02/17/2012 08:50 pm ET Updated 5 days ago

All Hail the Oscar Shorts

In theatres now for all you Oscar purists (of which I'm one) are the Oscar-nominated animated, live action, and documentary short films -- the best mini-movies of the year according to the Academy. Get a leg up on winning the office pool by checking out these unrated programs.

This year's animated shorts nominees: lovely, whimsical, and poetic, but with some scary imagery are not all young kids' stuff.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore trailer:

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The Hugo of the group, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a nostalgic fantasy about the transcendent joys of reading. Hand-drawn Sunday, is a day in the life of a small town boy. In Canada's Wild Life, an early 1900s Downton-Abbey-esque Englishman moves to Alberta's wild prairies; needless to say he is homesick and unsuited for such harsh conditions. Britain's imaginative Morning Stroll chronicles a street from 1959, 2009, and then 2059 (hint: Walking Dead fans will dig the world of 2059). And then there's Pixar's longest theatrical short, La Luna, by Italian Director Enrico Casarosa at nearly seven minutes. It will screen before the upcoming feature, Brave.

La Luna trailer:

Ranging from 11-30 minutes, The live action shorts are an eclectic bag. A standout is Raju, a compelling, well-acted drama about a German couple who adopt, and then lose, an Indian boy in Kolkata. Sci-Fi fans have something to enjoy in the lively and amusing Time Freak, a comedy about a neurotic time machine inventor. Two Irish entries scored nominations this year, the Catholic-soccer themed Pentecost, and The Shore, the touching story of two best friends reuniting after 25 years. Another North Atlantic entry, Norway's enchanting Tuba Atlantic chronicles an eccentric, terminally ill 70 year old's quest to find closure through a massive homemade tuba.

Raju Trailer:

The documentary shorts are a heavy bunch, and include the emotionally jolting The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, featuring amateur video of last year's tsunami on the east coast of Japan. Bring your tissues! And be sure to keep a few extra for Incident of New Baghdad, a detailed account by former soldier Ethan McCord about the shooting of Iraqi civilians infamously released by WikiLeaks. Your tissue box will be empty by the time Saving Face finishes, an especially heartwrenching look at one plastic surgeon's work to reconstruct the faces of Muslim acid-attack victims.

The Tsunami & The Cherry Blossom Trailer:

While everyone raves about The Artist, The Help, and the other feature length nominees, the Oscar shorts offer some of the finest filmmaking, and storytelling, of the year. Do yourself a favor, check local listings for showtimes, and support these cinematic gems because sometimes great movies come in smaller packages.