March 5, 2023

2023 Academy Awards Nomination Breakdown: Best Animated Short

The Academy Awards are airing live on March 12, and for the first time, I have set out to break down every nominee in every category in order to assess, as accurately as I can, who and what has the best chance of winning. Today I will be discussing the nominees for Best Animated Short!

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

“The unlikely friendship of a boy, a mole, a fox and a horse traveling together in the boy’s search for home.”
A hodgepodge of fortune cookie slips and inspirational sayings isn’t a terrible way to shape a story, but it’s far from ideal. Granted, this is based on a children’s book, and that’s pretty much exactly what I would expect from a straight adaptation. The animation, on the other hand, is flawless and imperfectly perfect, and it’s always nice to hear the comforting voices of Tom Hollander, Idris Elba and Gabriel Byrne.

The Flying Sailor

The Flying Sailor is based on the Halifax explosion of 1917 when two ships collided in the Halifax Harbour causing the largest accidental explosion in history. Among the tragic stories of the disaster is the remarkable account of a sailor who, blown skyward from the deck of a British cargo steamer, flew 4km before landing completely unharmed, but naked except for his boots.”

I’m not sure how convincing this is as a contemplation of life, the universe and everything, but The Flying Sailor is so gorgeously animated and well-structured that a nomination seemed inevitable. The fact that it’s based on a true story is only more impressive, and its poetic nature is even more potent when put into a real-world existential perspective.

Ice Merchants

“Every day, a father and his son jump with a parachute from their vertiginous cold house, attached to a cliff, to go to the village on the ground, far away where they sell the ice they produce daily.”

Ice Merchants manages to do everything with no dialogue and an incredibly simple story. Brought to life with beautiful hand-drawn animation, the emotion in this story lies in the implied expressions in the blank faces of its characters and the music that does a brilliant job of communicating what you’re meant to be feeling. In terms of impact, it’s the most powerful short presented this year, even including unexpected commentary on the state of our planet.

My Year of Dicks

“An imaginative 15-year-old is stubbornly determined to lose her virginity despite the pathetic pickings in the outskirts of Houston in the early 90s.”

Uncomfortable and honest, My Year of Dicks is a stylized personal tale with themes and through-lines with the capacity to resonate with those outside the age and gender of the storyteller. This is not my favorite of this year’s nominees, but it’s still full to the brim with humor, heartfelt charm, and unique animation of varying styles, as the best ones are.

An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe It

“When a young telemarketer is confronted by a mysterious talking ostrich, he learns that the universe is stop motion animation. He must put aside his dwindling toaster sales and focus on convincing his colleagues of his terrifying discovery. It’s scary business living in a stop motion world, where your faces come off and a giant hand controls your every move.”
Many Oscar-nominated shorts have a penchant for being weird without embracing the potential entertainment, but this one hits the nail right in the sweet in-between. Plus, I have a weakness for anything that does the “meta” thing in a fresh and interesting way, and the stop-motion and concept in general are phenomenal.

What Will Win: Ice Merchants

What Should Win: An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe It

1 comment:

  1. All of the competing entries have a strong chance of winning, making it difficult to predict the outcome of the race. Probably the weakest in competitive terms is "The Flying Saylor", whose lack of story leaves it at a bit of a disadvantage against the rest of the category, most of whom have (for the most part) very witty, funny and emotional narratives. Still, it received an Annie Award nomination for Best Short Film, which indicates that it has been appreciated by the industry.

    The only other contender nominated (and winner) in that category at the Annie Awards was "Ice Merchants," whose long list of accolades, emotional story, beautiful animation and abstract tone put it in a strong position. It's not overly childish but it's not inaccessible either: it can be easily enjoyed by anyone through purely audiovisual language, regardless of language or context. Its biggest drawback is probably its environmentalist subject matter, but it has too much going for it to lose.

    "The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse" has the mighty Apple machine behind it, and since it's the studio's only chance to win an Oscar this year they could put a lot of hype into it. While it was not nominated for the Annie Awards for Best Short Film, it did receive nominations in television categories, where it garnered 7 nominations, of which it took home 4 awards, including Best Animated Special Production. Although its story is extremely didactic and full of laughable conveniences, this could be an advantage for voters looking for something that doesn't require a lot of thought and that they can watch with their children.

    "My Year of Dicks" and "An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe It" are the best in the category, using animation in original and very clever ways to create challenging and fresh projects. However, the irreverent nature of the former and the metanarrative approach of the latter are likely to alienate more conservative members. Even so, their unquestionable quality may win the hearts of those looking for something innovative.