2023’s Oscar-Nominated Short Films: A Brief Guide
Feb 10, 2023
The trickiest categories to predict at the Oscars are the short film categories. With the exception of the oft-nominated Pixar and Disney animated shorts, most audiences tune in to the Oscars having never heard of any of the nominees. So use this recap as an advantage in order to win the Oscar pool and impress friends with your knowledge of the 15 nominated shorts!
Live Action Short Film
An Irish Goodbye (Tom Berkely and Ross White) — Furthering the Irish presence at this year’s Oscars, this film takes place in rural Ireland and follows two brothers reuniting when their mother passes. Estranged, one brother wants to leave right away, but the brother with Down Syndrome refuses until they have finished their late mother’s bucket list. Notably the cast includes Michelle Fairley who portrayed Catelyn Stark on Game of Thrones. As of now, the film is not available for streaming.
Ivalu (Anders Walter and Rebecca Pruzan) — A previous winner in this category, Anders Walter (for Helium in 2013) directs this adaptation of the Danish graphic novel of the same name. The story centers on a young girl who searches for her missing sister in Greenland while their father remains indifferent. The trailer suggests a mysteriousness to the Arctic landscape that may have contributed to Ivalu’s disappearance. Ivalu is also not available for streaming.
Le Pupile (Alice Rohrwacher and Alfonso Cuaron) — Four-time Academy Award winner Alfonso Cauron produced this Italian short film written and directed by Rohrwacher, a filmmaker who has had three films at the Cannes Film Festival and taken home a screenwriting award and the Grand Prix. Le Pupile is set at a Catholic College for girls around Christmastime with a group of troublesome girls trying to steal a holiday cake, all juxtaposed against an ongoing war. The short played at Cannes, Telluride, and the Toronto International film festivals and received acclaim, partly due to its 35mm cinematography shot on Super16. The short is currently available to stream on Disney+.
Night Ride (Eirik Tveiten and Gaute Lid Larssen) — This Norwegian film is about a woman whose tram ride takes a surprising turn when she accidently becomes its operator. The “joy” ride gets even more complicated when passengers start to board and things take a turn for the worst. According to Tveiten, the short is “a story about taking a stand and trying to live up to the responsibility you have as a human being towards other human beings.” Thanks to the New Yorker, Night Ride is free to stream here.
The Red Suitcase (Cyrus Neshvad) — Hailing from Luxembourg, the last film could not be more of the moment. A young woman is anxious to take her suitcase through the airport. Why? She happens to be Iranian and wears a veil. It’s simple but layered premise allows for tension to build quickly despite its brief runtime. The Red Suitcase is also unavailable for streaming.
As of this publishing, awards centric site Gold Derby has Le Pupile projected to win, but is an upset for timely The Red Suitcase possible? Perhaps.
Documentary Short Subject
The Elephant Whisperers (Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga) — An out of the ordinary family story about a South Indian couple and their adopted child: an orphaned baby elephant. Gonsalves spent five years documenting the incredible familial love that forms between the couple and the elephant calf with the goal for “people to understand elephants, that they are very similar [to us] and they don’t mean harm in any way.” The Elephant Whisperers is readily accessible to Netflix subscribers.
Haulout (Evgenia Arbugaeva and Maxim Arbugaev) — The Arbugaev brother and sister filmmaking team capture the story of a scientist observing Walrus migration in the Russian Arctic. The film focuses on how the walruses and their migration have been impacted by the warming climate. This film takes a look at the real life toll a global issue like climate change has, by holding up a lens to one scientist and one species’ specific ritual. Haulout is also streaming courtesy of the New Yorker for free here.
How Do You Measure a Year (Jay Rosenblatt) — Rosenblatt is back following his nomination for last year’s When We Were Bullies, and just as that film was about looking back, so is How Do You Measure a Year. For 16 years Rosenblatt would ask his daughter Ella the same questions and film her response. The questions are: What do you dream about? What scares you? What do you think about our relationship? The short compiles each year’s answers as Ella ages from 2 to 18, and the audience sees how the relationship evolves in the span of half an hour. The film is not streaming at the moment.
The Martha Mitchell Effect (Anne Alvergue and Beth Levison) — “If it hadn’t been for Martha, there’d have been no Watergate,” says Richard Nixon in regard to the subject of this documentary short. Martha Mitchell was a famous socialite and married to Nixon’s Attorney General John N. Mitchell. When Martha Mitchell attempted to speak out about her suspicions, the Nixon administration did everything to keep her quiet. Her story is told in her own words via archive footage, and may hit home for academy voters wanting to make a statement about speaking up and doing the right thing. The documentary is also streaming out Netflix.
Stranger at the Gate (Joshua Steffel and Conall Jones) — This nominee documents a journey that starts as dark as can be, but takes a hopeful turn. The titular stranger is a former marine that, when suffering from PTSD and being consumed by Islamophobia, plans to attack a local Mosque. His heart changes though as he begins to interact with the people he targeted and seeing them face to face. A beautiful story of being brought back from the edge and changing for the better, Stranger can be viewed for free, via the New Yorker.
Currently, The Elephant Whisperers leads the odds. Netflix had similar success with an animal based documentary in the documentary feature category with My Octopus Teacher at the 93rd Academy Awards, so a repeat win for a similar subject would not be a surprise.
RELATED:Oscars 2023: Where to Watch The Picture Nominees
Animated Short Film
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse (Charlie Mackesy and Matthew Freud) — Based on Mackesy’s book of the same name, this short is a simple story of four unlikely friends coming together in search of the young boy’s home. Both cast and crew are high profile as the film features Tom Hollander, Idris Elba, and Gabriel Byrne (as the mole, the fox, and the horse respectively) and is produced by J.J. Abrams and his company Bad Robot. This marks AppleTV’s first nomination in this category, and the film can be streamed through their service.
The Flying Sailor (Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis) — This animating duo returns for their third nomination in this category after previously being nominated in 1999 for When the Day Breaks and in 2011 for Wild Life. With their latest short, Tilby and Forbis take a true story of a sailor who survived an explosion caused by two ships crashing in Halifax Harbor in 1917. His survival causes the sailor to ruminate on the absurd randomness of life in the balance of its randomness. Like some of the previous shorts, The Flying Sailor is available through the New Yorker.
Ice Merchants (João Gonzalez and Bruno Caetano) — Apparently the Academy was drawn to the arctic this year with this fifth tundra set short. Ice Merchants follows the daily journey a father and son take to deliver and sell ice to a local village, but if that sounds too ordinary, their commute involves parachuting. Gonzalez also composed the music for the short, which the New Yorker describes as “riveting.” The New Yorker is also streaming the film here.
My Year of Dicks (Sara Gunnarsdóttir and Pamela Ribon) — If nothing else, this short will always be known as the one to make the room (and presenter Riz Ahmed) laugh when the title was read on the morning of the nominations. Pamela Ribbon, know for writing credits on Moana and Ralph Breaks the Internet, adapts this story from her memoirs chronicling the teen angst, puberty, and the fantastical. Teenage Pam is on a quest to find the right by to lose her virginity to but also fantasizing that that right boy might be her true love with help from her friends along the way. This comic look back on growing up and coming of age is free to stream on Vimeo.
An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe It (Lachlan Pendragon) — If this doesn’t win Best Animated Short, it can at least win the strangest title. This stop-motion film from Australia is about an existential crisis an office worker goes through when they discover their world is in fact stop-motion. Technically, the film is already an Oscar winner as it was selected to recieve the Student Academy Award at the 2022 ceremony. If Pendragon were to win he would join the company of Robert Zemeckis, Pete Doctor, and Spike Lee all winners of the Student Academy Award that have subsequently won Oscars. An Ostrich is the only nominee in this category not available to stream online.
Likely due to its high profile, the current favorite to win is the celeb starring and produced The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse.
The short film is a tradition continued since the origins of cinema. In the days before television shorts were attached as precursors to features (usually animated). While not as prolific today, shorts remain the way most filmmakers get started before taking going on to make features. The three categories at the Oscars are great to spotlight smaller but no less impactful works. With two-thirds of the nominees currently streaming, it is now easier than ever to see these stories not at the forefront of pop culture.
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