I have now seen all five animated shorts nominees. Overall the animation styles were all pretty normal. There was no stop-motion nor any hyper realistic animation. I think the art-form wasn't explored much this year by the shorts. Spider-Man:Into the Spiderverse pushed the boundaries of animation more than any of these shorts.
My pick is One Small Step. Late Afternoon is second, followed by Bao, Weekends and Animal Behavior.
Animal Behavior <><>: This is the funniest of the shorts, multiple people were laughing out-loud in the theater. The cast of animals all represent some type of behavior that could benefit from therapy. All of the behaviors line up with stereotypes, so no new ground is broken. The leech suffers from co-dependency, the pig has an addiction to food, and the bear suffers from anger control issues. Putting these common problems into a comedic setting is counter productive. Therapy can be a real help to people. People suffer in silence to complex combinations of issues. None of this should be taken lightly and used as the butt of a joke. This wasn't very creative and I had issues with the subject matter, but it is watchable.
Bao <><><>: This is Disney/Pixar's first female directed short and it played before The Incredibles 2. It is a touching story of an over protective mother pushed to her breaking point. There is no dialog, but plenty of emotion is conveyed. The problem with it, is the resolution at the end. Decades of strife in this relationship are put to rest with a single peace offering. It is a bit too tidy, but then again it is Disney/Pixar.
Late Afternoon<><><><>: ****Contains spoilers immediately**** The story revolves around an older woman, Emily, who suffers from dementia/memory loss. It is a journey through her disjointed mind from growing up to having a child. Through out the journey, Emily is scared and has no control over how the memories are recalled. Eventually she remembers the birth of her daughter Kate and Kate growing up. The Emily realizes that the care taker isn't a stranger, but her daughter, Kate. It is a happy ending with the mom recognizing her daughter. Grandparents on both sides of my family suffered dementia or similar memory loss problems. This short explored what the dementia sufferer may be going through. I think it was a novel exploration and made me think about what my family members may have been going through. I very much enjoyed this short because of how I could relate to the story.
One Small Step <><><><>: ****Contains spoilers immediately**** This is the best movie of 2018 about stepping foot on the moon! The scenes of the daughter growing up and the father taking care of her, even if she doesn't recognize it are touching. The father only wants to make his daughter happy. She wants to follow through on a childhood dream of becoming an astronaut. She refuses support of her father and struggles. As soon as she gives up on her dream, her father dies. After discovering a box of keepsakes, she re-doubles her efforts to become an astronaut. It all works out in the end. It is not explained how her study habits change after her fathers passing. It is almost like he needed to die for her to get motivated. She never seems that dependent on the father while he is alive, often taking him for granted, yet his death makes a landmark change. Her loss and new motivation aren't explored enough.
Weekends <><><>: This short brought to you by Dire Straight Money for Nothing. As an aside, go take a look through the lyrics; the 1980s were a different time. Weekends refers to how the main character lives with his father on weekends and his mother during the week. It looks like a fairly classic mid-life crisis divorce for the father. His hip downtown apparetment is full of grown-up toys. As these stories often go, a new woman enters the picture and the week/weekend cycle changes. The mother establishes a new life for her and her son and the father exits the picture. This short did not have any dialog, but it conveys what it intends to well. I am not from a divorced home, so I can't relate as much as many people can. I think children of divorce, or divorced parents may take more away from this short.