FOR WHATEVER REASON, the Oscar nominated animated shorts are always about a million times more fun than those in the live-action category. That's certainly the case this year—the creativity and energy on display in the animated shorts is largely absent from any film that includes real people in actual locations.

A clear standout among the animated shorts is The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, an homage to Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and the joys of reading. A Katrina-evoking hurricane lifts a man out of his life and deposits him in a house full of books that live, breathe, and provide companionship for the rest of the man's life. It's an incredibly wry, touching, and nostalgic little film—if you can watch it without tearing up a bit, there's a pretty good chance you're a sociopath.

There's nothing so stunning in the live-action category; it's stuff like a familiar-seeming riff on Irish altar boys and soccer and a black comedy about the last days of a dying old man. The only comedy that stands out is Time Freak, which by premise alone could've been made by a young Woody Allen: A hipster invents a time machine, and then uses it not to travel to ancient Rome or future New York. No, wait—he keeps returning to a morning where he has a conversation with a cute girl, trying again and again to perfect it. But those 10 minutes never quite make up for the dreary rest of the program.