The recent practice of theatrically releasing short films nominated for Academy Awards has a number of salutary benefits. It gives you a leg up in the office Oscar pool, for one thing, which is probably why most people will head over to the Kendall Square for the double slate of live-action and animated nominees debuting today. (The films get additional screenings beginning Feb. 17 at the ICA.) Just as important, in a world in which great short films spill out from every corner of the Internet, these programs provide a window into what Academy members think are the best.
While there are few genuine knockouts, the 2013 crop is an improvement over last year. The animated short film category features a reasonably wide spread of techniques, attitudes, and sources. There’s a mini-“Simpsons” episode, the agreeable 5-minute quickie “The Longest Daycare,” in which baby Maggie endures the terrors of the Ayn Rand School for Tots. Even more hit-and-run is “Fresh Guacamole,” from the anarchic animator PES (real name Adam Pesapane), whose 2001 debut, “Roof Sex,” remains the only porn film for chairs. “Guacamole” envisions avocados made of grenades, tomatoes that get diced into actual dice — an entire microcosm of transfiguration in two minutes.