Major features and their stars and directors tend to be the major focus of the Oscars. But a nomination in any category is an enormous achievement, let alone a win. The short film categories, either animated or live action, can act as a spring board for up and coming directors so they are definitely worth keep an eye out for.

This year's nominations for the animated short are: 

Head Over Heels, The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare, Paperman, Fresh Guacamole, and Adam and Dog.

All but Head Over Heels are American made, and despite a couple of them having no dialogue, there does seem to be an absence of the oft popular French shorts. Our favourites of the bunch are Adam and Dog and the Disney animation Paperman, which showcases a brand new way of combining hand drawn work with digital animation. As The Film Stage points out, Paperman is a more adult version of the standard Disney brand, as it exhibits all the beauty of love at first sight, and one man's urban quest to re-find that immediate love. It's adorable. 

Adam and Dog examines how man and dog first became best friends. How could that possibly ever be bad? It's not. It's truly wonderful. According to animator Minkyu Lee man and dog were friends before Eve even came along. When Eve intrudes Adam leaves the dog, but the dog waits until the fatal bite of that first fruit and the heavens open at which point he returns. Lee even made the film in his own time and out of his own pocket, and it is simply a delight to watch.

The nominations for live action short are:

Asad, Buzkashi Boys, Curfew, Death of a Shadow [Dood van een schaduw], and Henry

All in all the live action short nominations are evidently a more multicultural affair, with offerings from Afghanistan, South Africa, Belgium/France, Canada and the USA. By the nature of animation, its aims are certainly more for a more youthful generation, and in contrast this selection offers themes such as Alzheimers and war, mixed with genres of Horror and the surreal. Canadian movie Henry is almost a counterpart to another Oscar nominated European movie, Amour. Revolving around the eponymous character, alzheimer sufferer Henry, the approach to the degredation of the mind is more fluid and has greater introspection. With elements of the surreal and clever cinematography the audience is guided through parts of his mind and his memory, but with quiet disconcertion as parts of his mind are closed off into the darkness of his illness. It's stunning and a deserved winner.

Another deserved winner (why can't there be two?) is Buzkashi Boys. From director Sam French and cowriter Martin Desmond Roe, comes a story which, as The Film Stage describe, "attempt[s] to right [the] wrong" of "one of the hardest and most brutal lives one can imagine" in Afghanistan and America's inaccurate media portrayal as the entire country as its enemy. Friends Ahmad and Rafi yearn for a better life, but are seemingly beaten down at every turn by the tragedy that lives on each corner. It is another stunningly shot film, which seems to recapture light and darkness. Another great contender.

The Oscars take place on February 24th, when the winners will be announced.