On the whole, the Oscar-nominated animated shorts are a stronger group than the live-action contenders, with even the weakest entries offering a high level of craftsmanship. Disney's handsome The Little Matchgirl, adapted from the Hans Christian Andersen story, overwhelms the narrative with a maudlin tone, while Blue Sky Studios' No Time for Nuts incorporates Ice Age's squirrel Scrat into a mildly diverting time-travel adventure that boasts incessant child-friendly slapstick. The CG-animated Maestro, directed by Geza M. Tóth, spends five minutes building to its finale joke that you'll probably see coming long before then. On the bright side, Lifted, the directorial debut of Oscar-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom, continues Pixar's tradition of superb short films: In this story of a misbegotten alien abduction, the animation is predictably amazing, but it's the precision of the silent comedy that impresses most. Even Lifted, however, pales in comparison to writer-director Torill Kove's glorious The Danish Poet, in which a narrator (voiced by Liv Ullmann) tells the unbelievable story of how her parents met, touching on the mysteries of love, creativity, happiness, and chance with such poignancy and sweet humor that the film's 14 slender minutes feel very nearly perfect.