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2023 Oscar-nominated Live-Action Shorts (review)

February 21, 2023


The Oscar-nominated Shorts of the Academy Awards are the categories I look forward to the most each year, since they typically offer a variety of intriguing stories from all over the world, told in an economic manner. That’s the key thing in any short film: economy. The academy defines short as being “not more than 40 minutes, including all credits”, so the question is whether or not the director and all involved can tell a story within that time frame that stands out amongst all the other submissions.

What makes the five nominees selected stand out from the ten shortlisted in the Live-Action category? Only the voters can answer that. What all five of this year’s Live-Action Shorts do have in common is that none of them are American. There’s not a thing wrong with that, but it is curious. What’s also curious is that, at least in this critic’s opinion, only two of the five nominees really stand out as something award-worthy. The other three are…just fine, which shouldn’t be a descriptor for an Oscar-nominated anything.

The Academy should indeed think globally as they select their nominees. After all, any country can submit a film for consideration and when it comes to audience exposure, an Oscar nomination is probably the grandest spotlight a film (be they short or feature-length) can get. In fact, this category often offers international films that are just as, if not better, than some of the nominees in the Best International Feature Film category.

While all of five of the nominees here focus on distinctive characters in unique settings, their life situations and experience are all quite relatable and universal. Perennial themes such as grief and loss are present, as well as subjects like oppression, harassment, and individualism (versus traditionalism), can all be found within these shorts, and then some. The range in tone is as different as their locations, from whimsical and funny, to sad and thrilling.

Below, I offer my thoughts on each nominee in the Live-Action Short category. I’m indifferent about the one it seems is the most likely to win an Oscar, but that’s just how it plays out some years…





(23 min.)

A quick Google search tells me that an Irish Goodbye is a term used for someone who leaves a party without saying goodbye to anyone. Why would they do that? Apparently, the Irish believe that it’s done so that their keys aren’t taken away for being too intoxicated when trying to leave. But in “An Irish Goodbye”, written and directed by Tom Berkeley and Ross White, estranged brothers, Turlough (Seamus O’Hara) and Lorcan (James Martin), reunite in their rural Northern Ireland farm to deal with the unexpected death of their mother (Michelle Fairley), who left an unfulfilled bucket list behind, instead of verbally acknowledging any specific wishes to her sons. Since Lorcan has Down Syndrome, the duties and arrangements related to their mother’s property is left to Turlough. However, when they come across the list, Lorcan insists they go about checking off each item with their mother’s ashes in tow. This is one of those shorts which would perhaps benefit from a graduation to a feature, since there seems to more to the family history and setting then we have time for here. Most of the story relies too heavily on what’s intended as humorous moments of reconnection, but it all feels a bit too cute, forced and repetitive.






(37 min.)

From Italy comes a period-specific story told by writer/director Alice Alice Rohrwacher, that follows a group of rebellious young girls at a Catholic orphanage in Italy during the advent season (leading up to Christmas) circa World War II. Each mischievous girl’s individual personality is on display, often played for laughs, as they live under the authority of a humorless mother superior (played by the director’s sister, Alba Rohrwacher) who’s more concerned with piety than planting seeds of faith in these young hearts and minds. Known for her nostalgic fable-like storytelling in award-winning films such as “The Wonders” and “Happy as Lazarro”, Rohrwacher playfully builds this story to a comical Nativity performance the girls have no choice in being part of, but at least they’re tempted by a colorful cake during rehearsal. “Le Pupille” will likely win the Oscar, for presenting a warm and funny holiday tale, but I didn’t find Rohrwacher’s story delivering anything new or different here. The setting and performances are good, but the story feels too familiar, despite being shot on warm and grainy Super 16mm film. “Le Pupille” premiered at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, before working the festival circuit, and eventually arriving at Disney+.

RATING: **1/2




(16 min.)

The Danish film “Ivalu” opens with an aerial shot of a raven soaring above the cold and beautiful arctic landscape of Greenland. The bird will serve as a guide to us and the young protagonist of the short, Pipaluk (Mila Heilmann Kreutzmann), who is searching for her missing older sister, Ivalu (Nivi Larsen), after she fled their village from their sexually-abusive father. There’s a certain dreamlike quality to the story, as Pipaluk follows the path of the mysterious raven while trekking across the vast, icy wilderness, creating a fantastical backdrop that counters the harsh reality that the story’s conclusion reveals. Pipaluk is faced with a greater understanding of her family’s tragedy, that we as the viewer may have seen coming, but it’s no less impacting to watch this girl come to a haunting realization. Writer/director Anders Walter isn’t new to this category, having been nominated and won back in 2014 for his Live-Action Short, “Helium”, and with the lyrical “Ivalu” he adapts the award-winning Danish graphic novel of the same name by Morten Dürr and Lars Horneman, reteaming with cinematographer Rasmus Heise. Similar to his 2017 feature-length debut, “I Kill Giants” (also a graphic novel adaptation), with “Ivalu” Walter deftly handles a story that incorporates fantasy elements as a way of dealing with childhood trauma. (“Ivalu” can currently be rented or purchased on Prime Video)





(17 min.)

This Luxembourg short from Iranian-born director Cyrus Nevshad is a riveting thriller that unfolds in real time about a veiled 16-year-old girl Iranian girl, Ariane (Nawelle Ewad), who evades her arranged marriage. “The Red Suitcase” takes place exclusively in and around the Luxembourg airport, and takes the perspective of a young woman who is determined to take her destiny in a different direction. When she arrives, Ariane submits to a humiliating TSA search through her red suitcase and does her best to evade the middle-aged husband who is there to pick her up, making for tense and daunting encounters (and near-encounters) that Nevshad confidently navigates with help from cinematographer Nikos Welter and editors Yves Dorme and Felix Sorger, utilizing a tight grasp of suspense. While the short ends on a ray of hope, the hardship, sacrifice, and isolation isn’t lost on viewers. “The Red Suitcase” does a fine job at using its runtime to tell a thorough and complete story, ending on a satisfying and thought-provoking note.





(15 min.)

Out of all the nominees, I got the biggest kick out of Norwegian director Eirik Tveiten’s short “Night Ride”, which definitely winds up being one of most unpredictable of the bunch. A modern-day story set during a snowy Christmas night in Norway, that follows little person Ebba (Sigrid Kandal Husjord) waiting for a tram in the freezing cold and sneaking inside while the driver takes a break to relieve himself. She simply wanted to warm-up and next thing we know, Ebba is driving the tram stumbling through the controls while her few passengers wonder what exactly is going on. As if her problems aren’t snowballing on their own, a new challenge emerges when a trio of bullies board the tram and start harassing a quiet trans passenger (Ola Hoemsnes Sandum). Ebba sees most of the drama play out from the rearview mirror and likely finds what she witnesses triggering her own harassment that she’s received in her life. Tveiten starts the short off with an unexpected comic moment that smoothly turns into an unsettling look at transphobia in an uncanny manner. “Night Ride” may be obvious in how its addressing discrimination of certain minorities, it nevertheless feels quite grounded and relatable, with personable, moving, and nuanced performances from Husjord and Sandum. Out of all the nominees here, “Night Ride” does the best job at showing what all can be done within a short’s time frame.




The 2023 Oscar-nominated short films were released in select theaters on Friday, February 17th. Find participating theaters here

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