Who says award-season winners have to be epic? If you're looking for an alternative to the lengthy features vying for recognition and box-office glory, ShortsHD and Magnolia Pictures have on offer the full slate of 2014 Oscar-nominated short films. Divided into three categories (documentary, animation, live action), each featuring five nominees, the program proves a study in the benefits and limitations of telling a story in a condensed format. That challenge can be daunting, and not every one of the films up for an Academy Award this year meets it. Still, shorts afford filmmakers a chance to succinctly and stirringly develop one clearly defined idea from beginning to end. Constrained runtimes frustrate depth when it comes to the documentary shorts. The best of an underwhelming bunch is Cavedigger, Jeffrey Karoff's portrait of New Mexico artist Ra Paulette, who digs and decorates complex sandstone caves using only hand tools, and whose idiosyncratic hobby at least provides a window onto a unique artistic process. Thankfully, all five animated shorts boast an aesthetic certainty that carries them over their bumpier patches. Head and shoulders above the rest, however, is the beautiful Japanese animé Possessions, about discarded household objects coming to life, which argues that even things old and shopworn can be of vital value. The live program also proves strong, especially the sobering realism of Just Before Losing Everything (Avant que de tout perdre), a bracing mini-drama from Xavier Legrand that tracks an abused wife's efforts, at her superstore place of employment, to make arrangements to abscond with her two kids before her menacing husband can stop her.