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A common complaint among moviegoers every Oscar season revolves around the short subject nominees. Since theatres don’t show them, why should anyone care about these awards?

Well, for some, a couple of reasons are obvious. The filmmakers crave the recognition, many in hopes that the honor will lead to more projects. Plus, the Academy is keen to sharpen its image as a legitimate body of film professionals seeking to recognize excellence even for work that no one has seen.

But the only way for Joe Ticketbuyer to have a horse in the race is to see the films. Shorts International and Magnolia Pictures have complied the Oscar nominees and they’re now playing at your local arthouse theatre.

The films are being exhibited in two separate screenings, one for live action shorts and the other for animation.

The live action entries represent a cross section of work from around the globe.

“Kavi” is a heartbreaking Indian film about a boy who works as a slave making bricks in an attempt to help pay off his father’s debt. Kavi’s life is desperate, even when well-meaning activists try to help.

“The Door” is an equally downbeat flick about a Russian family in the grim aftermath of the Chernobyl reactor accident.

Also notable is an eerie Australian story called “Miracle Fish” about a boy who takes a nap in the school nurse’s office only to wake up and find the place abandoned.

The other live action shorts include an absurd and violent Danish flick called “The New Tenants” that plays a little like and Americanized homage to Martin McDonagh, and “Instead of Abracadabra,” an oddball Swedish comedy.

If the live action shorts leave you depressed, you can opt for the animated set, which is only slightly cheerier.

Wallace and Gromit are back in a murder thriller called “A Matter of Loaf and Death.” The French are represented in a beautifully animated farce called “French Roast.”

A Spanish entry called “The Lady and the Reaper” depicts a titanic struggle between Death and a hotshot doctor over an elderly woman’s life. Ireland’s “Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty” is an aptly titled twist on the classic bedtime story.

The cream of the crop is “Logorama,” another French film, about world that has been taken over by corporate logos.

As always, these compilations are a mixed bag. While there are some worthy nuggets, this year’s nominees don’t seem to have the inspiration of previous year’s contenders.

Still, this grab bag of Oscar honorees displays enough originality to satisfy most cinefiles. (No MPAA rating, but features adult material.) Rating: ***

* Avoid at all costs
** Only if you're bored
*** Good movie
**** Well worth your time
***** Be sure to see it

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