A Three Year Old Picks the Oscars

By  · Published on February 26th, 2016

Not everyone gets to officially vote for the Oscars, but we all like to fill out our own ballots and play along at home. Especially if there’s a pool going around the office or Oscar party or just between your close family members to see who gets the most predictions right. My aunt likes to wait until the show is starting to begin a texting onslaught asking for my expert opinion on various categories. And now my three-year-old son is making his way into the fun. He loves to “vote” for things. Lately, he’s obsessed with telling people his choice for president: “Donald… Donald Duck.” He thinks he’s hilarious.

This week, he filled out an Oscar ballot. He loves any excuse to play with the iPad, and this was an opportunity to touch-screen his way through the categories with “The Official Oscars Challenge” (technically you’re supposed to be 18 or older, so we never actually submitted the picks). He hasn’t seen but three of the nominees all the way through – two animated features, one of which is contending in two categories, and an animated short – and therefore mostly responded to titles and the images attached to each title on the Oscars site. Occasionally he’d ask to see a clip of something to help him decide.

I tried to get him to explain each pick in depth, but he is only three. He would get restless and often made little sense. Basically, I wouldn’t recommend using my son’s choices as a guide to filling out your own ballot. But it will be interesting to see if he matches any picks with the actual winners this Sunday.

Best Picture: Brooklyn

Originally, he made this first choice by title alone. “I like Brooklyn. He’s good,” my son said for his reason, as if the film was named for a character. But when he saw the posters next to the titles in the Oscar Challenge, he became more logical. “I like girls,” he noted, alluding to the image of Saoirse Ronan. I pressed him more as to why. “They’re like kings and princesses.”

Actor in a Leading Role: Matt Damon, The Martian

“I want him. I like his suit,” my son said with interest in Damon’s spacesuit worn for the movie. I guess if you show a kid photos from this category, it’s no surprise they’re going to pick the astronaut. Kids love astronauts. He asked to watch a clip from the movie after making his choice.

Actress in a Leading Role: Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

“She has cool glasses,” my son responded when asked about why he chose Lawrence. She certainly has a more distinct look in her screen shot with those sunglasses. Then he added, “She’s good. She’s not a bad guy.” That’s true, I guess.

Actor in a Supporting Role: Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

“I like his suit,” he said looking at a photo of Ruffalo not wearing a suit. When asked to explain what he meant, my son responded, “I don’t want to talk to him anymore.”

Actress in a Supporting Role: Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

This was a very curious pick. “I like girls,” my son answered when I asked him why McAdams. I addressed the fact that all of the nominees are girls, and he proceeded to count them. He said there are six girls. Apparently he sees a baby girl with Alicia Vikander in the still from The Danish Girl. I decided to just move on.

Animated Feature Film: The Shaun the Sheep Movie

He’s actually seen two of these, Inside Out and The Shaun the Sheep Movie. Earlier, I asked him which one should win the Oscar, and my son shouted “Minions!” Maybe he’s into write-in votes? For the sake of this ballot, though, he had to choose. He clicked on Boy and the World because, he said, “I like the colors.” I told him maybe this time he should choose one of the movies he’s seen. He started to pick Inside Out because, again, “I like girls.” But his final answer was The Shaun the Sheep Movie. “I like that girl dog,” he said as his reason, pointing to the little stray, Slip. Let’s watch a clip about the character from the film, also one of my favorites of the year:

Cinematography: Skipped

After the first quarter of the Oscar Challenge was done, so was my son. He got distracted when this category came up and didn’t have any interest in choosing. So I picked for him: Sicario.

Costume Design: (tie) Cinderella and The Danish Girl

Hearing that Cinderella was a nominee in the next category got my son interested in the game again. He hasn’t seen the live-action remake, but he has seen parts of the animated version. At least, I thought he had. “I think she flies,” he said of the title character. I asked if that was his pick for costume design, and he tried to click both that and The Danish Girl, but that of course doesn’t work. “I want to pick two because they’re both girls.” Sorry, Carol.

Directing: Mad Max: Fury Road

“Star Wars!” he shouted when he saw the poster accompanying the entry for Mad Max: Fury Road. It should be noted that, at this point, my son wasn’t aware that Star Wars is up for any Oscars. I told him that it wasn’t Star Wars, and he stuck with the choice anyway.

Documentary (Feature): Skipped

My son gave no reason why he wouldn’t choose any of the feature documentary nominees, but I’ll just assume it’s because he knows Daddy is the documentary expert and he didn’t want me to judge his pick. Obviously I never would! But that’s fine, I chose for him: The Look of Silence.

Documentary (Short Subject): A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

He didn’t have the same issue with the short-subject documentaries. “I like girls,” he stated again for this one. I kind of saw that coming.

Film Editing: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

“Yeah, Max, I like Max!” he exclaimed while I was still reading the nominees. Because he had chosen the movie before. But then I got to the end, and his excitement changed upon learning that Star Wars was in the mix. “I like Star Wars,” he acknowledged. Not that he’s seen this new movie, but he likes the brand and he’s seen the trailers and likes BB-8 a lot. Almost as much as he likes R2-D2.

Foreign Language Film: Son of Saul

Like me, my son hasn’t seen any of the nominees in this category (I know, we’re both bad cosmopolitan cinephiles). So, he glanced over the accompanying images and chose Son of Saul based on its poster. “I like those,” he said pointing at it. “I like letters.” He really does, because he’s three.

Makeup and Hairstyling: Mad Max: Fury Road

At this point he wanted to actually see what this Max movie was. I tried to pick something that wasn’t too violent. He watched in amazement as cars and trucks raced through the desert with motorcycles flying through the air above them. I think he fell in love. I’m just waiting for him to play Mad Max with his Hot Wheels now. Oh, I also showed him a quick bit with Nux and Immortan Joe as an example of the makeup and hairstyling. So his pick was validated.

Music (Original Score): Star Wars: The Force Awakens

“That’s from Star Wars!” he shouted, seeing that the image attached here was a close-up of BB-8. I think at this point we can be certain The Force Awakens is sweeping all its categories.

Music (Original Song): “Manta Ray,” Racing Extinction

“Is that like a stingray?” my son asked as I was reading the nominees. I said, “Sort of, but you’ve seen manta rays at the aquarium, too.” Either way, he liked the title. He wanted to hear the song, so I pulled up the music video, which features Anohni (still credited as Antony) singing over the J. Ralph-composed music and spectacular microscopic images of plankton. He loved it. Here, you should watch it, too:

Production Design: Skipped

I think this one was just accidentally skipped over. Maybe my son pressed the “next” button too many times and passed it. I guess I didn’t notice. In any event, I’ll choose for him: Mad Max: Fury Road.

Short Film (Animated): We Can’t Live Without Cosmos

My son had seen one of these in full, because Sanjay’s Super Team played in the theater before The Good Dinosaur. He watched a clip to remind himself, but he didn’t seem interested, if it was even actually familiar to him. He saw bits of Bear Story and World of Tomorrow but just wanted to watch more of We Can’t Live Without Cosmos, which he could see in full online. Although he hasn’t finished the whole thing yet, he really likes the astronauts. Because he’s a kid.

Short Film (Live Action): Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)

At first, I thought he chose Everything Will Be Okay – which is far and away my personal favorite in this category – because like Son of Saul it was accompanied by a poster filled with words. But so is Shok and Stutterer. Instead, his reason was this: “I like the white. White is my favorite color.” Please don’t get any ideas with that comment.

Sound Editing: Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Sound Mixing: Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Visual Effects: Star Wars: the Force Awakens

Obviously, though before I’d finished reading all the titles he jumped the gun and said The Martian.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Brooklyn

“Yeah, I like Brooklyn,” my son said in a tone as though we were back at Best Picture and he wasn’t sure why he had to tell me again. I can’t help but wonder if he also just loves the word Brooklyn because Mommy and Daddy have told him that’s where he was conceived (sorry, not sorry).

Writing (Original Screenplay): Inside Out

After passing on Inside Out, a movie he does genuinely love, in the animated feature category, he was certain about picking it for its screenplay. When asked why he said, “I like Disgust. And Anger.” That’s good, because he’s going to show signs of those emotions when his choice loses to Spotlight this weekend. We finished by him requesting to watch something he likes even more than movies: this Inside Out surprise egg unwrapping video:

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.