For most Academy Awards viewers (the ceremony airs February 26 at 5:30 p.m. on ABC), the short-film categories are a chance to grab a snack or hit the bathroom. But thanks to Shorts International, the Oscar-nominated short films are more accessible than ever. The five nominated live-action and animated films will play in local theaters starting this Friday, with one day at the Orleans and a whole week at the Suncoast. (The Orleans will also show a marathon of the five films nominated for both Best Picture and Best Director—The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, The Tree of Life—February 25 at 12:15 p.m.)
The animated nominees are a little homogeneous, with four of the five featuring cutesy, dialogue-free tales of whimsy. The likely winner is Pixar’s charming if sappy “La Luna,” which boasts the company’s typical technical prowess and emotion-stirring storytelling. I preferred the beautifully rendered “Wild Life,” a mix of historical curiosity and bittersweet character study, about an ill-prepared Canadian pioneer.
The live-action films include just one of the Academy’s preferred dour, social-issue stories (the so-so “Raju”), along with a very funny take on time travel (“Time Freak”), a droll Norwegian look at a dying eccentric (“Tuba Atlantic”) and the likely winner, the warm Irish dramedy “The Shore,” featuring proven Hollywood talent both behind (Hotel Rwanda writer-director Terry George) and in front of (actors Ciarán Hinds and Kerry Condon) the camera. See them yourself, and you might end up with an edge in your Oscar pool.