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Great animated shorts are like poems, and in some cases, they quite literally are poems — as is the case of three of this year’s Oscar nominees: the Kobe Bryant penned “Dear Basketball,” stop-motion “Negative Space,” and Roald Dahl adaptation “Revolting Rhymes.” Not that the other two entries are lacking in poetry, either visual or of spirit, which makes for an all-around delightful package of cartoon inspiration when viewed on the big screen (where ShortsTV has included three bonus “highly commended” shorts and a running series of loony “Petite Faim” interstitials created by students at France’s Ecole Supérieure des Métiers Artistiques).
Taken from a letter L.A. Lakers star Kobe Bryant wrote on the eve of his retirement from the NBA, “Dear Basketball” pairs hand-drawn visuals with a heartfelt ode to the sport that made him a star (Bryant reads his own words aloud, as audiences watch what looks like a black-and-white sketchbook come to life). It’s strange, yet surprisingly effective to witness Bryant’s familiar profile transformed into an adorable, Disney-style kiddo via animation legend Glen Keane’s loose graphite drawings. We see cute, cartoon Kobe sitting on the bed, clutching a basketball as big as his head, dreaming of a pro sports career in precisely the way his success has inspired so many others. Simple and sincere, the short runs just five minutes, but packs a powerful emotional punch — some of it earned, and some goosed by a stirring piece of music from John Williams that makes it feel like the climactic gesture at the end of an epic career.
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Co-directors Ru Kuwathata and Max Porter’s “Negative Space” also serves as a backward-gazing homage of sorts, only this one is adapted from a poem by Ron Koertge — fewer than 150 words about something so mundane as...
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