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The perpetual underdog gets to come out and play at E Street Cinema this Friday.  And about time, too: It’s usually tough to see short films on the big screen, unless they’re tacked onto the beginning of a Pixar movie.  Thankfully, you can catch all the short films nominated for a 2010 Oscar this week, and you’ll actually be able to root for your favorite when you watch the Academy Awards next month.  Showings are divided into live action and animated flicks; both categories contain more than a few gems.

Aside from the familiar claymation of a Wallace & Gromit installment, the animated shorts are primarily done in CGI.  The films range from clever tales of morality, as in the meeting of a too-busy businessman and a generous homeless man in French Roast, to supernatural slapstick, as in the surreal battle between death and medicine in The Lady and The ReaperLogorama, directed by French graphic studio H5, is a gimlet-eyed highlight: The film’s entire world is created from corporate logos, giving an unlikely depth to its action-focused car chases and shoot outs.  (And there’s something cathartic about watching a computer-animated Ronald McDonald take Big Boy hostage.)

The live-action shorts oscillate between social commentary and ridiculous comedy.  Kavi addresses modern-day slavery in India, and The Door explores the Chernobyl meltdown and its impact on a small family. Perhaps the greatest treat is Joachim Back‘s The New Tenants, in which absurdist misunderstandings lead to over-the-top violence, with no forced moralizing to sully the spectacle.  Like any other great short, The New Tenants embraces its medium and pulls off tricks that a feature-length film simply couldn’t sustain.