One of the coolest things to have seen take shape over my years covering the awards beat has been watching the program of Oscar-nominated short films find an outlet to the public through Shorts HD and Magnolia Pictures' annual theatrical and, eventually, VOD showcase of the contenders. And they're more accessible than ever as, in addition to theatrical distribution on Jan. 31, they'll be available on things like iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and DirecTV.

Some of the films that were nominated have been available here and there on the internet. I was able to see a good portion before making predictions and I think we ended up with a pretty impressive crop across the three categories.

Check out more information on the nominees below. Soon enough we'll have some of our usual analysis of these races, but what's nice is that it won't have to be a dictation as this program has opened the races up to the public. Like consideration of all the other Oscar races, it can be a discussion, as well.

Animated Program - Estimated Total Running Time: 110 min.

"Get a Horse!" (Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim, English, 6 min.) - Mickey Mouse and his friends are enjoying a wagon ride until Peg-Leg Pete shows up with plans to ruin their day.
"Mr. Hublot" (Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares, Non-dialogue, 12 min.) - The eccentric, isolated Mr. Hublot finds his carefully ordered world disrupted by the arrival of Robot Pet.
"Feral" (Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden, Non-dialogue, 12 min.) - A wild boy who has grown up in the woods is found by a hunter and returned to civilization.
"Possessions" (Shuhei Morita, 14 min.) - A man seeking shelter from a storm in a dilapidated shrine encounters a series of household objects inhabited by goblin spirits.
"Room on the Broom" (Max Land and Jan Lachauer, in English, 26 min.) - A genial witch and her cat are joined on their broom by several friends as they set off on an adventure.

Live Action Program - Estimated Total Running Time: 108 min.

"Helium" (Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson, Denmark/Danish, 23 min.) - A dying boy finds comfort in the tales of a magical land called HELIUM, told to him by the hospital janitor.
"The Voorman Problem" (Mark Gill and Baldwin Li, UK/English, 13 min.) - A psychiatrist is called to a prison to examine an inmate named Voorman, who is convinced he is a god. Starring Martin Freeman.
"Avant Que De Tout Perdre / Just Before Losing Everything" (Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras, France/French, 30 min.) - Miriam has left her abusive husband and taken refuge with her children in the local supermarket where she works.
"Aquel No Era Yo / That wasn't Me" (Esteban Crespo, Spain/Spanish, 24 min.) - Paula, a Spanish aid worker, has an encounter with an African child soldier named Kaney.
"Do I Have to Take Care of Everything" (Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari, Finland/Finnish, 7 min.) - Sini tries frantically to get her family ready to leave for a wedding, but her husband and two children are interfering with her efforts.

Documentary Program A - Estimated Total Running Time: 97 min.

"The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life" (Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed, Canada/USA/UK - English, 39 min.) - At 109, Alice Herz Sommer is the world's oldest pianist...and its oldest Holocaust survivor. At the heart of her remarkable story of courage and endurance is her passion for music.
"Karama Has No Walls" (Sara Ishaq, UAE/UK/Yemen – Arabic, 26 min.) - When protesters in Yemen added their voices to those of other nations during the Arab Spring, the government responded with an attack that left 53 people dead and inspired widespread sympathy throughout the country.
"Facing Fear" (Jason Cohen, USA/English, 26 min.) - As a gay 13-year-old, Matthew Boger endured a savage beating at the hands of a group of neo-Nazis. Twenty-five years later, he meets one of them again by chance.

Documentary Program B - Estimated Total Running Time: 87 min.

"CaveDigger" (Jeffrey Karoff, USA/English, 39 min.) - New Mexico environmental sculptor Ra Paulette carves elaborately designed and painstakingly executed sandstone caves, driven by an artistic vision that often brings him into conflict with his patrons.
"Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall" (Edgar Barens, USA/English, 40 min.) - In a maximum security prison, the terminally ill Jack Hall faces his final days with the assistance of hospice care provided by workers drawn from the prison population.