Academy Awards 2023: Best Live Action Short Nominees, Ranked

This year’s category is completely international – and full of worthy competitors.

Many of the nominees in the top Oscar categories are pretty established; the short film categories, and especially the best live-action short film, give more room for discovery. Inisherin Banshees writer-director Martin McDonagh won here 18 years ago for his short ‘Six Shooter’, and a year earlier Andrea Arnold won for ‘Wasp’ in a nominated category in which she also starred. Taika Waititi and Nacho Vigalondo.

It’s also a category that attracts the support of major Hollywood talent, such as last year’s winner “The Long Goodbye,” starring and produced by Riz Ahmed, who shared the award with director Aneil Karia. Even so, the category winner—a verbal indictment of racial violence—was bolder and more inventive than most of the film’s nominees.

In this respect, this year’s contestants stand out for one simple reason: none of them are from America, and only one is English-speaking. As the Oscars continue to reflect the global nature of the film industry (and the Academy tries to further engage its international community), these developments are particularly visible in this category.

This year is particularly strong in other ways, too: this year’s nominees all focus on unique characters defined by the unique nature of their environments and exhibit unique narrative strengths, approaching weighty themes like grief and oppression through distinct worldviews. These movies are sad, funny, often whimsical, and never forced.

While there may be a popular favorite that deserves recognition for anyone looking to win their Oscar, the category is full of worthy contenders. Here’s a ranking of the candidates who are playing limited edition right now.

5. “Irish Farewell”

“Irish Farewell”

While “Banshees” represents Ireland in several major categories this year, “An Irish Goodbye” is nipping at its heels. In this bittersweet dark comedy by directors Tom Berkeley and Ross White, adult brothers Lorcan and Turlough (James Martin and Seamus O’Hara) reunite in the countryside to bury their mother. Because Lorcan has Down syndrome, Turlough focuses on the practicalities of his mother’s house. But when they come across their mother’s bucket list and discover she never finished it, Lorcan insists they achieve her goals.

The series of adventures that follow unfolds as a charming story of family bonds in dark times, and while the whimsy overstays its welcome, it plays like a solid calling card in the full-length version. (Despite the sophisticated emotions leading up to the finale, it’s a shame it ends with the whole fart joke.) Martin and O’Hara have such endearing chemistry that it’s a wonder they’re not siblings in real life.

4. “Ivalu”


Director Anders Walter adapted the stunning Danish graphic novel set in remote Greenland, where the landscapes take on a sense of poetic isolation. The drama revolves around young Pipaluk (Mila Heilmann Kreutzmann) who tries to find her missing sister Ivalu (Nivi Larsen) after she ran away from their sexually abusive father. The Greenlandic-language short has a dreamy, enigmatic quality that emerges from the young protagonist’s subjectivity and builds to a bleak wake-up call that contrasts the fantastical backdrop with the bitter truth of communal isolation.

As Ivalu struggles to find his sister in the vast, icy wilderness, he follows the trail of a raven as his storybook understanding of the situation leads him to a deeper understanding of his tragic surroundings. While not exactly surprising, the final revelation of the abbreviations is profound. “Ivalu” may be the true downfall of the category, but it’s such a rich lyrical experience that its bleak, haunting outcome doesn’t feel forced at all.

3. “The Red Suitcase”

“The Red Suitcase”


This Luxembourgish short film from director Cyrus Nevshad is a gripping real-time thriller about a woman who escapes her arranged marriage. Set exclusively in and around Luxembourg Airport, the short film finds a 16-year-old Iranian girl (Nawelle Ewad) arriving at the airport and discovering that by simply removing her veil, she can slip past an older man waiting for her in the terminal. . But his planned escape doesn’t go so smoothly, with the camera following him through a series of tense close calls.

Nevshad’s taut take on the tense situation is rooted in his young performer’s gripping, silent turn, maintaining the tension with just a few tricky camera moves. Once the basic premise is established, nothing new happens, but it’s enough to make “The Red Suitcase” an effective tool for uncovering the victims of arranged marriages around the world, even as it charts a path to hope.

2. “Night Journey”

“Night Journey”

Norwegian director Eirik Tveiten’s short film is the most unpredictable of this year’s nominees. What starts as an unexpected comic book heist turns into a gut-wrenching look at transphobia before doubling down for a thrilling finale. Against the backdrop of a snowy Christmas, he finds the little boy Ebba (Sigrid Kandal Husjord) waiting for a train in the freezing cold and sneaks in while the driver is taking a bath break. Once inside, you decide to fiddle with the controls and suddenly find yourself merrily heading off into the shadowy night. Momentarily freed by the unexpected crime, Ebba faces an entirely new challenge when a group of passengers begin harassing a trans passenger as she slowly musters up the courage to act.

As “Night Ride” beautifully establishes one persecuted minority helping another through sheer serendipity, its message may seem forced, but Husjord delivers a moving and personal performance, grounding the entire unexpected journey in authentic stakes. Tveiten’s stern tone allows “Night Ride” to be funny, scary and ultimately empowering at the right moments.

1. “Le Pupille”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 13: Alice Rohrwacher speaks onstage at the preview screening of Disney's 'Le Pupille' with producer Alfonso Cuarón at the DGA Theater on February 13, 2023 in Los Angeles. "Le Pupille" currently streaming on Disney+.  (Photo: Anna Webber/Getty Images for Disney+)

Alice Rohrwacher

Getty Images for Disney+

If you’ve been paying attention to European cinema over the past decade, you’re probably familiar with the work of Italian auteur Alice Rohrwacher, whose stunning, fairytale-like dramas have made her a fixture at Cannes. From “Miracles” to “Happy as Lazzaro,” Rohrwacher’s ability to combine naturalism with ethereal charm is unmatched. Executive produced by Alfonso Cuarón (who brought this short to Disney+), “Le Pupille” provides a warm entry point to Rohrwacher’s appeal.

Set in a Catholic orphanage during World War II, the compelling holiday story stars the director’s sister (Alba Rohrwacher) as a humorless superior who forces her students to adhere to her demands of piety as their prankish tendencies surface. The main narrative revolves around the hilarious physical comedy of a nativity scene, where the rehearsal is complicated by the arrival of a delicious-looking cake.

Rohrwacher’s playful approach manages to simultaneously address the subversive outpouring of religious extremism and his warm, nostalgic ode to the inherent restlessness of youth. For anyone who thinks the holiday season takes itself too seriously, “Le Pupille” is a new Christmas classic. It’s also a welcome excuse for a major director with limited American exposure to win an Oscar this year, and that alone is worthy of a vacation.

The short films nominated for the 2023 Academy Awards will be available in select theaters on Friday, February 17. Find a participating cinema here.

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