“A Morning Stroll”
It sounds like the setup to a simple joke: Why did the chicken knock on the apartment door? This clever ditty answers it thrice, each with animation appropriate to the 1959, 2009 and 2059 time periods it depicts. Thus, we move from simple line drawings to today’s CGI, and ending with something out of “I Am Legend,” but with live poultry.
“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”
A twist on “Wizard of Oz,” this charming offering literally sweeps our silent star into a world where books are living things. High on physical comedy and all-around wonder, it’s beautiful, inventive and the one to beat.
The cartooniest of the bunch explores one family’s Sunday rituals from the POV of a young boy. The misshapen characters and odd color scheme make for highlights.
A mild, painterly tale set in 1909 asks if an Englishman can make it as a Canadian farmer. The answer is no, and the title cards bafflingly relay facts on comets.
The requisite Disney/Pixar entry takes a young boy to — you guessed it — the moon, from where he attempts to manipulate the audience’s emotions. —Rod Lott
A priest and an altar boy take center stage in this light comedy that builds to a joke that even Stevie Wonder would be able to see coming.
In a scant 25 minutes, this handsomely crafted German film probes some weighty questions regarding the entitlement of the Western world. A German couple travels to Calcutta to adopt a 4-year-old boy, only to lose the child in a bustling market. One tough-to-swallow contrivance aside, the short is provocative, poignant and the odds-on favorite for the Oscar.
Ciarán Hinds (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) stars in this quiet, affable tale of a man who returns to his native Northern Ireland and reconciles with an old friend. A bit longer than it needs to be — the short runs north of 30 minutes — but rewarding, nonetheless.
If you’ve seen “Groundhog Day,” you know where this is going, but why quibble? A nebbishy dude builds a time machine and gets caught up in rectifying every indignity and imperfection of his life. Who can’t relate?
This offering from Norway is wry, grimly funny and admirably inventive. An old man given six days to live copes with a ditzy “Angel of Death” volunteer while trying to reach his estranged brother overseas. —Phil Bacharach