in the era of Trayvon Martin, and Heroin(e) is a moving account of the fight against addiction in a small town and the heroic women at the center of that fight. That may be the winner, but there’s a race going on here.

The Winner: Heroin(e)

Film School Rejects favors "Heroin(e)" too. Their Christopher Campbell wrote:

With doc shorts, it typically still comes down more to what’s the most significant issue or subject, presented rather conventionally. This year we’ve got ex-cons in the kitchen in Knife Tools, a portrait of an eccentric artist in Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405, a look at a woman involved in a police brutality case with Traffic Stop, a film about old people in love separated by an abuse of elder rights, and a profile of three women doing amazing work in the opioid-overdose capital of the country with Heroin(e).

The last one is far and away the most competently made and compelling in its storytelling, and it’s also a Netflix Original, which if it wins means the service would have two in a row. That wouldn’t surprise me, nor would it disappoint. Its best competition is probably Traffic Stop given its timely subject matter as well as for its interesting structure. The rest are very strong but seem kind of slight for a category that is, even more than Best Documentary Feature, used as a way to present a pressing problem on the world stage of the Oscars. Heroin(e) doesn’t just have the focal issue, but it’s also a celebration of strong women saving people.

Who should win: Heroin(e)

Who will win: Heroin(e)

The review is strongly favorable of nearly all components of the Netflix contender. 

Elaine McMillion Sheldon’s cleverly titled Heroin(e) has a premise that reminds me of typical HBO shorts that contend and often win the Academy Award (such as 2014’s Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1), yet it’s a much better, more human effort that’s also just smoother in the way it plays out. Despite also being about the maximum length for a qualified short, this one never feels so long, never dragging nor stuffed with filler. Its portrait of three women in Huntington, WV, the “overdose capital of the United States,” as they try to change their city’s reputation — but mostly turn its citizens — around and save lives is superb in its interwoven storytelling.

Certainly editor Kristen Nutil deserves a lot of credit for the crafting of the film, and hopefully she’s given a huge thank you if (when) Heroin(e) wins the Oscar. This isn’t just a well-cut documentary, though. It’s one of the most all-around successful and satisfying films of its kind that I’ve seen in a while, from its cinematography (by Elaine’s filmmaking partner husband, Kerrin James Sheldon) to even its poster design. And even though we don’t get a full look at the lives of its characters and there are no negatives or flaws slipped into their profiles, the film is never too hagiographic. The women are shown doing their jobs, and they come across as heroines on their own, not merely as a result of how they’re depicted.

Could it win the Oscar? Definitely, though voters could choose to overlook Netflix after giving them the Oscar last year. Plus, even with its empowering portrait of women, Heroin(e) doesn’t seem quite as timely and essentially spotlighted as Traffic Stop does.