Written by Patrick Hao
In this holistic look at the Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films of 2022 Patrick Hao provides a glimpse of distinctive qualities each title has and notable similarities and differences they share.
“Affairs of the Art”
Directed by: Joanna Quinn
Joanna Quinn and her famous character, Beryl, have never been on my radar, but in watching “Affairs of the Art,” the sense of history between the two is clear. The famed housewife, Beryl, is back since her first introduction in Quinn’s 1987 short film “Girl’s Night Out.” Like that short, “Affairs of the Art” is composed of a monologue from Beryl as she recounts the eccentricities of her family. This time, it centers on questioning what is art? Her younger sister finds her calling in taxidermy and plastic surgery. Her young son, similarly, likes maiming defenseless animals. All in the while, Beryl is attempting to be an artist herself, using her husband’s body as a canvas.
This sixteen-minute short film is comprised of 24,000 hand-drawn stills to create seamless animation. Quinn’s reliance on the grotesque is similar to underground cartoonists of her generation, such as Harvey Pekar and Bill Plympton. There’s a particular fascination for the body that is toeing the line between celebration and mockery. But, if that wasn’t clear, Quinn is clearly celebrating the social outcasts and the unhinged, the only group of people who could ever decide to make a career in the arts.
“Affairs of the Art” Short Film (Courtesy of The New Yorker)
Directed by: Hugo Covarrubias
One thing that connects all the animated shorts this year, besides one exception, is the dourness that belies all of them. Probably the darkest film of them all is the Chilean hand-drawn animated short “Bestia.” The film does not relay the historical context of its subject matter, which is necessary to even begin understanding the events, but the film attempts to psychologically explore the life of Íngrid Olderöck, otherwise known as “The Woman with the Dogs.” She was an officer under Augusto Pinochet, the notorious Chilean dictator who used Olderöck to torture prisoners and dissidents. Her most infamous method of torture was using dogs to sexually assault the prisoners, thus giving her that chilling moniker.
Covarrubias portrays Olderöck as an emotionless porcelain doll: fragile and frightening. The stop motion animation gives a surreal quality to it all. As the film progresses, Covarrubias attempts to explore the mind of such a cruel and demented figure. Could she have really shut out all the horrors of what she had done without a crack in her soul? However, while the images were striking, without much context, it is hard to admire this exploration of the history of the Chilean national identity. “Bestia” is engaging enough with how horrific it is willing to go.
“Bestia” Short Film
Directed by: Anton Dyakov
A romance between a ballerina and a boxer; beauty and brute. “BoxBallet” is a story that has seemingly been told thousands of times, this time with beautiful animation. The boxer is hulking and boxy. The ballerina is fragile and stick-thin. Together they are sensitive souls searching for love. It is all well-trodden territory with nothing new to tell. Any allusions to the political unrest of the Boris Yeltsin Russian Presidency to give the romance any added weight is crudely done at best. The animation looks good though.
“The Windshield Wiper”
Directed by: Alberto Mielgo
Alberto Mielgo’s “The Windshield Wiper” is visually stunning if not entirely dumb as rocks. The director behind one of the episodes of “Love, Death & Robots,” short uses his innovative 3D rendering that can almost be confused with rotoscoping to pose the oft-asked question, “what is love.” Through different short vignettes, Mielgo attempts to explore the different facets of love. There is hope, loss, and missed connections.
However, the final result comes off like talking to the beatnik sitting under a tree at the college quad with John Keats’ poem in his pocket. As it became clear that philosophizing was thin, the animation soon felt that way as well – all flash to distract from the surface-level observations. Maybe this might sound rude, but “The Windshield Wiper” certainly feels like an animator’s point of view on what romance is.
“The Windshield Wiper” Trailer
Directed by: Dan Ojari and Mikey Please
Almost by default, “Robin Robin” is the cheeriest of all the animated shorts. The bar was quite low. “Robin Robin” is an entertaining trifle musical from Aardman studios. Animated with Aardman’s signature stop motion style, the film does not reinvent the wheel in its story about a Robin who is raised by mice and must learn how he can best fit in.
Of all the animated shorts, this is the only one that could be described as child friendly. Along with their signature animation style, “Robin Robin” also has Aardman’s distinct sense of humor and saccharine sweetness. The songs are pleasant enough as well. But nothing here is distinct to either heap praise on or complain about.
“Robin Robin” Trailer