RATING |

The photo for the annual luncheon for Academy Award nominees has been released, and front center, right next to Oscar, is Kobe Bryant.

The Lower Merion grad and former Lakers star is nominated for his work on the animated short film Dear Basketball, based on the essay Bryant penned when he left the game, and animated by retired Disney legend Glen Keane.

Dear Basketball is one of five movies nominated for the best animated short film Oscar. The five nominees, grouped as a single unit, are being released in theaters today — the live-action shorts get the same treatment — and although most can be viewed online, fans of animation may want to see them on the big screen.

Bryant narrates Dear Basketball, which describes a love of the game fostered as a 6-year-old shooting rolled up tube socks at a plastic rim in his bedroom, a passion that continued after his body wore out.

Now his passion is filmmaking (he produced the short), and his time in Los Angeles allowed him to befriend legends like composer John Williams, who provides the music for Dear Basketball, which runs just six minutes.

The nominees include the Pixar short Lou, released earlier this year as a short feature preceding Cars 3, and the French film Negative Space, based on a mournful poem about a boy reflecting on his relationship with his father. The slate includes the French cartoon Garden Party, a story of tropical frogs taking over a pool next to a mansion. Their antics are initially cute, but the casual details in the background provide ominous clues related to what might have happened to the human inhabitants of the deserted property, leading to the film's rather grim final image.

There is dark humor as well in the Revolting Rhymes, based on Roald Dahl's reconfigured fairly tales. The Wire's Dominic West provides the sinister voice of a wolf, spinning a yarn that gives an entirely new and irreverent spin on classic characters including Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, and Snow White. Dahl's take on Red Riding Hood: "The small girl smiles/Her eyelid flickers/She whips a pistol from her knickers."

Additional animated shorts include Weeds, Lost Property Office and Achoo.

MOVIES

Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts

  • Dear Basketball, directed by Glen Keane.
  • Lou, directed by Dave Mullins and Dana Murray.
  • Negative Space, directed by Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata
  • Garden Party, directed by Victor Caire and Gabriel Grapperon
  • Revolting Rhymes, directed by Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer
  • Parents guide: Not rated.
  • Running time: 90 minutes
  • Playing at: Ritz at the Bourse
    • Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts also screens at the Ritz at the Bourse