“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” is one of the Oscar-nominated shorts. (Moonbot Studios)


If one word could describe the overall tone of the five candidates this year, it would be “poetic.”

Especially lovely are “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” — a nostalgic fantasia about the transportive joy of reading — and “Sunday,” an old-fashioned, hand-drawn entry that follows the idle activities of a small-town boy. Along with “Wild Life,” the latter is one of two films produced by the National Film Board of Canada, an animation powerhouse.

Another powerhouse, Pixar, has an entry as well. Called “La Luna,” the nearly seven-minute charmer by Italian director Enrico Casarosa is the studio’s longest theatrical short ever. Look for it at screenings of the upcoming animated feature “Brave.”

Contains cartoon roadkill and other animated animal death, a bloody zombie and thematic material related to death.

Live Action

Ranging from 11 minutes to a half-hour — and in star power from Ciaran Hinds to a long list of nobodies — the live-action shorts are also a mixed stylistic bag. Among the best of the bunch is surely “Raju,” a powerful and well-acted drama about a German couple who adopt, and then proceed to lose, a 4-year-old Indian boy in Kolkata.

At the other end of the spectrum is “Time Freak,” a single-punch-line comedy about a neurotic inventor of a time machine.

Hinds stars in “The Shore” as an emigre Irishman returning home to reconcile with a childhood friend. It’s one of two films from the Emerald Isle, along with “Pentecost,” which kind of requires that you be Catholic and/or obsessed with soccer to understand.

Contains brief obscenity, a mild drug reference and thematic material related to death.