See the Oscar-nominated short films and be an expert come Academy Awards night

I've long lamented that the Academy Awards are so filled with Hollywood self-congratulation that it's a pretty imperfect reflection of the actual best films of the year. Still, I'm no hater. Oscar nominations attract audiences to a lot of films that deserve them and wouldn't get them otherwise.

There's probably no area where that's truer than in the short-film categories. Filmmakers working outside the accepted feature-length norms tend to only have their work seen on a big screen at film festivals and the like.

But for a number of years now, the Oscar short categories have seen theatrical release, and that series opens this weekend with four feature-length programs.

Often the most popular of these is the animated shorts. Pixar has long been a master of the short, and its entry this year is typically adorable, moving and technically astute, but you may have already seen “Piper” if you saw “Finding Dory.” The standouts in the category are actually a little more grown-up, particularly the 30-minute “Pear Cider and Cigarettes,” which comes last in the program with a warning in case parents want to shuttle out the kiddos. It contains drug use, some sexual content and what may be the best movie soundtrack of the year.

The live-action shorts all hail from Europe, and two in particular — “Internal Enemies” from France and “Silent Nights” from Denmark — have a timely subject matter in the plight of migrants and refugees. Those themes also play out in the short documentary category — divided into two programs here —which may make for the most political moment of Oscar night.

For the price of four tickets, you can see 15 Oscar-nominated films and have some real expertise on Oscar night.

Opens Friday.