In the highly mechanized futuristic setting of the whimsical French-made “Mr. Hublot,” an anonymous drone gets much more than he bargains for after rescuing a stray robotic dog.
Arguably the most unique and visually striking nominee (and the most serious in tone), “Feral” resembles charcoal or pencil sketches set in motion. It tells the story of a wild child and his troubled transition into society, with fantasy sequences involving windmills and the cosmos.
But the most thoroughly enjoyable of the lot might be the British “Room on the Broom.” With a voice cast that includes Gillian Anderson, Simon Pegg and “Blue Jasmine” supporting actress nominee Sally Hawkins, the delightful stop-motion-style fairy tale follows a daffy high-flying witch and her growing menagerie of lovable traveling companions.
Best live-action short film: “Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?,” “Helium,” “Just Before Losing Everything,” “That Wasn’t Me,” “The Voorman Problem.”
In this category, too, the shortest of the nominees is the least consequential. The seven-minute “Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?” from Finland is basically a comedy skit about a family that oversleeps and makes a mad dash to a wedding.
Great Britain’s “The Voorman Problem” is also a glorified one-joke gimmick, albeit better produced and acted. Martin Freeman (from “The Hobbit” movies) plays a psychiatrist who runs afoul of a devious asylum inmate (Tom Hollander).
Made in Spain but set in an unnamed war-torn African country, the grim and gritty docudrama “That Wasn’t Me” uses hand-held cameras and quick-cut editing to depict the violent horrors faced by a couple of humanitarian doctors.
Just as intense and foreboding in its less obvious or exploitative way is France’s “Just Before Losing Everything.” Lea Drucker plays an abused wife and mother who plans an escape with her two kids, but the plot thickens with the untimely arrival of her husband on the scene.
In terms of sheer emotion and cinematic style, the real highlight here is “Helium,” the magical and heartfelt Danish nominee. A dying young boy (Pelle Falk Krusbaek) finds hope in the stories of a free-spirited hospital orderly (Casper Crump). Directed by Anders Walter, the film’s dream sequences are mesmerizing.
Come Oscar night, the possible short-film winners may not be quite as clearly drawn or easy to call as, say, Matthew McConaughey or Cate Blanchett. But being able to judge these nominees for oneself — and pulling for one’s own favorites — definitely adds another element of fun to the festivities.