**Photo taken from the Austin Chronicle
In the New York Times review of the ‘The 2023 Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films’ screening, the author argues that “Fans of sticky sentiment will be delighted with this bundle of live-action shorts, only two of which deserve note.”
Only two of which deserve note? I disagree. Sure – I think know which short films are not going to win the Oscar this year. But the fact that they lack the marketability to appeal to the Oscar committee does not make them any less concisely beautiful, any less adept at building tension, or any less able to intersect grief with joy. The 2023 Oscar Live Action nominees – Denmark’s “Ivalu,” Norway’s “Night Ride,” Italy and America’s “Le Pupille,” Luxembourg’s “The Red Suitcase,” and Ireland’s “An Irish Goodbye” – thrilled me. Short films, in my opinion, are an underrated genre, and are uniquely capable of weaving together many themes, identities, and cultures into a film screening the length of one movie. More than ever, leaving audiences exposed to so many ideas all at once is even more valuable than putting just one perspective on the table.
This year’s live action nominees are a celebration of our differences. “Ivalu” sets the tone with a sober, horrifying depiction of childhood trauma and suicide set in the rugged, icy Greenland mountains. When her older sister goes missing, a young girl desperately follows a raven, a crowing black figure overhead, to search for her. Viewers receive a tour of all the places Pipaluk and Ivalu used to play together – places where, as we discover later in the film, they will never play.
Continuing on the somber tone, “The Red Suitcase” builds suspense so expertly that I literally gripped the edges of my seat. We watch as a young Iranian woman terrifyingly evades the man she has been promised to as a child bride. In “Night Ride” a dwarf and transgender woman silently join forces to battle a bully. We go from thrill to despair to righteous indignation as the two most vulnerable people on a train get their revenge in what can only be called a dark comedy. “Ivalu,” “The Red Suitcase,” and “Night Ride” are masterful analyses of marginalized groups: they make the audience feel what they feel, see what they see, hurt like they hurt.
“An Irish Goodbye” and “Le Pupille” take the same anguished themes and apply them to a lighter, more comedic setting. “An Irish Goodbye” sees two brothers, one with Down Syndrome, mourn their mother by completing every item on her bucket list, with a heartfelt twist at the end. In “Le Pupille,” my favorite of the five short films, young girls in an Italian orphanage hilariously navigate adult politics. While the adults are pursuing redemption in the afterlife, the girls are pursuing the only thing kids really care about: a slice of cake.
I walked out of the theater feeling like I just watched a secret masterpiece. I highly recommend buying your tickets for ‘The 2023 Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films’ screening before it’s too late.