2024 Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts

Three of the nominated live action shorts deal with grief, one humorously so, while another deals with the deplorable state of things for women in today’s America while the last’s main character exhibits a delightful change of heart for the common good.

Laura's Review: B+

Canada’s “Invincible” from writer/director Vincent René-Lortie is based on the life of 14 year-old Marc-Antoine Bernier (Léokim Beaumier-Lépine).  It begins at the end, as he drives into a body of water after calling, but not speaking to, his mother.   René-Lortie uses an edit to resurface Marc, who emerges by a raft where his younger sister excitedly calls out his time holding his breath.  We’re given no explanation as to why he ends up in juvie, where a councilor, Luc, is clearly trying to help this boy who shows great promise in a writing class, but his rebellious nature wins out.  Beaumier-Lépine makes us feel the loss, but the film leaves us with too many unanswered questions.  B

In the Danish/Swedish coproduction, “Knight of Fortune,” writer/director Lasse Lyskjær Noer

addresses the issue of grief with Scandinavian absurdity.  Newly widowed, Karl (Leif Andrée) cannot face viewing his wife’s body.  Ducking into a men’s room, he’s addressed by a man in the neighboring stall asking for toilet paper.  Torben (Jens Jørn Spottag) then tells Karl he needs support to view his own wife, but it will slowly dawn on Karl that they are not mourning Torben’s wife at all, but a stranger’s when another family troops in.  All will end well with laughter and tears as Karl’s wife’s titular favorite song is sung beside her open casket.  B+

If you don’t pay attention to the very first few seconds of the USA’s entry, writer/director Nazrin

Choudhury’s “Red, White and Blue,” you’ll miss a very important piece of information that will make its third act reveal a total stunner.  But here’s the thing - even if you do, be prepared for a shock.  This affecting drama about Rachel (Brittany Snow, "X"), who is struggling to make a life for eleven year-old Maddy (Juliet Donenfeld) and her much younger brother Jake (Redding Munsell) by working as a diner waitress is already a moving account of what so many women face today and Snow exhibits frustration, concern and above all, patience, as she’s faced with coming up with one more dollar when Jake loses his first tooth.  But it’s the road trip she goes on with Maddy, the duo’s first jaunt outside of Arkansas, which defines the depth of her love and sacrifice while damning the society which requires it.  “Red, White and Blue” is the only entry that might upset a Wes Anderson win.  A   

“The After” from the UK features David Oyelowo as Dayo, a businessman whose wife and daughter

delight in time allotted from his busy schedule.  But one day, Dayo’s life changes in an instant, a gasp-inducing unspeakable tragedy taking both away from him.  One year later, we meet up with the man as he hears about justice served, but his grief is bottomless, exacerbated by the mindless chatter he hears in the back of his cab, his fortunes clearly affected by his emotional state.  One day a family much like his sends him over the edge as adult petty squabbles affect their young daughter, but while Oyelowo’s performance is affecting, cowriter/director Misan Harriman’s short is narratively lacking.  B-

Many will have already seen Wes Anderson’s “The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar,” one of the four Roald Dahl adaptations the auteur created for Netflix in the same year he gave us “Asteroid City,” the film whose structure is of a piece with this work.  Anderson’s short, however, is more artificially theatrical, its sets reconfigured before our eyes, locations changed via a camera pan.  Beginning in a recreation of Roald Dahl’s (Ralph Fiennes) writing cottage, where he sits in his slippers beside a flickering space heater with his cigarettes, coffee and six sharp pencils, the author begins to sketch out the titular character as unmarried, rich and selfish.  He’ll stroll outside his gate and suddenly be peering inside the window of a soaring room where Sugar (Benedict Cumberbatch) is about to find a book about a man who could see without his eyes, one which will end up changing his behavior dramatically.  We’ll drop down another level as that man (Ben Kingsley) asks two doctors (Dev Patel and Richard Ayoade) to blindfold him for a performance that evening.  This nesting doll approach is deftly handled both narratively and physically, transporting us into racing Ferraris (via rear projection), an Indian jungle and casinos worldwide, all created artificially on a soundstage.  The actors frequently address the camera directly, delivering dialogue in a rat-a-tat style.  Delightfully inventive, “The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar” is one of the best things Wes Anderson has ever done.  It’s joyous.  A

Robin's Review: B+

“The After”

A man stands on a pedestrian walkway and greets his beloved little girl. Her mom arrives and the girl runs to meet her. Suddenly, a man savagely attacks with a knife, brutally kills the mother and throws the girl off the bridge. Then, the story jumps ahead a year in “The After.”
This begins the man’s story of grief and redemption as he is enveloped, still, in his loss. It is through the caring of those around him is he finally able to cope with his grief in a fine performance by David Oyewolo.  B

“Knight of Fortune”

An elderly man is reluctantly viewing his wife’s body at a funeral home. The fluorescent light over the casket flickers and he tries to fix it but makes matters worse. In the men’s room, a hand appears under the stall and a voice asks for toilet paper. When they finish, the other, also aged, asks him to help the stranger view his own recently lost wife.
This tiny little story about aging, loss and friendship puts the spotlight on getting old and losing those around us and does so in a sincere and touching way. We cannot stop aging but there is not a better alternative so give it your best shot.  B

“Red, White and Blue”

Rachel is a struggling single mother of two kids and just received some bad news – she is pregnant. But, she lives in Arkansas and dealing with the unwanted pregnancy she must go to the neighboring state for an abortion. She takes her elder daughter and leaves her young son with a friend. When she finally arrives at the clinic, we find out that things are not what they seem, but worse in “Red, White and Blue.”
This is a scathing indictment of the anti-abortion controversy strangling this country, showing not the big picture but a very small and personal one that will hit you in the gut, maybe even if you are a calloused and hateful MAGA member. It makes me wonder on just what day humanity died?  B+


14-year old mark has had a turbulent life and, at his young age, ends up in juvenile detention. Returning to lockup after a weekend furlough, he now only dreams of escape and become obsessed with freedom in “Invincible.”
I was not ready for a character study about a troubled 14-year old kid in his last two days. Leokim Beaumier-Lepine gives a very mature performance as a boy, confused and harmed by life, who just wants to escape. He does not know what he is escaping to but knows what he wants to escape from.  B

“The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar”

Henry (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a consummate gambler who uses his inheritance to fund his betting obsession. When he learns of a man who can “see without his eyes,” he is intrigued. He understands, with a bit of practice, he can master that particular skill and cheat at his passion and make a lot of money in “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.”
This whimsical fairy tale, written by the great Roald Dahl in 1977, is the subject of director Wes Anderson’s second adaptation of Dahl’s work – the first being the feature length “Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). The result is a frantic and clever telling of this simple story with ever-changing sliding sets and quirky characters played by Cumberbatch, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley as the man who can see without eyes. The result is indeed incredibly clever but with a bold element of slapstick, too.  A-

ShortsTV releases the 2024 Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts in theaters on 2/16/23.  Click here for theater information.