A theme for this year’s Oscar nominees for Live Action short films might be “little girls” or “parents and children.” Four of the five nominees fit in either category, just not the same four. Unlike the 2019 nominees—which were so unrelievedly bleak they put us off watching the shorts for several years—these provided not only emotional variety, but also some laughs. Most of the films are under 20 minutes.
First up was the darkest of the entries, Ivalu, directed by Anders Walter and Pipaluk K. Jørgensen, based on a graphic novel about a young Greenland girl who goes missing and her younger sister’s quest to find her through the snow, in the ice caves, and under the sea, where experience and myth commingle. An ominous soundtrack accompanies the stunning scenes of the ice mountains, a reminder of how they, and the Greenlanders’ way of life, are headed for extinction (trailer).
Night Ride – directed by Eirik Tveiten. It’s Christmastime in Norway and not necessarily a season of good will toward man. At the end of a tramline, the driver takes a bathroom break, refusing to let a waiting woman sit in the car to be out of the cold. The passenger slips inside anyway and plays with the controls. The tram begins to move. Simultaneously thrilled and frightened, she drives away. When she has to stop to let passengers board, it turns out their default is starting trouble (trailer) or (see the whole thing).
Alice Rohrwacher wrote and directed Le Pupille, the longest of the entries at 38 minutes (trailer). This is an entry from Italy and Disney+. With Disney comes the money for a large cast, a scruffy dog, clever music, and other production values. The story takes place in an Italian orphanage run by exacting nuns during World War II. Again, Christmas approaches. On that special day, orphanage visitors ask the little girls, costumed as angels, to pray for them. It’s a thinly disguised and not particularly successful fundraiser. Some hilarious moments with the charming and mischievous orphans. Don’t miss the closing credits!
In the tension-filled The Red Suitcase, directed by Cyrus Neshvad, a panicky 16-year-old Iranian girl arrives at the Luxembourg airport to meet the much older man to whom she’s been betrothed. All she possesses is her red suitcase and a very different vision of her future (trailer).
An Irish Goodbye – written and directed by Tom Berkeley and Ross White. Estranged brothers Turlough and Lorcan return to the County Down family farm with their mother’s ashes. Besides the farm, which Turlough doesn’t want (he lives in England) and his brother does, the mother has left a list of “things I want to do before I die.” Turlough agrees to stay long enough to complete the items on the list. This turns out to be a more complicated endeavor than expected. You don’t see much of the family priest, but whenever he does appear, he manages to say the worst possible thing in the circumstances. Warm-hearted portrayal of people doing their best in a bad time (trailer).