2018 Oscar-nominated Short Films: Animated
“Dear Basketball” (5 min.)
The story: At the end of a storied career, Kobe Bryant reflects on his lifelong passion for basketball.
In short: The NBA All-Star’s farewell feels less like a love letter and more like playing the blame game toward a partner with whom he’s had many ups and down — which isn’t far from the truth considering the toll the sport took on his body. Glen Keane’s appealing but simplistic sketchbook animation is an odd match for this overly brief story, but the triumphant original John Williams score gives it the heroic edge it falsely assumes it automatically has.
“Garden Party” (7 min.)
The story: Frogs and toads go wild at an abandoned mansion and its sizable pool.
In short: Slick animation and Pixar-esque silent humor quickly get this French creation on the right track. The amphibians’ exploration of the estate yields plenty of laughs and lulls the viewer into quirky safety before delivering one hell of a stinger that’s borderline too much for kids to handle.
“Lou” (7 min.)
The story: A playground bully meets his match in an inexplicable entity that manages the Lost and Found box.
In short: Pixar’s best film of 2017, feature-length or otherwise, does what one wishes every short film would: it gets a lot of strong, relatable points across in a well-made, moving story that still manages to have plenty of fun.
“Negative Space” (5 min.)
The story: A man recalls bonding with his father over how to properly pack luggage.
In short: The most visually creative of the bunch features smooth stop-motion animation utilizing oddball Papier-mâché characters and cardboard sets. Though the idiosyncratic topic loses some steam due to lethargic narration, it winds up in an unexpectedly moving place while still remaining funny.
“Revolting Rhymes” (25 min.)
The story: A wolf sits down with a babysitter at a diner and tells her a story.
In short: Longer than its four fellow nominees combined, this adaptation of the Roald Dahl book may be the runtime outlier of the bunch, but is just as compelling as the rest of the lot. The remix of such fairy tales as Red Riding Hood, Snow White and pretty much any story involving lupine villains occasionally struggles in the character design department, though on a narrative level there’s practically nothing to fault.
The program also includes “Lost Property Office” (10 min.), “Coin Operated” (5 min.) and “Achoo,” which were not screened for critics.
Program average: A-minus. Not rated, but contains adult content and some disturbing images. Now playing at Grail Moviehouse