If you start right now and hit the Portland International Film Festival (PIFF) and a few other theaters in town, you'll probably be able to catch almost all of the feature films nominated for a 2009 Academy Award before the big star-studded hullabaloo airs on February 22. But don't forget the short films, which can prove harder to track down.
Thankfully, the Hollywood Theatre is supportive of the underdog, and they're presenting the Academy Awards' little engines that could: the Oscar-nominated live-action and animated shorts. While a few are playing at PIFF, this is your chance to see them all in one place. (Though, frustratingly, you'll have to pay separate admission to see two different programs—one of animated shorts, and the other of live-action).
Brevity can often lead to a sense of flippancy when it comes to the live-action shorts, which tend to be melodrama heavy. However, this year's crop has a refreshing amount of comic relief. Manon on the Asphalt (France) is a touching, light-handed mediation on what it means to be alive and face death, while Denmark's The Pig concerns one man's personal and artistic freedom as he faces "butt surgery," convinced that a painting of a pig in the hospital is his guardian angel.
As for the animated shorts: It's hardly surprising that Pixar's gorgeous, sharp Presto (which preceded Wall-E in theaters) is going to kick every other nominated cartoon's ass. The other four animated shorts are wallflowered by Presto, but hold their own: France's Oktapodi is freakin' adorable, with two octopi fighting for their freedom from a Greek fishmonger, Japan's La Maison en Petits Cubes is a melancholy Waterworld meets The Triplets of Belleville, and the whole thing's rounded out by the matronly Lavatory Lovestory (Russia) and the UK's moody comedy This Way Up. (In order to pad out the length of the animated program, the Hollywood's supplementing the Oscar-nominated shorts with other shorts from the UK, France, and the US.)
In short (ha!), it's highly unlikely that you'll get to see these films on the big screen anywhere else, and they're definitely worth a gander.