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We’re extremely lucky to have the Loft Cinema bring us this slate of 2009’s Oscar-nominated short films. This year’s selection is particularly good, with no real clinkers in the bunch. The best of the lot may be The Pig, a Danish film about an elderly man who grows attached to a painting of a pig that hangs in his hospital room. When a Muslim patient is moved into the next bed, the pig painting is removed, resulting in a surprisingly sophisticated, sensitive and funny exploration of what happens when cultures clash over pig paintings. Then there’s On the Line, a very disturbing Swiss film about a department-store security guard, his unlimited access to surveillance and his acquiescence in the face of violence. It’s got the kind of painful sadness that’s typical of Oscar-nominated shorts, but it pulls it off without resorting to weak sentimentality. New Boy ups the sentimentality a bit, but strong performances in this story of an African refugee arriving for his first day at an Irish grade school more than make up for it. Manon on the Asphalt is perhaps too dreamy and manipulative for its own good, but the story of a woman narrating her own death while sweet American jazz-pop plays her to the grave is at least French, and therefore evil. The weakest link might be Toyland, about a little boy in Nazi Germany who believes that the Jews are being sent away to the titular land of playthings. It’s a dorky concept, and it fits with the whole “reward the Holocaust movie” theme of the awards season, but it’s still a decent film with a smart twist. No matter what the movies are, this is a night that film fans shouldn’t miss, if only so they can make know-it-all remarks if they ever get invited to another Oscar party.

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