Odds are favorable that strewn among the fifteen different short films - animation, live action, and documentary - nominated for this year's Academy Awards, there are going to be gems, and this year's Short Films Showcase at the Tivoli in Westport is no exception.
Each of the three categories requires separate admission, but if you could order a la carte, you'd be touched and well-nourished by the live action short "Raju" about a German couple who travel to Calcutta to adopt a son and find that the benevolence on the surface of such a transaction disguises pure wickedness. In its brief 24 minutes, it provokes such a range of earned emotions, one cries out for it to become a feature length film. In the same category, the Irish import "The Shore" with Ciaran Hinds offers wit and charm as it stresses that you can go home again.
Two of the nominated documentary shorts (which open on February 17) stand out for being both illuminating and gut-wrenching. "The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom" opens with new footage of Japan's devastating March 2011 tsunami literally devouring a town. Once the shock lessens, the film moves toward hopefulness in drawing the connection between the annual blooming of the cherry blossoms and the resilience of the Japanese people.
"Saving Face" examines the horrifying tradition in Pakistan where men punish their wives by mutilating their faces with battery acid. So prevalent is the problem that it necessitated the expertise of a kind Pakistan-born plastic surgeon and the establishment of the Acid Survivors Foundation, which does manage to eke out a small sense of victory.
The animated films aren't as impressive as in years past, but one could do worse than Pixar's lovely "La Luna," a fable about how half-moons are made; "A Morning Stroll," which revisits one tale about a mobile chicken utilizing three styles of animation, from retro line drawing to vivid, post-apocalyptic gore; and "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore," a story about living, breathing books which, in several scenes, owes a great deal of gratitude to "The Wizard of Oz."