The 95th Academy Awards Race: Best Live Action Shorts

| February 17, 2023

The Nominees are  . . . 

• An Irish Goodbye, Tom Berkely and Ross White, producers
Ivalu, Anders Walter and Rebecca Pruzan, producers
Night Ride, Eirik Tveiten and Gaute Lid Larssen, producers
Le Puille (The Pupil), Alfonso Cuarón, Carlo Cresta-Dina and Gabriela Rodriguez, producers
La Valise Rouge (The Red Suitcase), Cyrus Neshvad, producer

This is the second year in a row that I have actively spent time tracking down the nominated short films in all three categories, and what I’ve noted is that the good ones make you yearn for them to be longer.  This year’s quintet of nominees is no different.  They range widely in time and place, culture and subject matter – a stolen train, a bucket list, a lost sibling, Christmas at a girl’s boarding school and an escape from an arranged marriage.  It makes for a wide birth of time, place and purpose, so lets look at each one individually.

An Irish Goodbye tells the story of two estranged brothers in Northern Ireland (one of whom has Down Syndrome) and their mission to fill their late mother’s bucket list before scattering her ashes.  What is refreshing is that it doesn’t choke us with sentimentalism.  Actually, this is one of the funniest films of the year at any length as the boys try to complete their mother’s wishes even as they get more and more bizarre.

Ivalu is also about loss, but this time the effects are far darker and more emotional as Pipaluk  a  young Inuit girl goes on a long journey in search of her titular younger sister into the frozen wastelands of her native Greenland.  This is the shortest of this year’s nominees and comes to an ending that is really in the eye of the beholder.  Never-the-less, this could end up being a surprise winner given the categories long-history of sticking with films that ebb toward the grim and dark.

Night Ride is my personal favorite among this year’s nominees, and for the second year in a row features a main protagonist who is a little person (as with last year’s The Dress).  This time the results are far less emotional and more plot driven.  Wide-eyed Ebba (Sigrid Kandal Husjord), a weary passenger, is waiting on the tram but can’t board because the conductor has disembarked in order to visit the toilet.  Undaunted, she pushes the doors open anyway and becomes curious about the controls.  Suddenly, she is driving.  Worse, she finds herself picking up passengers.  This potential comedy of errors doesn’t go quite where we expect and arrives at a very satisfying conclusion.  Along the way is a tender side-study in acceptance in the face of prejudice.  And the ending is a satisfying kick.

Les Pupille (The Pupil) is the longest among the nominees at 38 minutes and, for me, the least satisfying despite the fact that it is a Disney production and one of its producers is Gravity and Prisoner of Azkaban director Alfonso Cuarón.  The result is a film mixed with one part Madeline, one part The Little Princess and just a teaspoon of Fellini, this odd little film tells the story of a group of young girls living in a boarding school in wartime Italy during the advent season (which leads up to Christmas) but their wide-eyed fidgeting and wonderment is a constant frustration to the nuns who want them to be still and quiet in service to the lord on his birthday.  Quite honestly, while this film is engaging it is not exactly compelling, for me anyway.  I think the voters may see it differently; this is such a big production and the names attached are too enticing to pass up.

La Valise Rouge (The Red Suitcase) takes on the structure of a thriller as a 16-year-old Iranian girl named Ariane (Nawelle Edad) arrives at Luxembourg Airport to meet her new husband (a marriage arranged by her husband).  Ducking into a the ladies room, she removes her head-scarf and decides to defy this union by running away.  The rest of the film (which runs 18-minutes) builds tension as this stranger in a strange land ducks and dodges authorities and her would-be husband in order to escape the arrangement.  And while the film does have a lot of tension, it ends on a very ‘to be continued’ note, leaving the viewer to wonder what happens next.

The Winner: Les Pupille (The Pupil)
The Runner-up: Ivalu

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.