2022 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Animated

2022 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Animated

2022, NR, 97 min. Directed by Various.

REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Feb. 25, 2022

What a strange moment in animation. Disney and Pixar have an effective stranglehold on the Oscars’ animated feature category, taking three of the five nominations, but made no mark at all in the traditionally more experimental animated shorts. Indeed, no American short made the list at all. Does that mean anything? Arguably not, beyond an opportunity for audiences to be exposed to stories with international resonances, like Hugo Covarrubias’ “Bestia.” A stop-motion trip inside the depraved mind of the monstrous Íngrid Benhard, the Chilean torturer known for grotesque reasons as the “Woman With the Dogs,” it put to rest the idea that the Academy never nominates horror films. Covarrubias’ decision to cast Benhard’s head like an overly glazed and emotionless porcelain doll emphasizes her amorality, amplified by truly disturbing dream sequences in which Benhard embraces her inhumanity. However, if you don’t know who Benhard was, “Bestia” does little to educate you.

There’s a different and much more affable history behind “Affairs of the Art,” the fourth in Joanna Quinn’s occasional trips into the life of the deliciously lewd Beryl. Menna Trussler returns for her third time as the raucous Welsh housewife, this time giving a little more insight into her home life, with long-suffering husband Len now her model as she gives in to her new artistic impulses. There’s a sensual, silly lustiness to Quinn’s work that’s been sadly overlooked by the Academy to date, and “Affairs of the Art” may well be her strangest work yet (with Beryl reminiscing about her sister’s lifelong obsession with dead things). The hand-drawn pencil short has a delightful energy that’s undeniable (Quinn was assigned “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” for a TV adaptation of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales for good reason), with Beryl’s cellulite sauciness given ethereal buoyancy and vivacity.

The artistic impulse features in “Boxballet,” Anton Dyakov’s wordless story of the unlikely friendship between a bent-nosed boxer and an elfin ballerina. Filled with grotesqueries that feel drawn from 1960s underground comics, it’s sweet but slight, but never finds the subtle resonances of “Affairs of the Art,” which manages to be glib and jocular but heartfelt (much like Beryl). None of those terms could be applied to Alberto Mielgo’s “The Windshield Wiper,” which aspires to be art. No, scratch that, aspires to bring art to animation, like it’s never had that before. It’s a series of vignettes on the theme of love, presented in an almost hyperrealistic fashion. However, unlike “Bestia,” the less you know about the backstory, the better. Mielgo’s irksome claims that he’s revolutionized the form just make him sound like he needs to see more cartoons. As is, it’s like Grand Theft Auto V machinima animatics for a commercial with lots of unrelated visually cool stock image moments (and some random female nudity, just to be edgy) selling you a software update.

The giddy family spirit of “Robin Robin” could not be more enchantingly further from “The Windshield Wiper.” If you don’t get a Disney or a Pixar, at least you’re guaranteed an Aardman, but the British stop-motion house pushes its own boundaries here by shifting from claymation in plasticine to its first-ever armatured puppet short for this charming Christmas special. The story isn’t exactly new, with orphaned robin Robin (voiced by Bronte Carmichael) adopted by a family of mice and trying to work out if she’s a bird or a rodent, but it’s sweet and amiable in that signature Aardman style.

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2022 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Animated, Various

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