Starting today at the Varsity are dueling programs of Oscar-nominated short films: one package featuring the five nominees for Best Animated Short and another featuring the five nominees for Best Live-Action Short.

I just watched the five live-actions, and it was a really wonderful way to spend 90 minutes. Films range from 8 minutes to 30 minutes and from perfectly fine to fucking awesome. Here's the lineup:

*Pentecost (Ireland, 9 mins) Some short films feel like fierce condensations of feature-length subjects, while other feel like cleverly outfitted skits. Pentecost is one of the latter, telling a comic tale of a young Irish altar boy navigating the challenges of Mass, and made Oscar-nomination-worthy by the gorgeous cinematography of Patrick Jordan (who mines all the natural drama of Cathoic ritual).

*Raju (Germany/India, 25 mins) Holy crap this movie is good. It starts with a European couple arriving in Calcutta to adopt a 4-year-old boy, and morphs into a half-dozen scenes of shocking clarity on love and fear and the evil that men do (and ignore). Beautiful acting, ferocious storytelling, Raju sure as hell better win the Oscar. (And if it doesn't, I'm pushing someone you love down stairs.)

*The Shore (Northern Ireland, 30 mins). A sweet, slow slice-of-life story about the reunion of two long-estranged friends in Ireland. The acting is lovely, the story is sweet, but the prolonged Celtic reminiscing plods by.

*Time Freak (USA, 11 mins) Unabashedly a tricked-out skit, Andrew Bowler's Time Freak involves a neurotic young inventor whose successful creation of a time machine has trapped him in a loop of correcting the tiniest imperfections or miscommunications of the past. It's sharp, and Groundhog Day-y, and delightful.

*Tuba Atlantic (Norway, 26 mins) The closest thing Raju has to competition (but not really), Tuba Atlantic is a grimly stylish death parable charting a bitter old man's final days of life. Joining him on his march to the grave is a teenage girl identifying herself as a death angel, here to walk Old Man Bitter through the stages of grief as he leaves the world. It's a nice conceit, applying the stages of grief to the person doing the dying/leaving, and the whole film bristles with gallows humor and lovely imagery. It's nice.

Screening times for Oscar Nominated Shorts are here for Live-Action and here for Animated.