Time is precious, yet less-than-average popular culture continues to abuse our senses while wasting our sought-after attention. Fortunately, the Motion Picture Academy has bundled together this year's animated and live action short film Oscar nominees. There are 10 in all and each is a gem.
The only thing that comes up short is the length. Here's a tip: Try not to get up for a popcorn refill because you might miss more than part of a movie--you could miss the whole thing. Some of the films are as short as six minutes; none are longer than 27 minutes.
There's a good chance you may have already seen Day & Night. The Pixar short was shown before each screening of Toy Story 3 last summer. Day & Night introduces us to two jolly creatures, the embodiment of sunrise and sunset. While Mr. Day lives in a world of meadows, butterflies and rainbows, his counterpart dances through a night filled with drive-in movies, fireflies and fireworks.
Let's Pollute is a riff on educational documentaries of the 1960s. Here, chemical conglomerates and profit-driven trash-meisters are celebrated as society's champions. Quite sarcastic stuff.
Madagascar, carnet de voyage is an 11-minute dance through the island nation's Malagasy society. In a matter of moments the screen evolves from detailed charcoal sketches into colored pencil-drawn landscapes followed by a quick dissolve into a mirage of watercolors. It's a beautiful, vibrant kaleidoscope.
The Gruffalo enjoyed some success on the small screen when the BBC commissioned the classic children's picture book into a new holiday television special. A heroic mouse (Mickey would be proud) encounters a series of predators and a mythical monster, all told in rhyming verse.
The best of the animated nominees is indeed the Oscar winner, The Lost Thing, based on an Australian children's book that reached cult status. It is a personal examination of the universal challenge of belonging.
Two of the live action short films share a similar theme: a boy's coming of age. In The Confession, a young man's simple prank has severe consequences, while The Crush reveals an 8-year-old's first love: his second grade teacher.
Na Wewe explores the 1994 tribal genocide in the African nation of Burundi. The performances in the 19-minute film are compact but terrific.
Oscar-winner God of Love gives us the story of a goofball, lounge-singing darts champion who is granted a box of mysterious love-inducing darts. Writer/director/actor Luke Matheny is a star-in-waiting. Believe it or not, the Sundance Festival passed on this one.
Finally, there is Wish 143, with a most unlikely theme: a young man, dying of cancer, whose last wish is to lose his virginity. Once you get past the plot convention, the film is quite moving and a reminder of how precious time is. Yours will be well spent at this compilation of the best of the best.