Girls, houses, Netflix. These are just a few of the subjects in the short animation films that got Oscar nominations this year. And I’m just vaguely listing those things I’m writing about these shorts one by one. I specifically point out Netflix here because they teamed up with Aardman Animations to bring Robin Robin, the longest of the bunch. I also hope I’m right about this, but is there no Disney animation short that got a nomination this year? “The evil has been defeated”, but at what cost? Let’s begin.
Family seems to come first in what I’ve read about these shorts, and that’s specifically true in Joanna Quinn’s Affairs of the Art. Here, a factory worker and wannabe artist reminisces about her childhood while flashing forward to her disappointing adult life. The animation captures the essence of a true British body, but the story structure here feels too messy, unable to capture my attention. Most of the narration focuses on the artist’s sister who hurt a cat. The production did not harm a real cat but it did hurt my eyes. I’ll stop the jokes now but the aesthetic here feels too NFB during the 1970s and that’s fine but I prefer to see something that innovates. My least favourite of the bunch.
Cat homicide was dark but the aesthetic and subject matter of this next short film is darker. Don’t take your kids to this program. Hugo Covarrubias’ Beast depicts a house and the living beings inside that house in Chile. The dog in the house is pretty normal looking but the woman is reminiscent of that mummified woman that that doctor kept in his house. True crime fanatics know who I’m talking about. It shows that woman and that dog’s mundane routine. It then explains that that routine, spoiler alert, involves torturing left wing Chileans in her basement. She then gets an envelope, and it implies that the US-backed Pinochet government no longer needs her. This is some textural work that asks viewers to empathize with a woman without invalidating her monstrous actions. The best of the bunch.
Anton Dyakov’s BoxBallet has some of the things I like – men with a proletarian touch and Swan Lake. This is a story about, duh, a boxer and a ballerina crossing paths and limbs in Gorbachev era Soviet Union. There’s a deliberate nature to the aesthetic here, which is especially true with the dirt on all the surfaces that the animators drew here. This also isn’t the most popular short from the people who have seen it thus far because they think the story feels cliched. But I was emotionally invested in the ballerina’s ethical decisions. I’m also going to be as professional about this as possible (lol), but let’s just say that I really like the character design for at least both characters. Also great references to realism in Russian art in a short that is finally relatively kid friendly.
Cozy was the word another critic used when describing Daniel Ojari and Michael Please’s Robin Robin. This is the Aardman/ Netflix collaboration which I feel is the frontrunner and the program’s marquee short. Its coziness can be a disadvantage since that quality might tune some viewers out. But it’s also a strange word to describe a short about two birds (voices of Bronte Carmichael, Richard E. Grant) sneaking into a house. But in fairness it’s not so strange because it’s the cleanest and most colourful short film of the bunch. This is appropriate since it is, after all a Christmas short. And that cleanliness is uncharacteristic yet refreshing for Aardman shorts. Their stuff, whether short or long, have characters that take up space, which I love, but I love that they’re doing something slightly different. Gillian Anderson lends her voice to play a sexy, villainous cat, which, 50/50.
I’ve been doing this piece and choosing to watch the shorts alphabetically. So lastly, there’s Alberto Mieglo’s The Windshield Wiper, which shows vignettes of life taking place in what looks like Berlin. A homeless guy yells at a mannequin, a Gen X-er asks what is love, millennials and Z-ennials look for love. The short gets hate because of a scene involving two people in a grocery store using Tinder instead of looking up and seeing each other. But I’ll be nice and say that this is what Adobe Photoshop animation looks like if Van Gogh ever got his hands on it. Different surfaces complement each other here. And you know what I said about BoxBallet‘s character design? Well, the character design here is douche-y but great.
Watch the animation shorts that got Oscar nominations this year at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
- Rated: G
- Genre: Animation, History, Short, Sport
- Release Date: 2/25/2022
- Directed by: Alberto Mielgo, Anton Dyakov, Daniel Ojari, Hugo Covarrubias, Joanna Quinn, Michael Please
- Starring: Alberto Mielgo, Bronte Carmichael, Joanna Quinn, Menna Trussler, Richard E Grant
- Produced by: Alberto Mielgo, Helen Argo, Les Mills
- Written by: Alberto Mielgo, Andrey Vasilyev, Daniel Ojari, Hugo Covarrubias, Les Mills, Martín Erazo, Michael Please
- Studio: Aardman Animations, Beryl Productions International, CTB, Melnitsa Animation Studio, NFB, Pinkman TV