Monday, September 27, 2004

It was a fine affair, but now it's over

I knew Saturday would be an exhausting day, squeezing in both my real job, volunteering, and as many screenings at the animation festival as I could. I pulled a full shift at work, from 9 to 6, and then made a mad dash to eat and get to the NAC for that night's 7:00 screening, Hair High. Bill Plympton has a delightfully odd style, and to see an entire feature film's worth of it is a treat. He's a greater master of the sick joke than John Kricfalusi, mainly because he knows when pushing the envelope is actually funny and not just silly and juvenile. Hair High is difficult to encapsulate neatly. "You got Twilight Zone in my Grease," "No, you got Grease in my Twilight Zone" probably grasps the general theme best. Spud is the Ricky Nelsonesque new kid in town, who through a series of faux pas, insults tough guy Rod and his helmet-haired girlfriend Cherri. Intimidated into being Cherri's servant, she and Spud slowly fall in love - and on the way to the Prom, are run off the road into the lake by Rod and his goons. One year later, they return from the dead to have their (quite graphic) revenge. At heart, it's a sweet little tale of doomed love, with more than a few utterly superfluous sight gags and gross-out bits. The music is also amusingly appropriate; there's some period 1950s pieces for tone, but a large part of the soundtrack is sung by a Johnny Cash soundalike with an ongoing series of creepy ballads. The framing story isn't handled very skilfully, however; it could be more ominous and atmospheric than it actually is. Still, it's the sort of thing that really warrants a wider release. I was only able to see part of Competition Screening #6, having to leave early to make it over to the Arts Court to fulfill my second volunteer shift. Son of Satan: Greatly disturbing. Based on a Bukowski short story, the style - distorted scribblings on notebook paper, exaggerated idle doodles - matches perfectly this dark tale of juvenile psychopaths nearly beating a neighbour to death. The Three Amigos ‘Beautiful Game’: Silly, but I suppose a decent PSA needs to be to grab the attention of viewers. Welcome to Kentucky: This is why I favour pulling all federal funding from the National Film Board, among other Liberal-favoured government institutions; they get up to entirely the wrong sort of pretentiously arty shenanigans with it. Surreal and dull. Twelve minutes of my life I'll never get back, spent watching fish, hallways, and landscapes from no part of Kentucky I'm aware of. Caisse d'Epargne 'Les Triples' Amusingly photorealistic CG work. Dad's Dead: Another dark little story about juvenile psychopaths; I'm not sure if there's any significance in having two in the same program. Nightmarish CG makes the walls crawl and signs and pictures come to life in the blurry haze of highly modified traditional film footage, as an unnamed narrator describes how his best friend Jonno burned down a house and framed him for it. Eerie. At that point, I had to leave for the Arts Court. It's a fascinating building, mainly for having been the former Carleton County Courthouse until 1985. It's still very recognizable on the inside as one; courtrooms have been stripped of their furnishings, but they're still obviously courtrooms. Much of the building was renovated in the mid-60s or 70s, from the look of the decor on some floors, which also gives it a very unnerving International Style high school vibe. Saturday night was the biggest party hosted by the festival during the week, sponsored by Nelvana. There were three separate rooms in the building (the SAW Gallery in the basement, a large hall connected to the theatre on the third floor, and a small side room on the second half-floor) officially issued temporary liquor licenses. I was assigned to watch the door by the third floor staircase, making certain no one went between floors with drinks. I stole a chair from a janitor's closet, and proceeded to sit down and very thoroughly read my newspapers for the next two hours while doing so. At about that time, I realized that the other volunteers theoretically assigned to different positions doing the same as I had ditched, to go into the hall for food and to scam beer from delegates. In my defense, I didn't realize that sooner mainly because I was out of sight of the others. Feeling somewhat silly, I left early; I was tired, and didn't really see the need to hang around performing a pointless job. However, I'm glad I did work that shift. Furthering the creepy high school vibe, I ran into a friend from high school also volunteering that night. I'd call him more a casual acquaintance than someone I ever knew very well, but it was still kind of neat to meet him like that; I hadn't otherwise seen him since June 2002, if I recall correctly. After a somewhat aimless OAC year and initial post-secondary rejection, he turned out to have gone into animation, getting into Algonquin through sheer force of effort, which was good to hear - and somewhat ironic, as he noted. I was always drawing throughout high school, and seemed likely to go into a career in animation, but turned away; he had little to no interest in it until late, but is now thriving in the second year of a fairly well-respected program. I got home some time around 2:00 Sunday morning, walking the entire way home; I'd forgotten my bus pass. It never fails to disappoint me how deserted Centretown is at night; Sweet Lion of Zion, Ottawa's a podunk little town. I had been pleasantly surprised at work on Friday to find that I wouldn't be working my normal Sunday shift, but instead start a few hours later. That gave me the time to both sleep as late as need be on Sunday and even see a screening I thought I'd have to miss entirely, Animated Soviet Propaganda. I still didn't get to see all of it, but even part was more than I'd hoped for, so that was copacetic enough. Most of the animation was excellent, stylized in either the harsh Futurism-inspired Soviet poster art look, or an even looser naturalistically cartoonish (but still nicely graphical and straight-edged) manner. The propaganda aspect of it was as I expected - Americans are fat stupid racist baby-killers, the USSR only wants to spread peace and goodwill throughout the world, not bloody revolution (Oh my, no, where would you get an idea like that?), etc etc etc; nothing worse than you'd find in Michael Moore or his ilk. That's just sad. The newest short in the collection was from 1977, and the silliest agitprop aspects of Fahrenheit 9/11 or Dude, Where's My Country don't manage to be any less shrill or more believable. Some people just don't learn from the mistakes of those that have gone before, I guess. In all, I actually did more or less get my money's worth. Throw in the T-shirts and other giveaways from the AniMarket, and the half-case of Pepsi I discreetly mooched from the reception area in the Chateau Laurier during the Television Animation Conference when I worked that shift, and I might have even ended up ahead on the deal. What I saw was magnificent. And now, finally, it's over, and I can recover a bit. Next year, I really need to plan this better.


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