Well, that just happened. The Boy is off on vacation and I’m trying to get back into the moviegoing habit, which ain’t easy, because: a) arbitrary demands for masks and passports could pop up at any time; b) available screenings suck. But I thought I’d roll the bones for the animated shorts which are always hit-and-miss, but at least not usually 100% misses.
In fact, the first two shorts lulled me into a false sense of security that the last three exploited most expertly, leaving me in WTAF mode. The shorts were longer this year (sounds like a fashion statement) so there were only the five noms and none of the honorable mentions. The clearly best one, Boxballet, had about zero chance to win before the limited Ukrainian incursion Biden, Zelensky and Putin are playing out, but now probably will stand as a way for the Academy to rid itself of all those Russian sympathizers it’s been cultivating for the past six decades.
I digress. On to the shorts:
Robin, Robin (UK): A half-hour story about a robin raised by mice. Mice are sneaky. Robins are singy. Combined, you get a robin who sings about how sneaky she is. Overall, very cute indeed, if a little bland. A magpie (Richard E. Grant) sings a song about stuff that conceptually reminded me of Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid but with a melody like Be Our Guest. Gillian Anderson chews the scenery as an evil cat.
Boxballet (Russia): In some ways the perfect short story for our time. An up-and-coming beautiful ballerina and a pug-ugly boxer meet and fall in love, and both are presented with unethical options for getting ahead in their respective fields, but at an incalculable cost to their dignity and happiness. I don’t even remember if there was dialogue in this one. There was some background chat (untranslated from Russian but in that clear TV accent that makes it super easy to parse) and a few titles like “Supermarket” but primarily the story is acted out. Truly excellent and memorable and reminded me a bit of the great, melancholy short We Can’t Live Without Cosmos from 2016. A very pure idea and story told in a touching way.
At this point, there was a card saying “Hide yo kids! Hide yo wife! Shit’s about to get real!” And you never really know what sort of thing is going to happen. Back in 2016, “Prologue” had this and it had some violence and nudity but I didn’t think I would necessarily rush a kid out of the theater. But, yeah, the next two get weird.
Affairs of the Art (UK/Canada): If anything represents modern Anglo culture better than a 60-year-old narcissist lamenting her life and indulging in weird art projects at the expense of all those around her while idolizing her literally psychopathic, childless sister, I don’t know what it is. When I say “psychopathic,” I’m not kidding: The narrator’s sister tortures and kills small animals and I guess the twist is that she goes out to Hollywood to get a lot of plastic surgery and taxidermy rich people’s pets. I don’t say the film approves of any of these characters—it didn’t seem to take a stance—and the thing about shorts (animated or otherwise) is that they don’t have to be to your taste. But, man, it ain’t charming, and if it’s meant as straight-up satire—I still would give it a meh.
Bestia (Chile): Dog decapitation and bestiality are the highlights of this Chilean short, allegedly based on alleged allegations. What this comes down to is Pinochet. Hollywood, of course, loves Communists, but it hates fascists, even when (like Pinochet) they just step down after a vote. An office worker takes her dog to a place every night where it rapes (and kills?) people. I don’t know. The only thing I’d say about this one is that it’s at least a genuine horror story and has some merit on that level. But you’re probably not going to like it.
The Windshield Wiper (US/Spain): This one is also emblematic of the decline and fall of Western civilization, in this case a series of vaguely connected images about disposable relationships in the modern world. The only “adult” content here is an actual, if ordinary sex scene, of an R-rated nature. It was relatively welcome after the previous two shorts, and I’m sure the whole thing resonates with a lot of modern people. It didn’t do much for me. I’m not really a fan of the animation style.
We have a saying, tongue-in-cheek but inherited from my mother’s father who said it in earnest: “We could all be dead tomorrow!” The ultimate rebuttal to someone worrying about some future event, I guess? The Windshield Wiper has an almost clichéd (almost?) use of indie folk-rock type songs, including one called “We Might Be Dead Tomorrow,” which made me actually laugh, particularly as a basis for romantic relationships one hopes to persist.
2 out of 5 ain’t great; I was glad the Flower opted to stay home.
UPDATE: “The Windshield Wiper” won the Oscar.