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  • Brandon MacMurray

Live Action Short Shortlist Predictions for the 96th Academy Awards

Updated: Dec 17, 2023

Over the last two weeks we posted our documentary short and animated short predictions. Lastly, here are our predictions for the live action category. This was definitely the toughest one to create a list for and we had a very large range of short films that received votes and were considered (see the long list of honourable mentions at the end). This year we have seen about 125 of the 187 live action shorts that have been submitted, which is definitely our lowest percentage watched from each category. The sheer amount of shorts in this category makes it a lot harder to predict. We also struggled with the idea that there are a lot of strong English language contenders this year but the academy voting on the shortlists the last two years has largely chosen international/non-English submissions. Two years ago the shortlist had 13/15 non-English shorts, last year 14/15 were non-English. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues this year or whether it was purely coincidental. After much deliberation and debate here are the 15 we think the academy will choose, along with several honourable mentions we had a really hard time leaving out:

1) The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, dir. Wes Anderson

This short film is probably one of the only ones on this list that needs no introduction. Wes Anderson's Netflix-distributed short based off the Roald Dahl short story was very widely acclaimed this fall. He appeared at the Venice Film Festival before coming to Netflix less than a month later. Chalk full of famous actors (as all Wes Anderson productions are) and with all the charm that the academy loves to vote for (for example Le Pupille last year) we think this has a pretty clear shot to make it onto the shortlist.

Watch on Netflix

2) We Were Meant To, dir. Tari Wariebi

Writer-director Tari Wariebi has crafted a fantasy world where, when black men come of age, they grow wings! Young Akil wakes up one morning to find feathers sprouting from his arms, and we follow him as he learns what it takes to do what he is meant to do—fly. The imaginative and lively We Were Meant To won the Grand Prix Best Short at Hollyshorts, and had already won the Grand Prize – Narrative Short category at IndyShorts, both of which qualify it to submit for the Oscar Live Action Short. The high quality and important subject matter of We Were Meant To should ensure it a place on the shortlist and a probable nomination.

3) The After, dir. Misan Harriman

Misan Harriman wows with his directorial debut in The After. The story follows a father named Dayo, played by David Oyelowo (Selma, Queen of Katwe, A United Kingdom) as he spends his day with his daughter. Heartfelt scenes of quality father-daughter time are interrupted by Dayo’s all-consuming job as the two make their way to meet with Dayo’s wife. This distraction compounds with a devastating climatic scene. The After won the Hollyshorts award for Best Live Action which qualifies it for the Live Action Oscar at the 96th Academy Awards. It will also be released on Netflix later on this year.

Watch on Netflix

4) The Stupid Boy, dir. Phil Dunn

After qualifying and winning gold with the Manhattan Shorts program, The Stupid Boy and its team have been working hard to get its name out there. It has had a really strong social media FYC campaign and they even had their short displayed Piccadilly billboards in London after winning best short at Big Syn International Film Festival. In a story that takes place in London where Christian white nationalists are committing terror attacks, this short aims to show that we are all human and all we need is love. 

5) Perspectives, dir. Neer Shelter

Perspectives in one of the only shorts in this race this year that takes on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We believe that a lot of the academy will be drawn to it because it is such a current event/hot button issue at the moment. Perspectives aims to take a unbiased approach or alignment with either side of the issue and focuses on the shifting points-of-view (or perspectives) in social media in this conflict between an Israeli soldier and potential suicide bomber on a bus. This short hopes to show how similar fact and fiction become in online media as the unfolding events are shown through different mediums like live streams and security cam footage. In the end, the viewers opinion of the characters and events hinges on their own perspective.

6) Dead Cat (Chat Mort), dirs. Danick Audet, Annie-Claude Caron

French-Canadian directors Danick Audet and Annie-Claude Caron deliver an outrageous horror-comedy in Chat Mort (Dead Cat) that is sure to gross out viewers as much as it makes them laugh. The 12-minute short tells the story of beleaguered parents Catherine and Louis (played by Léane Labrèche-Dor and Pierre-Yves Cardinal) who find their daughter Sophie (Lilas-Rose Cantin) trying to resuscitate their titular (and very obviously) dead cat, Nugget. Despite a grotesque cut to the title card that might lead viewers to expect a more graphic horror film, Dead Cat plays as a surprisingly hilarious examination of the stages of grief. Dead Cat is a fascinating dissection of the stages of grief that we all go through on the loss of a loved one. Dead Cat was the more-than-worthy recipient of Tribeca’s Best Narrative Short award, a win which also qualified the film for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short. Although horror films tend to have an uphill battle with the Academy at large, the more adventurous short films branch occasionally allow horror-themed short films when mixed with comedy (ie: You’re Dead Hélène in 2021) to make the shortlist.

7) Invisible Border, dir. Mark Gerstorfer

Winning Gold at the Student Academy Award this year in the Live Action Narrative category is Mark Gerstorfer’s tense Austrian thriller Invisible Border. The past three gold winners (Almost Home, When The Sun Sets and Tala'vision have all gone on to make the shortlist and we are predicting that trend will continue. Invisible Border depicts a deportation in Vienna taking place under the cover of darkness. Austrian police officer Nancy (Temiloluwa Obiyemi) and her colleagues have the task of evicting the Zekaj family and sending them back to Pristina, Kosovo. The late-night setting uses the dim available lighting of the close-quartered interiors, and the use of handheld camera allows for both a roving, inquisitive eye and intimate close-ups of the non-professional actors. The choice to timestamp the beginning of each scene as it unfolds in near-real time highlights the urgency of the situation and keeps the intense film moving at a commanding pace for its entire 27-minute runtime.

8) One Note Man, dir. George C. Siougas

From the moment director George C. Siougas begins the film with the opening of an old storybook to show the characters within, The One Note Man is filled to the brim with holiday whimsy. Other than McKellan’s brief narration to set the scene, The One Note Man is a film without dialogue—but so much is said through the characters expressions and body language that the story is entirely understandable, even enhanced by a focus on showing and not telling. Jason Watkins is on screen nearly the entire runtime of the film and conveys a vast array of emotions from loneliness to infatuation, disgrace and joy, all without saying a word. Crystal Yu gives one of the funniest performances of the year as the orchestra conductor, grimacing and scowling through performance after performance as some members of the orchestra struggle to follow her baton.  The charming performances and bright score could have made for an entertaining and light comedy on their own, but The One Note Man takes on a greater challenge and deepens as it zips along, quietly bringing in ideas of loss and grief as well as resilience and change. In a genre that can tend toward the treacly, The One Note Man is a Christmas film that tinges its sentimentality with both humour and heartbreak and is all the better for it. 

9) Todo Incluido (All Inclusive) dir. Duván Duque Vargas

This short film had a great festival run throughout the year that kicked off at TIFF and won qualifying honours at Aspen Shortsfest and Guanajuato International Film Festival. All Inclusive tells the story of eleven-year-old Fer who travels with his family to a countryside resort a few hours outside Bogotá. Although Fer's father will be doing business, he has promised to make time for family fun, something that has been missing from their lives.

10) Yellow, dir. Elham Ehsas

Yellow is a story that takes place post-Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban takeover woman have not had access to eduction and women must now wear the Chadari (a blue full body veil). Yellow explores what it would look like to have to buy one when they have never had to before. It serves as a reminder that the voices of women in Afghanistan are fading as they are being deprived of human rights. Actress Afsaneh Dehrouyeh is captivating and an absolute joy to watch in this short. Yellow qualified as part of the Manhattan Shorts program. Yellow has also been having a very successful festival run the last couple of months, including winning the Special Jury Award for Narrative Short Film at the Bend Film Festival and the Grand Jury Award for Narrative Short at the Tasveer Festival.

11) Red White and Blue, dir. Nazrin Choudhury

It's hard to talk about why we think this short will be on the shortlist without giving too much away for those who want to watch. This is one of a few live action shorts this year that cover stories about access to abortion (see honourable mentions for some others). We feel with the star power of Brittany Snow and the story the ensues, this has the best chance to make it on the shortlist of all of them. Red White and Blue won its qualifying award at the Edmonton International Film Festival, the same award last years Oscar winner An Irish Goodbye won. 

12) Simo, dir. Aziz Zoromba

Simo is a short that takes the competition and jealousy seen in some sibling rivalries and turns it into a thrilling drama of events that may impact the future of the family. Simo is qualified for this years academy awards after winning at TIFF in 2022 and Best Live Action Short at the 11th Canadian Screen Awards.

13) Our Males and Females, dir. Ahmad Alyaseer

Our Males and Females is a heartbreaking and painful story of a father and mother who are tasked with shrouding (an Islamic practice that is deemed obligatory to carry out upon death) their transgender daughter. When there isn't a religious leader or any one who agrees to wash her, the family is stricken with shame, as the father is willing to do anything to have his child shrouded. Our Males and Females has had a very successful festival season playing 128 festivals (17 Oscar-qualifying ones), and winning 109 awards including their qualifying award for Best Narrative Short at Nashville Film Festival.

14) Voice Activated, dir. Steve Anthopolous

Based off director Steve Anthopolous' personal life experience with a stutter and failed attempts to communicate with Siri, Voice Activated follows a florist named Trent through a similar struggle. While delivering flowers Trent is forced to use a voice-activated car. Aleks Mikic delivers a stellar performance that is sure to catch the academy's eye as this short offers an inspiring story of accepting and facing your challenges in life. Voice Activated has qualified for the Academy Awards after being a part of the Manhattan Shorts program. 

15) Good Boy, dir. Tom Stuart

Heist-gone-wrong seems to be a genre of it's own these days and Good Boy fits in with the best of them. It also offers a unique take as the main character Danny's bank robbery is not thwarted from the police but manifestations from his past. Starring the always brilliant Ben Whishaw this short really nails a great mixture of comedy and tender drama that we feel the Academy is sure to go for. 

Honourable Mentions:

These are all shorts that we still think have a very good shot at making the shortlist and just missed out making our list of 15. Many of them received votes in our predictions poll and it was really hard to omit them.

Troy, dir. Mike Donahue

This short is filled with both hilarity and empathy and we loved it a lot! We only hope that the Academy doesn't find too edgy and enjoys it enough to include it in their shortlist.

The Shepherd, dir. Iain Softley

It is probably a bit controversial that we snubbed this one and the one below. The Shepherd stars John Travolta and is produced by the great Alfonso Cuaron and distributed by Disney. While Disney's Cuaron-produced nominee last year (Le Pupille) was quirky and whimsical, we didn't get that same feeling with this one. It is also a Christmas-themed short and we felt having two of those in the 15 selections was a bit much so we stuck with just One Note Man.

Strange Way of Life, dir. Pedro Almodovar

The other controversial snub. Strange Way of Life debuted to very middling reviews and hasn't really been focused on a strong FYC campaign like many of the other titles (maybe it doesn't feel like it needs it?) We chose to let a few others leapfrog over it to make our list.

Interruption, dir. Zineb Oukach and Please Hold The Line, dir. Tan Ce Ding

Interruption and Please Hold The Line are two other short films that centre around the topic of abortion access. While Interruption looks at the topic from an international perspective of living in a country that has even less access and is relying on access in the United States, Please Hold The Line looks at it through a lens of trying to access it financially. Both are equally worthy and capable of making it onto the shortlist of 15.

The Old Young Crow, dir. Liam LoPinto

With a lovely blend of animation and live action, The Old Young Crow tells the story of a young Iranian boy who befriends an old Japanese woman at a graveyard.

Breakpoint, dir. Nicolas Panay

Odile, a textile worker, and her colleagues are told to evaluate newly-arrived young Tunisian women over a span of four days. Although there is no good solution, Odile will try to make the right choice. Breakpoint has a very strong narrative which is something the academy often looks for.

Knight of Fortune, dir. Lasse Lyskjaer Noer

Knight of Fortune finds a way to mix humour, grief and absurdity, a combination of emotions the academy looks for in their live action shorts. It is the meeting of two destined souls in the unlikeliest of places who help each other face what is in front of them.

Shadow Brother Sunday, dir. Alden Ehrenreich

Shadow Brother Sunday is Alden Ehrenreich's very strong debut. It has been a great year for the actor now turned director and this tense thriller is very deserving of any acclaim.

My Nights Glow Yellow, dir. Hannah Bang

We love the world that director Hannah Bang created in this short. It's a creative idea that would be awesome to see fleshed out even more in a feature one day.  It’s a tender and incisive vision of the future rooted in present day questions about how human connection gets muddled once money gets involved.

Sarajin, dir. Justin Kim WooSok

Sarajin was my (Brandon) personal favourite live action this year. I think the short is a little too quiet for this branch's usual tastes though. It is a great blend of important issues mixed with excellent acting and a touching story. I would be ecstatic to see this make the shortlist.

Nisei, dir. Darren Haruo Rae

Nisei (2nd generation) is an action/drama that follows two brothers as they leave and fight in World War II. These men in their all Japanese-American unit choose to fight for America despite being mistreated and not only have to face a war across the world but adversity back home. Nisei has been hitting the campaign trail hard and screening alongside documentary short contenders Between Earth & Sky and Every Day After.

Motherland, dir. Christina Yoon

Leah, a young Korean adoptee raised in America has returned to Korea on a search to find her birth parents. Writer-director Christina Yoon’s radiant short film tells a story that on the surface may seem similar to last year’s Return to Seoul, but manages to pack its full, intensely emotional story into a tight seventeen-minute film. Yoon won a well-deserved Best Director award at Hollyshorts, and Motherland had already won the Best Narrative Short award at Provincetown International Film Festival, qualifying it for submission to the Academy Awards.

Closing Dynasty, dir. Lloyd Lee Choi

Closing Dynasty has surged into strong contention as of late with the recent announcement that Gemma Chan and Destin Daniel Cretton have come on as EPs. It follows a day in the life of a young girl named Queenie as she hustles in the streets finding any way to make a dollar for an unexpected reason.

Revisited, dir. Iain Forbes and Istina (Truth), dir. Tamara Denic

Revisited and Istina (Truth) are the silver and bronze medalists at this years Student Academy Awards. They are both equally worthy of making the shortlist as Invisible Border. However, there hasn't been much historical precedent of more than one SAA award winner making the shortlist. We hope that changes this year as these two are among the best we saw.

Eid Mubarak, dir. Mahnoor Euceph

Iman, a privileged Pakistani girl, goes with her family to buy a goat, as is the tradition in Pakistan before the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Azha. She picks the cutest one, and takes it home. She spends all of her time with the goat, whom she names Barfi, after her favorite Pakistani dessert. Soon, however, she realizes that Barfi is not a pet, but a goat being raised for slaughter. This charming short follows her mission to save Barfi.

The Golden West, dirs. Tom Berkeley, Ross White

The directors that brought us last years live action winner An Irish Goodbye are back! This time with a short film that tells the story of two Irish sisters who have fled the Great Famine and make a run for the gold rush. As winter grows closer and with no success to be found, their feud begins to boil.

The Fuse, dir. Kevin Haefelin

A garbageman decides to hang up on life after losing his job and embarks on a journey to find a fuse.

Invincible, dir. Vincent René-Lortie

Inspired by a true story, Invincible recounts the last 48 hours in the life of Marc-Antoine Bernier, a 14-year-old boy on a desperate quest for freedom.



The short end of the stick: The inferior part, the worse side of an unequal deal

When it comes to cinema and the Oscars it always feels like short films and getting the short end of the stick. Lack of coverage, lack of predictions from experts and an afterthought in the conversation. With this site we hope to change that, highlighting shorts that stick with you, predictions, and news on what is happening in the world of shorts. 

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