A Year in Shorts Day 175: "Dear Basketball"
Content Warning- Today's post contains rather frank discussions about Kobe Bryant
Ugh. I don’t want to talk about this one. Due to the involvement of Kobe Bryant, Dear Basketball has always been a difficult short to talk about, and it’s become even more so after the death of him and his daughter last year. Kobe Bryant was and remains a highly controversial figure, and I am well aware that I’m stepping into a bit of a minefield by talking about him. But I suppose he’s not the first alleged rapist to win an Academy Award, and contending with that fact is just part of the territory. So with all that out of the way, let’s discuss Dear Basketball.
The creative staff assembled to make Dear Basketball is undeniably impressive. The short is directed by legendary Disney animator Glen Keane, who is up for another Oscar this year for his feature film Over the Moon. And who did they get to write the score than none other than John Freaking Williams? And it must be said that neither of them phoned in their work; the hand drawn animation is simple but lovely, and Williams' score might be the best work he's done in recent memory. It's certainly better than his inexplicably Oscar-nominated score for Rise of Skywalker.
But in the end, all that nice work doesn't add up to a whole lot of anything. Perhaps this short lands better if you're a basketball fan. But in case you hadn't guessed, I'm not really into sports. That's why I run an Oscar blog, after all. The short (based on a poem written by Bryant right before retiring) is clearly designed to tug at the heartstrings, and if you're a fan, I suppose it might work better for you. As it is, the short leaves me pretty cold. I can appreciate it on a surface level, but it rings hollow for me.
Although maybe that's not really the short's fault so much as it is the man behind it. While I do believe it is important to separate the art from the artist, how exactly does one do that when the art is explicitly about them? And more than that, when it's celebrating them? There's just something deeply uncomfortable about this short, and I suppose I can't get past that. And to be frank, the fact that the Academy gave an Oscar to Kobe Bryant one year into the Me Too movement is pretty gross. For all the patting themselves on the back about ousting sexual predators Hollywood did that year (including throwing Christopher Plummer an Oscar nomination as well-deserved "Fuck you" to Kevin Spacey), they still welcomed one onto the stage with thunderous applause.
If you like this short in spite of all that, more power to you. Please don't think I consider it a moral failing on your part if you enjoy enjoy a cartoon. Lord knows plenty of my favorite films have been made by some pretty terrible people. But Dear Basketball was always going to be a tough sell for me, and ultimately I don't think it worked.
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