I'M A SUCKER for short and sweet, and considering all the 10-second YouTube videos and 140-character tweets out there, I'm hardly the exception. So when the Oscar-nominated short films screen, it's time to throw down your second admirable attempt at War and Peace (next time, buddy!) and get your fill of easily digestible cine-chunklets, because this year's crop of animated and live-action films are particularly fun.
As is often the case with the live-action shorts program, the themes veer toward the overblown, but this year they sidestep melodrama with an undercurrent of wry humor. The standout is the French film Henry, which, like the parts of Up with the old people, will make you spend a goodly amount of time pretending you have eye-wracking allergies, and there's also Death of a Shadow, a steampunk foray into death and love in which a soldier makes a deal with the devil. Okay, so old age and death aren't exactly happy fun times, but there are some glimmers of joy in the Somali refugee short Asad and the Afghan film Buzkashi Boys. Look hard beneath the depressing facades of Somali pirates and war-torn Kabul!
The Oscar-nominated animated shorts always kick ass, perfectly melding the short format with endless creativity and humor. With no Pixar contender in the mix, Disney's Paperman approaches impeccable, but lacks Pixar's ability to not schmaltz-out. Still, it's a cute and well-done short about an office worker's attempts to catch a cute girl's eye. Maggie Simpson in the Longest Daycare is funny, succinct, and pure Simpsons heyday gold, but it's not the big guys who take the cake—that honor goes to Fresh Guacamole, a two-minute marvel that combines stop motion with baseballs, dice, pin cushions, and light bulbs to create a tasty visual snack, which kinda makes it the perfect mascot for the Oscar-nominated short program.