This year’s Best Animated Short contest at the Academy Awards should be a no-brainer.
Thanks to the Academy’s tendency to avoid libidinous submissions, though, the category is a bit trickier to predict. Sara Gunnarsdóttir’s hilarious, inspired My Year of Dicks should take home the trophy. But when has the Academy ever preferred horny, adult-oriented films—let alone in the Best Animated Short category?
When Disney and Pixar are out of the question—neither studio is in competition this year for the award—the Academy tends to prefer hokey shorts made for children. Such has been the case with recent winners like 2016’s Bear Story and 2014’s Mr Hublot, two films that prioritized animation over storytelling. This year’s line-up of nominees follows suit, mostly made up of work boasting gorgeous animation with little-to-no story at play.
That being said, the previous two winners in this category (The Windshield Wiper and If Anything Happens I Love You) managed to blend complex stories with innovative artistic techniques. Hopefully, when Academy voters watched My Year of Dicks—which offers warped visual styles with a compelling coming-of-age tale—they were gobsmacked by the same innovation they saw in those prior winners.
Unfortunately, My Year of Dicks may be too provocative for Oscars voters. As boring and saccharine as The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse may be, it’ll likely appeal to a wider range of Oscar voters than its biggest competitor. The sweeping, blink-and-you’ll miss it The Flying Sailor also has a shot, thanks to impressive hand-painted explosive sequences of a sailor soaring through the air.
Below, we unpack the five Oscar-nominated animated shorts, where to watch them, and their likelihood of taking the trophy home on March 12.
An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe It
This short—please don’t make me type that all out again—doesn’t exactly live up to its zany title, but it’s not half-bad. An Ostrich Told Me is certainly attention-grabbing: Shot like a lower-quality Wallace and Gromit short, this stop-motion comedy follows a tired worker, who realizes his entire life is a lie.
The real innovation behind An Ostrich Told Me is why, exactly, the man thinks his life is a lie. We see the story play out as a frame-within-a-frame; behind the main scene, hands move to adjust stop-motion figurines. The man suspects his life is fake after he sees clay faces falling apart and empty closets leading to used clay parts. Simple and witty, An Ostrich Told Me probably doesn’t have a shot at taking home the Oscar because it’s not as polished as its competitors. Still, it’s still one of the better stories of the bunch.
An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe It is streaming for free on Vimeo.
The Flying Sailor
Coming in at under eight minutes, The Flying Sailor is the shortest short of the bunch—but it still packs a punch. The movie follows the true story of a sailor who was sent flying into the stratosphere after the 1917 Halifax Explosion, who tumbled back down to Earth and somehow lived to tell the tale.
There’s little to no plot here—it’s a sailor flying up, cruising around the skies, and then flopping back downward towards the blast—but that doesn’t mean The Flying Sailor is boring. In fact, the lack of plot offers a brilliant peacefulness to the short. The sailor contemplates the fragility of his life while soaring around in the fiery clouds, spinning around like a ballerina as the clothes are torn from his body. The blend of hand-painted shots and CG animation makes the style stand out. If the Academy were to award a short that wasn’t My Year of Dicks, The Flying Sailor should take the cake.
The Flying Sailor is streaming for free on YouTube.
In every line up of five, there will always be a middle-ranking nominee. Ice Merchants fits perfectly into that third-best spot. Quietly charming but slightly forgettable, João Gonzalez’s short tells the story of a father and a son traveling to the depths of the universe to sell ice. Every day, the father-son duo barrel to the bottom of a valley, holding each other tight while a parachute billows behind them in their dive to earth. They live at the top of the mountain, where frigid temperatures allow them to create ice for the humans below.
The story is quick, efficiently told through tender moments falling through the sky, with snow and love swelling around the two characters in hues of red, gray, and white. The animation, which resembles penciled doodles of distant memories and dreams, is bolstered by a captivating score produced by Gonzalez himself. Though there’s nothing wrong with Ice Merchants, and the animation is surely enchanting, a simple story makes it more forgettable than its fellow nominees.
Ice Merchants is streaming for free on YouTube.
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse
Though The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse is certainly the most cloying, boring short in the category, it’s also probably the most likely to win the Oscar. With a doofy, blindly hopeful storyline about love and acceptance, and lackluster animation in the vein of Netflix’s 2015 uninspiring adaptation of The Little Prince, is perfect Academy bait.
The Apple TV+ film recreates the Ted Lasso message without any wittiness, regurgitating the “Love one another!” jargon with no actual wit. A boy struggles to find his way around a snowy landscape, so he’s aided by a cake-hungry mole, an evil-turned-good fox, and an insecure horse. Voice performances from Tom Hollander, Idris Elba, and Gabriel Byrne elevate the milquetoast story, but don’t bother to sit through all 30 minutes of this sermon for acceptance. Of all the nominees, this is the one that doesn’t deserve its nomination.
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse is streaming on Apple TV+.
My Year of Dicks
Reminiscent of Aubrey Plaza’s underappreciated coming-of-age comedy The To Do List, My Year of Dicks follows the true story of a teenage girl trying to lose her virginity. Pam—aka Pamela Ribon, who wrote the comedic memoir of the same name—spends an entire year flirting with the worst people on the planet: boys. All she wants to do is get laid! But how can she do that when one guy is a vampire, another a Nazi skinhead, and the most viable option is her best friend?
My Year of Dicks twists its animation genre into whatever feels right for the dick of the moment, from mocking French Impressionism to drafting up a fairytale world in Japanese anime form. The story is riveting; Ribon’s memoir could be a full-length rom com or TV series with fluid style, a la Prime Video’s Undone. But this quippy half hour, told in five separate chapters, works just as well. My Year of Dicks is not only the best of this year’s animation category; it’s also one of the most originally conceptualized, engrossing films of 2022.
My Year of Dicks is streaming on Hulu.