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Which Live Action Oscar Shorts are worth the watch?

Range of themes, whirlwind of emotions in five short films


Watching five films in a row may not be a typical choice for the every-day theater-goer, especially when they are all going for Oscar-worthy emotional impact. But while this year’s selection of Academy Award-nominated live action shorts was certainly grave, the collection is worth the watch.

For the past two weeks, Providence's Avon Cinema has been screening the Oscar short film contenders, featuring entries from Denmark to Quebec, that offer insightful vignettes of contemporary cinema.

‘The After’

Immediately establishing the collection’s tragic tone was Misan Harriman’s “The After.” The film didn’t shy away from extremes, at one moment depicting the death of the protagonist’s entire family, then documenting his subsequent downward spiral in his personal, social and work life —  definitely not a light-hearted start. While Hariman’s film achieved a vigorous portrayal of grief’s unbearable struggles and ended with a motivational message of self recovery, its storyline felt hyperbolically dramatic, detracting from its sincerity. Oftentimes, the film came across as mawkish rather than moving. Sometimes, with such limited screen time, less is more. 


Audience member Dorrit Corwin ’24 found the film “shockingly bad.”

‘Red, White and Blue’

But the collection's second contender, “Red, White and Blue,” was incredibly touching. After allowing the audience less than a minute to process the intensity of “The After,” the Avon screened Nazrin Choudhury’s powerful social critique on poverty and abortion in the United States. The short skillfully succeeded in being both political and personal, didactically portraying the difficulties of a working class single mother and the levels of mountain-moving required to get an abortion in the South, especially now. Choudhury also had the whole theater gasping at an appalling twist that made the film’s feminist commentary even more poignant. “Red, White and Blue” ended with a beautifully empowering tone, stressing the power of female solidarity and the contagiousness of compassion as we are shown how far one gesture of kindness can travel.

‘Knight of Fortune’

Some humor was finally introduced into the line-up by Lasse Lyskjær Noer’s short “Knight of Fortune.” Despite being set in a morgue, the film still managed to be the most lighthearted of the first three. With its creative storyline and phenomenal acting, the Danish short was delicately comedic and harrowing. Noer’s portrayal of multiple strangers coming together while visiting their dead loved ones left the audience touched by the unifying power of grief.


The screening’s fourth film, “Invincible,” followed the last 48 hours of teenager Marc’s life as he navigates the world in and out of juvenile detention. Told in a clever cyclical style, the film provided a striking commentary on freedom, punishment and resistance as Marc narrates his feelings of “swimming against the current” and “screaming in a world that doesn’t listen.”

The French Canadian short was an audience favorite. It was “just a really beautiful, personal story,” said Brown student Asa Turok ’24, who came to watch the shorts for Visual Arts Associate Professor Ramell Ross’s class “VISA 1900: Other Lives of Time.” He added that Ross was nominated for an Oscar himself in 2019.

Coco Kanders ’27, another Brown student, agreed that the film was “really emotive and intimate. It had literally everyone sobbing,” she said.  

‘The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar’


Lastly, Wes Anderson swooped in with “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” providing some light-hearted relief after two hours of relentless polemical tragedies. This fun adaptation of Roald Dahl’s short story chronicled the life of wealthy aristocrat Henry Sugar on a quest to “see without his eyes.” It was playfully distinctive, with theatrical sets, Anderson’s typical bright aesthetic and repeated fourth-wall-breaking as every line was narrated in the third person. 

Corwin said that it was “her favorite” and that the director’s “style is actually better suited to a short film,” as it was less overwhelming than watching a feature of his. “It felt like the perfect story within a story — in a condensed way, that I liked.” 

Kanders agreed with Anderson’s being her favorite film of the night. It was “as though I’d just watched a short story,” she said. 

With its unrealistic and quirky mood, the film was by far the most enjoyable watch, but placed in comparison with the four other heavy entries, the short lacked profundity.

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With the Oscars scheduled for Sunday, March 10, judges will have to choose between comedy and social critique in deciding which short deserves the award.

Rose Farman-Farma

Rose Farman-Farma is a Freshman Comparative Literature concentrator from England who loves writing and music.

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