Thursday, August 23, 2007

4th Annual Atlanta Underground Film Festival - Opening Night

Also posted at Southern Screen Report
Last night (August 22nd) was the opening night of the 4th Atlanta Underground Film Festival, which snuck up on me this week! I was not aware of, nor much less prepared to find film geeks of the like that hang out at San Francisco's Roxie for the SF IndieFests, including Jason Weiner's doppleganger! Brett Thompson is maybe 10 years younger and was the co-curator of the opening night program, "Animation Attack!", which screened at the Eastside Lounge, a cozy little mini-metro-plex of a club that is in the lower east side of Atlanta. In the tradition of ANY opening night, there were little house management screw ups, i.e. WE were there before the bar manager had opened the place up! However, the crowd and film fest management was so laid back that this was nearly a non-issue. Except for the HEAT. Once inside with a glass of chardonnay and a short welcome from Thompson, "Animation Attack! - Part One" began to spin away on the screen in the mezzanine of the club.

"Animation Attack!" is a two part program of a teasingly unknown quantity of shorts. Part 2 screens on Saturday. Tonight's portion included no less than eleven pieces. (There is no 'official' program with an updated list of shorts or print sources, so I am recapping from the anticipated schedule from their website and from memory and IMDB.) With only a couple of exceptions, each short displayed a cool visual style and, most importantly to me, wit and pace! There was a virtual lack of 'animated navel gazing' in the name of art, which usually produces 10 minutes of self indulgent rorschach tests. That's not to say that there wasn't some self indulgence in this program of shorts, but at least the volume of violence and humor made it easier to digest. And in Alphabetical order...

APE SH!T (Dir. Bob Ray - 5 min.) "The original monkeynaunt Albert shoplifts a four pack of wine coolers from the local convenient store and all hell breaks loose." It's what he uses to shoplift with that was just a hoot! This is part of a series and this particular episode can be seen HERE on Super Deluxe.

Bar Fight (Dir. Christy Karacas - 4 min.) It's 'just' a biker bar, where a fight breaks out. And gets bigger. And BIGGER! It is a delightfully wacky and surreal explosion of violence in a tiny setting. AND it had a great twist at the end! (It's on YouTube HERE.)

Dimension X (Dir. Nick Kunin - 7 min.) This was one of only a couple inclusions that I just didn't 'get'. Apparently, it is part of a series, which would explain the exceptionally spotty plot involving vampires and a NASA scientist. I think. Visually, it was fine. I just think that this episode was taken so far out of context that I was confused.

Death of a Matriarch (Dir. Takuro Masuda - 3 min.) This is so unique, both visually and narratively, that though I can't say I completely understood it, I was never bored by it. Actually, I think it deserves repeated viewings to fully appreciate it. You can view the short HERE.

Getgot (Dir. Bryan Fordney - 6 min.) Well, this sort of baby obsessively chases a can of soda through a Wonderland. Of sorts. Looks COOL, though! OH! And this is on YouTube, as well!

Kill John Wayne (Dir. Vivian Wong - NY - 7 min.) Though this might be a bit out of date, Wong does a no-holds-barred visceration of masculinity, politics and war, by using the image of John Wayne in outrageously violent and sexual ways. Though her animation technique is a bit rough at the edges, her visuals are gasp inducing!

One Dog Walking (Dir. Sara Spink - 4 min.) This was navel gazing. Sara Spink is a sculptress who has decided to animate her sculpture, but to no visual or dramatic effect.

Pirate Baby's Cabana Street Fight 2006 (Dir. Paul Robertson - 12 min.) This opened the evening and what a BLAST!! Literally! It is a computer game gone completely out of control as our 'players' run through scenarios littered (and I mean 'littered' as in TRASHED) with mutant babies and aliens! It is horrifically, yet hysterically violent! This, too is viewable at the film's site.

Sinking of the Hunley (Dir. Drew Christie - 7 min.) What most visually set this apart from being a 'fractured tales' version of the sinking of the Civil War submarine, The Hunley, is that Drew Christie used pages from old books as animation cel paper. This simple device gave the short a really cool look, that added to the satire of the piece. There is a video of the short being performed with live music on YouTube. (What is NOT on YouTube, it seems?!)

Space War (Dir. Christy Karacas - 3 min.) At first, I thought this was going to be a 'Don Herzfeldt rip off'. But it became so much more! Simply drawn, yet artistically captivating, it was joyfully pointless and wonderfully violent, just like the other Karacas earlier, BAR FIGHT! AND, yes, this too, on YouTube.

The unAmericans (Darwin Berman, Micah Stansell, Kevin Diggleman - 7 min. GA) I LIKED the script, as it is concerning a PTA's censorship and control of a teacher, the theme is fittingly progressive. However, the claymation is relatively crude and the editing does not present the voice talent at its best. The pacing is a bit sluggish for the parody it wants to be. However, it does earn some chuckles. It just could be tightened up.

There was also a short from the 1940's from Germany, which is not listed on the program and I can not remember the title. However, it was in the vein of the "Merry Melodies" series and purely included for its hallucinogenic qualities, I am sure.

"Animation Attack! Part two" promises to have the latest from Jim Trainor.... ooooo....

Maxxxxx says "Wooooooo!" [Maxxxxx LIKES violence in cartoons!]

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