Highlights from the 2024 Oscar-Nominated Live Action Shorts

Mel Jones ‘25 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Advance viewing courtesy of the Coolidge Corner Theater

At the Oscars this year, the nominees for Best Picture may get the spotlight, but Best Short Film is not a category to be ignored when making your predictions. This year’s short film nominees cover a vast array of subject material, and there is truly something for everyone, from tales of supernatural powers to biting commentary on abortion rights. Without further ado, here are the 2024 Live Action Shorts, ranked.

  1. “Knights of Fortune”
Photo courtesy of Jalabert Productions

In this short by director Lasse Lyskjær Noer, a man named Karl pays a visit to his deceased wife in the morgue, but cannot bring himself to open the coffin and look at her. He goes to the restroom and begins to cry, but he’s interrupted by someone in the next stall asking for an absurd amount of toilet paper. This turns out to be another man whose wife has also died. The two of them bond over their loss, and the stranger helps Karl muster up the strength he needs to say goodbye to his wife.

“Knights of Fortune” maintains a comedic undertone despite its dark themes, keeping it from stagnating or becoming overbearing. The story relies on a lot of emotional delivery, and Leif Andre fails to come across as believably vulnerable in some volatile moments. The pacing also feels sluggish at times, and the film seems longer than its 24-minute runtime. However, the friendship between the two men is heartwarming and makes for a pleasant viewing experience.

  1. “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar”
Photo courtesy of Netflix

By far the most favored of these shorts, “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” by Wes Anderson features a star-studded cast, including Benedict Cumberbatch and Dev Patel. An adaptation of Roald Dahl’s story of the same name, the film presents a pastel, candy-coated retelling of a man who gains the ability to see without his eyes. Henry Sugar reads a book by another man who learned the power of sight through intense concentration and focus, and he decides to try it out for himself. After many months of practice, he succeeds and uses his new ability to cheat on card games at casinos, which changes his life forever. 

In Anderson’s signature style, characters stand out against stark backgrounds and form absurdist scenes, speaking directly to the camera about the sequence of events. Much of the story is narrated by characters instead of portrayed through scenes with dialogue, which adds to the oddity of the viewing experience. While undoubtedly an interesting film, both visually and conceptually, “Henry Sugar” is more lighthearted in tone than the following three films, and it lacks a defining moment that sticks with the viewer. Despite this, it sticks out as the most unique film on this list and is absolutely worth a watch.

  1. “Invincible”
    Image courtesy of Telescope Films

    A teenage boy navigates through the last days of his life in this short by Canadian director Vincent René-Lortie. The story begins with an innocuous family vacation to a lake house, but all is not what it seems at first. Marc, a 14-year-old boy, has a deep connection with his younger sister, and she is the only person he can genuinely be himself around. When the vacation ends, Marc is taken back to a psychiatric facility. As he’s saying goodbye to his sister, he tells her not to worry about him—nothing can happen to him because he’s invincible. Marc is treated cruelly at the facility, and he continually engages in disruptive behavior. He finally manages to escape from the institution, but his freedom comes at a cost.

    René-Lortie revealed that this film is based on the true story of his childhood friend’s death, which makes “Invincible” even more hard-hitting. This short is told from Marc’s point of view, and it constructs a tangible portrayal of how hopeless depression can make someone feel. Its juxtaposition of warm, nostalgic scenes with the cold reality of the psychiatric facility is quite jarring, and we feel Marc’s agony alongside him. Being labeled as a troubled teen means that his family, and society as a whole, have told him his life has no worth. We are left wondering why so many people in Marc’s life failed to give him the support he needed. This is a sobering account of the lack of support for and awareness of mental health, a vital message at a time when depression and anxiety are at an all-time high.

    1. “The After”
    Photo courtesy of Neon Film

    “The After” follows a working-class father as his picture-perfect family falls apart in the span of a few minutes, leaving him broken and forced to go on with his life completely alone. In a tragic accident, his wife and daughter are killed while he watches, and he is left a childless widower. However, he restrains his emotions, not allowing himself to fully process the event. The rest of the short follows his daily life as a taxi driver, and we see him processing the experience through the stories he hears from his customers. One day, he picks up a family with a daughter that looks like his own. As he watches the husband and wife bicker, the girl sitting uncomfortably in the middle, he is overcome with emotion by how similar they are to his own family, and he finally breaks down.

    This film is Misan Harriman’s directorial debut, and it packs a wide range of emotional moments into just nineteen minutes. The fast-paced action at the beginning of the film fades into close, lingering shots that lend insight into the father’s mind. “The After” is profoundly uncomfortable for the viewer, both graphically and emotionally, but it tells a compelling story of grief and recovery. Because of the subject material, the plot could easily become too heavy, but Harriman does a fantastic job of highlighting the happiness people can find even after a life-changing loss.

    1. “Red, White, and Blue”
      Photo courtesy of Majic Productions

      In “Red, White, and Blue,” a young woman struggles to support her two children and is forced to confront the harsh reality of abortion laws in the US. Rachel is a single mother who works long shifts at an Arkansas diner and barely makes enough to pay rent. To afford the trip to the nearest abortion clinic in Missouri, she counts up the last of her savings and breaks open her daughter’s piggy bank to scrounge for change, but it’s not enough. One day, a mysterious patron in the diner gives her a few hundred dollars, enough to cover the trip and the operation. A heart-wrenching twist at the end of the film places it at the top of this list.

      Brittany Snow delivers a terrific performance, and Choudhury’s storytelling is both captivating and unpredictable. The piece covers a timely issue, but it avoids being too on-the-nose and addresses larger questions by focusing on the experiences of Rachel and her daughter. Directed by Nazrin Choudhury, this film questions what lengths our nation’s lawmakers will go to to defend American values while hurting the very people they’re supposed to protect. 


Show More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button