The Short of It 

The 2016 Oscar-nominated short films are big on heart

Tucked, with the greatest of care, deep into this year's bundle of Oscar-nominated short films is the finest 11 minutes of cinema I've experienced in quite some time. Entitled Historia De Un Oso (Bear Story), is pure poetry and the closest thing I've seen to Chaplin since, well... Charlie himself. With no dialogue but a beautiful score from Chilean pop duo Denver, Bear Story transports viewers to an animal kingdom where a melancholy old bear makes his way to the center of town each morning. There, for a coin, passersby look inside the peephole of the bear's diorama, a mechanical wonderment that tells the story of a circus bear who longs to escape and return to the family from which he was taken. Bear Story is but one of this year's fabulous collection of Oscar nominees, easily the best evening of entertainment this year.

There are two joyous collections to embrace—live action and animated shorts—and discerning filmgoers are well advised to see both in a makeshift double feature. Each collection has its highs and low, laughs and cries, and there's not a bad one in the bunch.

Below are some more of this year's don't-miss short subjects:

Sanjay's Super Team from Pixar (do I detect an Oscar sure-bet?). Sanjay is the cartoon version of director Sanjay Patel, who shares his own experience of growing up obsessed with American superheroes while his father beckons him to embrace Hindu tradition.

We Can't Live Without Cosmos, from Russia, tells the story of two best friends whose collective dream comes true when they are selected to be cosmonauts.

Prologue, features the unmistakable penmanship of Richard Williams, best known for his animation work in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Williams worked on this six-minute mini-masterpiece between projects for years.

World of Tomorrow, from Academy award-nominated Don Hertzfeldt (It's Such a Beautiful Day, Rejected) is an Orwellian tale of a little girl taken on a fantastical tour 227 years in the future by a relative who hasn't been born yet.

This year's live action short subject Oscar nominees are equally entertaining. A word of caution: watching short films of this caliber is an emotional thrill-ride. Your heart will be broken, fixed and broken again about every 10 minutes. This year's bundle includes the following:

Day One, from the U.S., is one of the best of this year's Oscar-nominated live action films. Directed by Henry Hughes, this film introduces us a young woman, right on the heels of a painful divorce, who joins the U.S. military as an interpreter but is tossed into a mess on her first day in the Afghan War.

Stutterer is a charming co-production from the U.K. and Ireland and tells the story of a lonely young graphic artist who is afflicted with a severe speech impediment but must face the reality of meeting the love of his life, a young lady he met online, in person.

Shok is a heartbreaker from Kosovo, reminding us that a lost childhood is among the worst casualties of war. In 1998, we meet two young best friends who try to fill their days with laughter and teasing, but the Kosovo conflict disrupts much of that with violence and fear.

Everything Will Be Okay is from Germany and Austria and explores the tenuous relationship between a divorced father and his 8-year-old daughter. When the father picks up the child for a weekend together, she soon realizes that something is not right, in spite of the film's title.

Ave Maria, a co-production from Palestine, France and Germany is a delightful comedy about a trio of devout Jews who accidentally crash their car outside of a Christian convent in the West Bank. Things take a turn when the trio can't use the phone because of their Sabbath restrictions and the nuns are hard-pressed to help because they've taken a vow of silence.

The Flicks in Boise will play host to Oscar-nominated short films beginning Friday, Jan. 29, and it just might be the best-valued movie ticket you'll buy this year. After all, how often can you go to the movies and see a guaranteed Oscar winner before the awards are handed out?

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