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For the second year in a row, I’ve had the good fortune to make the live-action and animated short film nominees part of my Oscar blitz. Both sets of five nominated films are currently playing at theaters around the country and I highly encourage you to seek them out. You can see the complete list of theaters here. The films will also be released through iTunes on February 22, 2011.

While last year I was more impressed by the animated offerings, this year I felt that the live-action shorts represented a better collection. I liked elements of all five, but the standouts for me were The Confession, the story of two English schoolboys warily approaching their first confession, The Crush, about another young schoolboy (Irish, this time) who has a crush on his teacher and what he does about it, and Na Wewe, a surprisingly humorous look at a terrifying roadside incident during the Hutu/Tutsi conflict in Burundi in the 1990s. The Crush was adorable, but I think my personal vote would probably go to Na Wewe; however, I could see any of the five nominees potentially winning.

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As for the animated shorts, the first two were utterly forgettable while the Pixar film, Day & Night, was cute but shallow. I could see The Gruffalo winning, because it’s very polished with big-name narration, but the real gem of this collection is the Australian film The Lost Thing: visually appealing, stylistically interesting, and a terrific combination of whimsy and nostalgia. There is no doubt in my mind that this should win. As happened last year, the animation program included a few additional films: The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger by Bill Plympton, was absolutely hilarious and a must-see.

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