Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Short Cuts 2022, Part 1: Oscar's Animated Short Film Nominees

For the 17th year, ShortsTV presents this year's Academy Award nominated animated, live action and documentary short films at a theater near you (watch the trailer here). In the first of three parts, Movie Dearest takes a look at this year's five nominees for Best Animated Short Film.

Believe it or not, the one unifying aspect of most of this year's toon finalists is... gratuitous nudity! Save for the kiddie-friendly Robin Robin, the other four feature everything from a quick glimpse of a bare bottom to a full-on sex scene. With that in mind, it's not surprising that Disney and Pixar have sat this year out, although two frequent contenders, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) and Aardman Animations, are back in the race.

And the nominees are...

Affairs of the Art, Joanna Quinn & Les Mills (UK/Canada, 16 min.), trailer.

Meet Beryl, British housewife and aspiring artiste, who relates the eccentricities and obsessions of her odd family, particularly her older sister Bev, who as a girl had several fixations, including pet taxidermy, death and Vladimir Lenin. This riotous NFB outing (also a BAFTA nominee) goes very old school with its hand drawn (on paper!) animation, which gives it a frenetically flowing look perfectly suited to its endearingly off-the-wall characters.

Oscar Connection: This is director Joanna Quinn's second Oscar nomination, following 1997's Famous Fred.

MD Rating: 7/10

Bestia (a.k.a. Beast), Hugo Covarrubias & Tevo Díaz (Chile, 16 min.), trailer.

Íngrid loves her dog. No, she really loves her dog. And if that isn't disturbing enough, as a member of the secret police during the Chilean military dictatorship, Íngrid also uses her pet to sexually torture women. Needless to say, this is a disquieting morality tale (inspired by real events) to watch unfold, and the use of stop motion animation (with its human characters depicted with glossy, porcelain-like faces) may have made it possible to tell but no less unpleasant.

Oscar Connection: Also an Annie Award nominee this year, Bestia is Chile's second nomination in this category, following 2015's Bear Story, which won the country its first Oscar.

MD Rating: 4/10

Boxballet (a.k.a. Boksbalet), Anton Dyakov (Russia, 15 min.), trailer.

In this offbeat twist on the age old "beauty and the beast" story, a hulking boxer meets and becomes smitten with a lithe ballerina, but their disparate, solitary lives may not lead to a happily ever after. With its simple 2D animation calling to mind a comic strip in motion, this odd couple romance doesn't really bring anything new to the table but you'll end up rooting for the big palooka anyway.

Oscar Connection: Naturally, the boxer has posters from the Rocky movies on the walls in his apartment.

MD Rating: 6/10

Robin Robin, Daniel Ojari & Mikey Please (UK, 32 min.), trailer.

Easily the most traditional of the batch this year, this Aardman (via Netflix) Christmas treat centers on a plucky robin named, uh, Robin, who was raised by mice and is eager to prove herself as a, well, mouse. The inspirational underdog arc that follows is, well, not very inspired, but the vocal presence of Richard E. Grant (as a hoarding magpie) and Gillian Anderson (as the villainous – surprise! – cat) add a bit of salt to this sugary stop motion confection.

Oscar Connection: This is Aardman Animations' eighth nomination in this category. Three of their shorts have won: Creature Comforts (1989), The Wrong Trousers (1993) and A Close Shave (1995).

MD Rating: 6/10

The Windshield Wiper, Alberto Mielgo & Leo Sanchez (USA/Spain, 15 min.), trailer.

The words "what is love", overheard at a crowded café, are the springboard for this kaleidoscopic trip through contemporary humanity, with all its missed connections and "could have beens". Highly stylized figures inhabit this shiny, CGI landscape, yet as mesmerizing as it is one can't escape the nagging feeling that they've seen this exact same scenario, our modern "swipe right" society under the microscope, played out several times before already.

Oscar Connection: Writer/director Alberto Mielgo was a visual consultant on the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

MD Rating: 7/10

Coming soon: Reviews of the Oscar nominees for Best Live Action Short Film and Best Documentary Short Subject.

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.

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