Oscar shorts showcase hilarious animation, miserable children

Wallace and Gromit's animated adventure looks to be competition front-runner

The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2010 program makes audiences feel blessed to see such obscure, brilliant works as the Argentine cartoon "Logorama." Alas, the annual collection of live-action and animated shorts also features such wrenching live-action films as "Kavi," which leave viewers feeling positively cursed to have witnessed.

In India's "Kavi," the eponymous boy (Sagar Salunke) labors in a brick factory alongside his parents and in full view of a sadistic foreman and uniformed schoolboys playing cricket. Director Gregg Helvey powerfully illustrates a case of contemporary indentured servitude, but the boys' physical and psychological abuse provides the most unpleasant viewing experience imaginable. (Gee, thanks, Academy.) This year's lineup extends the "hell is for children" theme to two other bummers: Ireland's "The Door," about the after-effects of the Chernobyl accident on a displaced family, and Australia's "Magic Fish," in which a lonely boy experiences an eerie event at his school. All three prove shamelessly manipulative yet visually accomplished. "Kavi" may be the most likely winner, though, with its present-day relevance and perhaps leftover goodwill from Slumdog Millionaire.

The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2010

Animated: 4 out of 5 stars; live-action: 3 out of 5 stars. Not rated. Opens Fri., Feb. 19. At Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.

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(Photo courtesy Shorts International)