OSCAR NOMINEES

Oscar-nominated documentary shorts are long on excellence | 4 stars

Updated: 2014-02-05T20:59:37Z

By PETER HARTLAUB

San Francisco Chronicle

The Oscar-nominated short films — animated, live action and documentary — all have their soaring moments. But the documentary shorts, opening today, are the most consistent in their excellence and conveniently fall into a unifying theme of humanity prevailing through suffering and struggle.

The documentary “The Lady in Number 6” feels like a full-length feature, telling the incredible story of 110-year-old Holocaust survivor Alice Sommers, whose positivity and life force are inspiring.

Crimes and the aftermath are explored in “Facing Fear” and “Prison Terminal,” the latter HBO documentary profiling the final imprisoned days of a war hero turned murderer.

“Karama Has No Walls” features footage taken by members of a peaceful uprising in Yemen that was met with violent government backlash.

“CaveDigger,” about a man who builds cathedral-like underground dwellings by hand, had the potential to be the lighter fare of the five nominated documentaries. Jeffrey Karoff’s expert pacing turns a quirky tale into the most memorable of the stories. It’s arguably the best of five excellent entries.

(At the Tivoli. The animated and live-action shorts opened there last week. Find the * * *  1/2 review on KansasCity.com/movies.)

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