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Short on Length, Long on Entertainment

Short subject Academy Award nominees are some of the best in years

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Predicting who will take home this year's Oscars isn't the toughest guessing game in Hollywood--you can pretty much bet the farm that Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) and Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) will be hauling home some hardware. But choosing a winner among the nominees for Best Animated Short Film and Best Live Action Short Film is a bit more complicated.

This year's nominees--in both categories--are superb. And as it has done for the last several years, The Flicks is showcasing some of the best contenders beginning Friday, Feb. 1, in two separate screenings.

You can't go wrong with either showcase, but here are some highlights from the animated category, which includes some of the finest efforts in recent memory.

Paperman, directed by John Kahrs and produced by Walt Disney Studios, is seven minutes of beauteous black and white. The short film is a unique product of something called "final line advection," which allows an artist to refine or draw over computer-generated images, resulting in a marriage of 21st century CG dimensionality and old-school handiwork that we saw in Disney's halcyon days.

But Paperman's technical wonder never overtakes the enchanting yarn of an urban office worker who uses a squadron of paper airplanes to meet the girl of his dreams.

Maggie Simpson stars in another nominee: The Longest Daycare. Maggie's brother Bart and father Homer are nowhere in sight in this five-minute charmer, directed by David Silverman. Longing to be grouped with the gifted children who are musical virtuosos, Maggie is instead dumped in the "nothing special" section of a daycare with toddlers who are guzzling paste or killing bugs with mallets.

Head Over Heels may be the most successful school project in movie history. Written by Timothy Reckart, the 11-minute film was crafted by a team of 11 of Reckart's students at the National Film and Television School in the United Kingdom.

The stop-motion film tells the story of Walter and Madge, who have grown so far apart emotionally, that Madge lives upside down--walking on the ceiling--while Walter coexists in the same space on the floor. When they try to put their marriage back together, achieving equilibrium is easier said than done.

Adam and Dog is a beautiful fable of how the first man and first dog find each other in God's new creation. Put together with $25,000 out of director Minkyu Lee's pocket and an all-volunteer crew, the story is unique in that the dog is never turned into a cartoon. It truly looks and acts like a dog and is never anthropomorphized. Lee tells the oldest story ever known--quite literally--but adds fresh subtext about discovery and friendship.

Fresh Guacamole, directed by Adam Pesapane (aka Pes) is a two-minute gem of how to transform familiar objects (grenades, dice, Christmas lights) into fresh guacamole.

There's not a loser in the bunch. It's too bad they can't morph the Oscar into five pint-sized statuettes.

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