“Paperman,” at seven minutes, takes less time than the end credits of “Iron Man.” “Paperman,” at seven minutes, takes less time than the end credits of “Iron Man.”

The E Street Cinema’s program of Oscar-nominated shorts (running through Feb. 14) is an annual highlight of this film-dreary time of year. I’ve always had a soft spot for short films, particularly animated ones. I’m not sure why; I’m just impressed by a film that does a lot in little time, particularly when nearly every feature film now runs more than two hours (with many pushing into three-hour territory).

I saw “Paperman,” one of the nominated films, at a showing of “Wreck-It Ralph” and was positive it would be my favorite and take the Oscar. It’s a lovely, mostly black-and-white film about a missed connection at a trolley stop and magical paper airplanes. Two other nominees, though, present strong challenges to “Paperman’s” supremacy, both in my heart and with the Academy. “Head Over Heels” and “Adam and Dog” are beautifully constructed and pack a hard punch.

“Head Over Heels” shows how difficult it can be for longtime spouses to reconnect, when all the romance found in “Paperman” is gone; “Adam and Dog” is about Adam and the first pet in Eden.

The three films, though different stylistically, are all about the human (and canine) need to connect. Everyone in these films is reaching out — sometimes blindly, sometimes deliberately, sometimes magically — for someone else, and the final connections are tremendously moving.

Each film tackles one of the grandest themes in art — “humans need each other; what’s up with that?” — and does it in less time than it takes you to eat lunch.

I often joke that people should go see the shorts program to up their chances in the office Oscar pool (not that it’s ever helped me). Really, though, you should go because in this trio you’ll find some excellent filmmaking. And that’s its own reward.