Although it certainly wasn't my intention going into this thing, all of the shows I attended, save for "Lost in Space", took place in the San Marco Theater. This trend was to break on Sunday when I planned to see The Architect at the Ritz. But, in the end, I decided to see the animated shorts program because it's far less likely that I would ever have a chance to see these again on home video. (I also found out later that The Architect showing was canceled, so there you go). Here is the rundown of animated shorts:
The Flooded Playground starts things off with a heavy dose of surrealism. Stop-motion animation of an actual baby doll represent a toddler as he falls from his house into a enchanted forest with talking rocks, an evil spider and Humpty Dumpty. There's no dialogue, save for a brief song sung by a tree, and the whole tone is very odd. Still, it was enjoyable enough for what it was.
John & Michael is a touching film about two men with Downs Syndrome who share a close friendship. The narration is done by a third man, also with Downs, and the animation is all is swirly shades of brown. It's a very unique look, and it's somehow appropriate for the subject matter. This one ties with Los ABC's as my favorite.
Fumi and the Bad Luck Foot actually won "Best Short" at JFF this year, and I can see why. It's crowd-pleasing comedy about a poor girl whose left foot attracts items that bite, stab, crush and otherwise mutilate it. Fumi eventually figures out a way to turn her bad luck into other people's good luck. Very over the top, but also very funny.
Octave is an abstract piece where each note in an octave forms the beginning of a word which inspires a short animated segment. "Be (flat)" actually involves the animation of a bra, though the abstract nature of the animation leaves it unclear if they are advocating flat chestedness. Diverting.
George Washington is a weird rap about the first President concerning his super powers, blood thirstiness, sexual prowess and his indifference to British children. There was a lot of talk about this one beforehand, and I can see why. It's the kind of thing that MTV would show on Liquid Television back in the day, so it was a nice treat.
Guide Dog is some good old fashioned Bill Plympton. This time, a poor pooch who wants to help blind people applies at an agency to become a guide dog. Unfortunately for the trio of handicapped people he is assigned to, he's not very good at it. It's Plympton, so little explanation is necessary for anyone who's seen his work before. It's always great and always hilarious.
Los ABC's Que Vivian Los Muertos may be the best of the bunch for sheer chutzpah. The concept: Imagine if Edward Gorey was Mexican and did the Gashlycrumb Tinies as a political piece against war. Indeed, Gorey is thanked in the credits, so he's clearly the inspiration for these animated Mariachi players singing the alphabet and recounting war atrocities with each letter. Utterly brilliant.
And that's it. I have to admit that last year seemed better than this year, but I'm thinking that's because I saw more films last year. As I said previously, it was good to see how professional the introductory credits for the festival were done before each show. It's a sign that the Festival is really growing up.
The JFF website has a link to a Film Threat article which decries how friggin huge the Sundance film festival has become. It goes on to say, "If you've been on this site more than five minutes, you can't help but recognize names of festivals like the Jacksonville Film Festival, Slamdance and so on. These are festivals run by people who love films for people who share their interests."
Wow. Cowford was just mentioned in the same breath as Slamdance. We've come a long way, baby.