Short film predictions are often the hardest for the average office Oscars pool participant, and unfortunately the experts usually don’t fare much better. And of the three shorts categories, the live action short is usually the biggest wild card. While animated and documentary shorts have benefitted in recent years from growing online audiences, traditional narrative shorts tend to remain the domain of film festivals — at least until Oscar season. That said, this year’s shortlist offers an array of narrative shorts from both emerging and established filmmakers, some with festival recognition and others little known until now. This year’s crop is refreshingly international, with only one American film in the bunch, making the spread even harder to decipher.
That distinction goes to KD Dávila’s futuristic prison satire “Please Hold,” about a wrongful arrest that takes a young man through a Kafkaesque techno hellscape. Even without the home country advantage, the fact that “Please Hold” is a topical comedy, similar to last year’s winner in the category “Two Distant Strangers,” gives it an edge. Kids are always sure to tug voter heartstrings, and French-Canadian filmmaker Annie St-Pierre’s comic but emotionally devastating “Les Grandes Claques” (English title: “Like the Ones I Used to Know”) is almost sure to earn a nomination. The film has had a prolific festival run since its 2021 Sundance premiere, and its poignant story about a divorced father struggling to pick his kids up on Christmas hits all the right notes.
Though hardly a guarantee, a few past Oscar winners and nominees appear on the shortlist, weighting their odds slightly. A six-time nominee and two-time winner in the live action category, director and longtime Danish Film Academy chair Kim Magnusson has produced two films in the running. The first is “Stenofonen,” a 1950s-set coming-of-age story directed by actor Nicolaj Kopernikus (“The Killing”), based on his father’s childhood and starring his real-life son. Magnusson also produced “On My Mind,” which hails from Martin Strange-Hansen, who won the category in 2003, and is about a man desperate to record a karaoke song for his dying wife. With so many other countries vying for a nod, it’s unlikely two Danish films make the cut, but tough to say which one it will be.
Political and pedigreed, Oscar nominee Marianne Farley’s “Frimas” is another strong entry, boosted by name recognition in executive producer Uzo Aduba. The Canadian film follows a woman who visits a mobile abortion clinic after abortion has newly become a criminal offense. Another film with a significant name bump is “The Long Goodbye,” executive produced by Riz Ahmed and directed by Aneil Karia. Released alongside his eponymous studio album, the haunting film stars Ahmed in a dystopian tale of a British South Asian family who are abruptly abducted from their home by armed vigilantes.
Listed in alphabetical order. No film will be considered a frontrunner until we have seen it.
“Les Grandes Claques” (“Like the Ones I Used to Know”)
“The Long Goodbye”
“Ala Kachuu – Take and Run”
“Censor of Dreams”
“On My Mind”
“Under the Heavens”
“When the Sun Sets”
“You’re Dead Helen”