An overview of this year’s Oscar-nominated animated shorts screening at IFC
Catch up with the animated shorts screening at the IFC Center before the Oscars.
Mar 9, 2022
Every year the Oscars’ novelty seems to diminish. This year is no exception, with the primary categories filled with familiar faces. Avoid this fatigue by checking out the short films, whether documentary, live-action or, in the case of this article, animated.
The short film categories consistently shine a spotlight on creative work that typically wouldn’t get much viewership. Those of us in New York, though, have the privilege of being able to see these works on the big screen — NYU students can view them at the nearby IFC Center. Here’s an overview of the animated films currently being screened.
“Robin Robin” (dirs. Dan Ojari, Michael “Mikey” Please)
From the studio that brought the world “Wallace & Gromit” and “Chicken Run” comes a wholesome and well-crafted animated tale about a family affair. It could easily take home the trophy in this category because of its accessibility. The film follows a robin named Robin who has been raised by mice. When a family heist goes wrong, Robin meets an older bird, with whom she attempts to steal a Christmas tree star to bring home a sandwich for the family. Apart from some elements of satire of materialism in a song the older bird sings, there isn’t anything complicated here thematically. Sometimes the acceptance of the self is all you need.
“Boxballet” (dir. Anton Dyakov)
A film constructed in contrasts, this Russian animation follows the big, brooding boxer Evgeny, who falls in love with the pencil-thin ballerina Olya. Their lives are presented side by side to highlight their differences and the obstacles to their love. A series of adversities comes between them, from literal punches in the boxing ring to poor timings and third parties like Olya’s instructor, with whom she has an unspoken manipulative relationship. This love-against-the-odds tale is familiar yet inventive in its animation and is sure to resonate with audiences.
“Affairs of the Art” (dir. Joanna Quinn)
This British animation is the latest in a series of shorts following the character of Beryl, who in this installment is a middle-aged woman. In this short, we hear about various quirky characters in Beryl’s life — her sister who grew up raising beetles and now is a plastic-surgery-ified woman in Los Angeles, her adult son Colin who hasn’t left the nest, and her muse of a husband Ifor. The animation is engaging, resembling Beryl’s drawings. Unfortunately, the narrative feels too all over the place to land a deeper meaning beyond the seemingly surface-level humor of a woman saying outlandish things.
“Bestia” (dir. Hugo Covarrubias)
The best film of the bunch — though its heavy subject matter makes it unlikely to take home the gold — follows Ingrid, a worker for the Chilean Intelligence Directorate in the 1970s. The film opens with a shot zooming into a crack in her figure, symbolic of her interior mind and the nation, which is revealed over the course of the film. It largely carries itself on depictions of Ingrid’s routines, and every frame feels carefully crafted. None of the 16 minutes of the film’s runtime are wasted. It’s the most visceral film in this selection because of its graphic depictions of sex and violence, but it handles these elements well, leaving the viewer moved far differently than a mainstream Pixar short.
“The Windshield Wiper” (dir. Alberto Mielgo)
A dapper man sits in the corner of a cafe and proposes the question, “What is love?” Unlike the Haddaway song, what follows is not a groovy time. The final entry in the animated shorts category consists of a series of vignettes connected in theme rather than character. Maybe this writer hasn’t experienced enough life, but many of the vignettes felt one-note or flat-out unconstructive. In one, a homeless man speaks to a department store display. In another, there is the classic fleeting glance — the concept is nothing new, yet it is repeated multiple times in case the audience didn’t get it the first time. The most annoying chapter, which may be the main cause of my disgruntledness, is one where a man and woman are shopping next to each other, match with each other on a Tinder-esque app, but never realize they’re next to each other because they’re so absorbed in their phones: an unoriginal, unproductive situation that takes away from the film’s seeming intentions of genuineness.
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Though they vary in quality, all the films in this series of shorts provide a great opportunity to see unique animation styles not necessarily used in your average animated film.
From the hand-drawn animation in “Affairs of the Art” to the stop-motion in “Bestia”, every film nominated this year showcased the far-reaching potentials of the animation medium. And with a combined runtime of barely half of that of the latest superhero blockbuster, the Oscar-nominated animated shorts make a quick trip to the cinema worthwhile.
The Oscar-nominated animated short films are currently on view at the IFC Center at 323 Sixth Ave.
Contact Sebastian Zufelt at [email protected]