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Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away, a princess was born—and she shot out of her mother’s vagina, umbilical cord still attached, like a wailing, cannon-propelled tetherball. That’s the first indication that Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty, one of the five animated short films up for an Academy Award, isn’t going to be your typical bedtime story.

Written and performed by Kathleen O’Rourke and directed by Nicky Phelan, the short mixes brightly colored, Disney-esque drawings with wiry stop-motion characters that are largely painted various shades of gray. The wild-haired little girl who’s listening to what’s essentially her grandmother’s revenge fantasy against the world’s young, pretty things looks terrified throughout. But you’ll laugh: The mini-movie may not stretch much past the five-minute mark, but there’s more humor here than in your average feature-length romantic comedy.

Quality over quantity is the unifying theme of Oscar Nominated Short Films 2010, with five animated and five live-action nominees strung together into two feature-length shows. It’s a rare chance to judge the contenders of two typically who-cares Academy Award categories yourself, instead of closing your eyes and pointing while filling out your Oscar pool. (The presentation of Documentary Short Subjects will remain a fine time for a bathroom break, however.)

A Wallace and Gromit thriller (yes, thriller), A Matter of Loaf and Death is another charmer among the animated nominees, along with the drama French Roast and another death-themed comedy, The Lady and the Reaper. Rounding out the surprisingly dark cartoons is the deliriously enjoyable Logorama, a brightly colored world composed entirely of brand logos (watch AOL stick-figures run by a French’s Mustard flag while the Pringles guy drives a semi). But even in this one, trouble’s afoot, in the guise of a spokeslogo-gone-bad—and the Michelin Men cops who chase after him.

The live-action nominees aren’t very cheery, either. The most disturbing of the five is Miracle Fish, a nearly 18-minute chiller written and directed by Luke Doolan about a sullen schoolboy who’s teased for being poor and checks himself into the nurse’s office when the nurse is too busy on the phone to notice him. When he wakes up from a nap, though, he’s the only one in the building. The title refers to a birthday gift from his mother, a cheap toy fish supposed to predict the future—and it works in the most awful way. Even if Doolan doesn’t walk away with a gold statue, this tightly written film deserves to be seen and remembered, too.