The shortlists for the live-action and animated short film Oscars have been finalised, with 10 titles remaining in each category. Now the Academy must cut that down to three before final nominations are announced on January 25. Laurence Boyce profiles the films

Live-Action Short Film — the final 10

Ana’s Playground [pictured]
Dir: Eric D Howell. US. 18mins. StoryForge Films
A group of children try to survive amid the horrors of a nameless war. With its important social message, this multi-awarded favourite is also an impressive technical achievement which balances tension and horror with strong performances from a young cast.

The Confession
Dir: Tanel Toom. UK. 25mins. National Film & Television School
Picking up the Honorary Foreign Film award at the 2010 Student Academy Awards, this short from Estonian director Tanel Toom — made under the auspices of the UK’s National Film and Television School — is a beautifully realised story of a boy approaching his first Catholic confession.

The Crush
Dir: Michael Creagh. Ire. 15mins. Purdy Pictures
Drawing strong reviews at Tribeca, art director Michael Creagh’s debut stars his son Oran as a love-struck eight-year-old who falls for his teacher, Miss Purdy. When his advances are spurned, he decides on a more drastic form of action.

God Of Love
Dir-prod: Luke Matheny. US. 18mins.
Currently making the rounds of the US festival circuit (and gold medal winner at the 2010 Student Academy Awards), this film has a quirky, retro feel. The thesis film of New York University graduate Matheny, it’s the comedic and romantic story of a lounge singer who discovers magic darts that cause people to fall in love.

Little Children, Big Words (Sma Barn, Stora Ord)
Dir: Lisa James-Larsson. Swe. 12mins. BOB Film Sweden
A school class discusses what they want to be when they grow up. But young Alex’s selection disturbs his teacher and soon secrets are revealed in both their lives. This simple yet powerful piece features strong and understated performances from the two leads.

Na Wewe
Dir: Ivan Goldschmidt. Bel-Burundi. 26mins. Cut!
Set during the 1994 Burundi Civil War and based on anecdotal evidence, Na Wewe shows rebel guerrillas attempting to force Hutus and Tutsis into lines according to their ethnic origin, a task that descends into a chaos that is almost comedic.

Seeds of the Fall (Slitage)
Dir: Patrik Eklund. Swe. 18mins. Direktorn & Fabrikorn
Markedly different in theme and style to the other shortlisted films, this is a deadpan Swedish comedy about a couple in a passionless marriage who receive an odd offer from their neighbour. Its absurdist humour has made it a hit on the festival circuit (and seen it win the Grand Prix Canal Plus at Cannes).

Dir: Nick Kelly. Ire. 13mins. Zanita Films
Irish musician and singer Nick Kelly’s third short film had a brief theatrical run in Los Angeles before a festival premiere at the 2010 Cork Film Festival. A darkly comic film about a man who wants to kill himself but is constantly interrupted by a beggar, this features two memorable central performances, strong direction and an excellent script.

The Six Dollar Fifty Man
Dirs: Mark Albiston, Louis Sutherland. NZ. 15mins. Sticky Pictures
Winner of the jury prize at Cannes 2009 and best international short at Sundance 2010, this 1970s-set film has been an audience favourite worldwide. The story of an eight-year-old boy who stands up to bullies, it combines harsh reality with a dose of make-believe and a mesmerising performance from its young lead.

Wish 143
Dir: Ian Barnes. UK. 24mins. Swing and Shift Films/Union Pictures
This story of a teenager suffering from leukaemia who makes an unusual final wish manages to eschew sentimentality without descending into grimness, while performances from British name actors such as Jim Carter and Jodie Whitaker help it stand out. Winner of the audience prize at Palm Springs.

ANIMATED Short Film — the final 10

The Cow Who Wanted to Be A Hamburger
Dir: Bill Plympton. 6mins. Bill Plympton Studio
Already nominated in this section in 1987 for Your Face, Bill Plympton’s anarchic and loose style makes him stand out from the crowd. This latest, whose title sums up the entire plot of the film, displays the bad-taste humour and disregard for propriety that has made Plympton one of the most notorious animators currently working in the US.

Coyote Falls
Dir: Matthew O’Callaghan, 3 mins, Warner Bros Animation, US
The resurrection of Wile E Coyote and the Road Runner may inspire a nostalgia vote as Matthew O’Callaghan captures the anarchic spirit of the classic Chuck Jones cartoons whilst adding a modern vibe. The 3D short has already reached a wide global audience having screened in front ofCats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.

Day & Night
Dir: Teddy Newton. US. 6mins. Pixar Animation Studios
This could be the most widely viewed film on the shortlist, having preceded Toy Story 3 in cinemas. About two characters who discover they are, well, like night and day, this showcases all the usual hallmarks of Pixar’s inventiveness and technical wizardry alongside a -positive message at its core.

The Gruffalo
Dirs: Jakob Schuh, Max Lang. UK. 27mins. Magic Light Pictures
Nominated for a 2009 Bafta for best animated short, this adaptation of the classic children’s story has already proven popular internationally through festival and TV exposure. With an all-star voice cast including Helena Bonham Carter, John Hurt and Robbie Coltrane.

Let’s Pollute
Dir-prod. Geefwee Boedoe. US. 6mins.
Geefwee Boedoe has worked in the art department of such films as Monsters Inc and also has a writing credit for A Bug’s Life. Here he uses a rough and ready style to create a spoof 60s educational film which urges citizens to pollute for the good of the economy. A sharp satire which tonally echoes the work of Pixar.

The Lost Thing
Dirs. Shaun Tan, Andrew Ruhemann. Aus. 15mins. Passion Pictures Australia
The directorial debut of Ruhemann and Tan (the latter adapting his own book), this tells the story of a boy who, upon finding a strange creature on the beach, attempts to find a place for it in the world. With narration from UK-based comedian Tim Minchin, this is replete with offbeat humour and childish glee.

Madagascar, A Journey Diary (Madagascar, Carnet De Voyage)
Dir: Bastien Dubois. Fr. 11mins. Sacrebleu Productions
The culmination of the director’s experiences travelling around Madagascar for a year, this film takes a unique painterly approach. Told through a variety of animation techniques, its depiction of Madagascan life imparts the feeling of travelling through a series of watercolours. Winner of the Award Canal Plus at Annecy.

Dir: Michel Gagné. Can. 6mins. Gagné International
A visualisation of an improvised musical session by two avant-garde jazz musicians, Paul Pimley (piano) and Barry Guy (bass), the black and white staccato imagery recalls the work of the great Canadian animator Norman McLaren. An online teaser for Sensology in 2006 convinced Pixar to ask Gagné to animate the brief “taste visualisation” scene in Ratatouille.

The Silence Beneath The Bark
Dir: Joanna Lurie. Fr. 11mins. Lardux Films/Jens Fiction
Two childlike creatures wander through a snow-covered landscape in this beautifully animated short which is imbued with a sense of innocent wonder and simplicity. Drew rave reviews at Annecy and Clermont-Ferrand.

Dir: Moritz Mayerhofer. Ger. 10min. Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg
This epic tale of a gentle giant who transports his -grandmother to a new home over treacherous terrain has the feel of a Pixar movie yet is the product of a German film school. Numerous festival screenings — including Palm Springs, Encounters and Hiroshima — demonstrate how popular this fairy story has become with audiences around the world.