The animated short films nominated for Academy Awards are, to be frank, bleak. Animation is wrongfully disregarded as a medium for kids and therefore dismissible—this year's collection tries to prove naysayers wrong.
Burrow is Pixar's yearly innocuous offering, and follows a little bunny with dreams of a multi-room burrow, complete with a disco ball and other consumerist items. Her neighbors' burrows are far more ornate than hers, leaving our heroine to dig as far away as she can to avoid their judgement. It's cute, harmless and simple, plus devoid of any really meaning other than "awwwww!"
On that note, the French short Genius Loci will give your children nightmares. A Picasso-like style here gives us a 16-minute odyssey into…something. A journey into the schizophrenic mind? An eventful late-night walk? It'll be hard for even the artistically sophisticated to grasp, but thankfully, it's visually stunning, even if not engaging (and somewhat frightening).
Netflix's If Anything Happens I Love You is Oscar-bait on steroids. This was the best animation of the bunch, a beautifully fluid cross-hatched world wherein a husband and wife grow distant while trying to come to grips with their daughter's death. While timely, it feels exploitative upon the reveal, even if there's sincerity to be found.
The Icelandic Yes-People fits the yearly "I cannot believe this got an Oscar nom," bill. Six people in an apartment building slowly reveal their day-to-day coping mechanisms, from video games to a little whiskey in mother's teacup. It believes itself profound, but the credits rolled and an involuntary shrug followed. Life sucks, people need therapy, etc.
Lastly, former Pixar animator Erick Oh's Opera features humanity's history within a pyramid of rooms, an individual action promoting a reaction into another room; and another, and so on until the entire pyramid is filled with activity eventually eradicated by war. Then it starts again. Opera is absolutely mesmerizing and easily the best of the bunch. So, while this year's nominees aren't the strongest, there are still pockets of brilliance. That's worth something.
+ The animation in each is mostly wonderful
– Not particularly an engaging collection
Oscars Animated Short Film Collection
Violet Crown Virtual Cinema, NR, 99 min.