The Academy Awards are presented Sun., Feb. 26, and here's your chance to see the 10 short films nominated. The shorts screen in two programs — live action and animated.
"Pentecost," set in Ireland, is a thin riff on Catholic sanctimony and sports fandom. When an altar boy accidentally whacks a priest in the face with an incense burner, his father punishes him with no football. Then he gets a shot at redemption by his parish, where they train the boys for Mass like Knute Rockne coaching his own Irish.
In the social-issue drama "Raju," a German couple adopts a 4-year-old Calcutta orphan and soon faces a moral dilemma. The story begins well, then becomes familiar, but it's still affecting, and it stops just short of turning into melodrama.
Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) tells a tender story of regret and reconciliation in "The Shore," set in a Northern Ireland village, where a former resident (Ciarán Hinds) returns from America for a visit, his first in 25 years. Some gentle performances cut through a few equally gentle clichés.
"Time Freak," about a nerdy inventor trying (badly) to rewrite his recent past, is sweet and amusing, with a great punchline, although perhaps too redolent of Groundhog Day and David Ives (All in the Timing).
The very Scandinavian, slightly supernatural "Tuba Atlantic" occurs in the dead of winter, where a taciturn old Norwegian learns he has six days to live. So he spends them killing the squawking gulls that annoy him and fending off a pretty blonde "Death Angel," who wants to help him find the Lord and his long-estranged brother.
Death is everywhere for the child in "Dimanche/Sunday," and the crows who caw as they wait to pick over the next road kill sound little different than the adults who chatter as they slaughter and devour their after-church Sunday supper.
"The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" is a heavy-handed piece about a bookish fellow swept up by a windstorm and thrust into a world where he becomes the willing factotum of a community of books who add color to the human inhabitants' grey lives.
"A Morning Stroll" uses three animation techniques to offer a dark whimsical look at what life is like for chickens and their human spectators in 1959, 2009 and a post-technology, post-apocalypse 2059. The more things change for Mankind, the more dangerous they become for Chicken.
In the contemplative "Wild Life," a privileged young Brit, circa 1909, moves to the Canadian frontier, where he turns his homestead into a bit of stuffy old England, despite letters home that make him sound like a pioneer.
Unavailable for screening, but included in the animated shorts, is Pixar's "La Luna," a 7-minute, dialogue-free tale from Italian director Enrico Casarosa, about a little boy who joins his father and grandfather on their fishing boat.