Don't expect all 10 entries here, divided into the live-action and animated categories, to be mini-masterpieces. Nonetheless, there's some lovely artistry to be found. Among the former group, On the Line is a twisty drama concerning a tentative friendship between a German security guard and a pretty bookstore employee. Cynical Oscar handicappers will note that the familiar Toyland is the sole short set during the Holocaust, but the film manages to find some poignancy in a Gentile mother's search for her missing child in Nazi Germany. The clear winner is Manon on the Asphalt, a moving rumination that turns a young woman's serious bike accident into an existential discussion on the fragility of connection. On the animated side, This Way Up is a soulful British comedy about a father-and-son undertaker team who brave boulders, rivers, and Satan to get their assigned casket to the cemetery on time. Pixar's Presto is dazzlingly animated, but its nimble craftsmanship lacks the heart of the final two nominees. Japan's La maison en petits cubes follows an aging man whose towering house is being consumed by a flood, forcing him to enter the submerged floors and confront the memories held within them. It's a heartbreaking treatise on the inescapable clutter of life.
Presto, from Pixar.
Opens at Varsity, Fri., Feb. 6. Not rated. 88 minutes.