Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation 2000

By Marc Savlov

JANUARY 31, 2000: 

D: Various (Not Rated, 70 min.)

Going on 10 years and still as vile as ever, Spike & Mike's annual fest o' skank actually manages to top itself for this, the millennial edition, racheting up the goo quotient and adding the woefully underused sobriquet "meat curtains" to the global lexicon. What would we do without these two (one, actually) paragons of puerility? Probably spend a lot less time in our local indie theatres catcalling the animated adventures of characters such as the resoundingly woeful No Neck Joe, a self-explanatory lump of pink goo forever resigned to a life without hickies. Yes, things could be worse, but Spike & Mike's festival has, over the years, become something of a cause célèbreamongst the sex-and-violence set, racking up some impressive numbers for what is essentially a whistlestop, college-town grue tour, and securing a warm wet spot in the hearts and ids of youthful miscreants everywhere. That noted, the 2000 edition actually outdoes its past couple of predecessors, and while it lacks any obvious mainstream launches (à la the Beavis and Butt-head "Frog Baseball" short or South Park's"Spirit of Christmas" reel, both of which launched their respective creators' careers), it more than makes up for mainstream popularity in the ceaseless tide of distressing weirdness up on screen. Nobody can make you laugh and gag at the same time as well as these two, a tack more recently undertaken by the Farrelly Brothers and their ilk. Clearly, Spike & Mike are having some sort of cultural impact, though whether that's for the best is open to interpretation. Apart from No Neck Joe (during which the audience is encouraged to shout along ­ Spike & Mike are nothing if not interactive), highlights from this year's fest include Ryan Montrucchio's Grimm's Humpty Dumpty, an East Los Angelean reworking of the classic children's rhyme that's part Colors and part, well, part egg whites. Imagine Dr. Dre meets Mr. Rogers, and you're halfway there. Also notable is Don Hertzfeldt's Billy's Balloon, which pits cute and crude stick-figure kids against squiggly little balloons to demonstrate some sort of Darwinian theory perhaps best left unstudied. It's a winning short not only for its almost gleefully vaudevillian sense of comic timing, but also because it's one of the few shorts here that shies away from the pure gross-out, something Spike & Mike have never been able to resist. Breehn John Burns and Jason Johnson turn in another in what appears to be a continuing series with Beyond Grandpa II, utilizing the elderly and their occasionally off-putting personal habits in ways only a true fan of the sick and twisted could appreciate. Most memorable of all, though, is a wonderfully warped CGI piece called Bowling for Souls from the Canadian Super Genius Animations. Part Big Daddy Roth fantasy, part Satan's Cheerleaders, it's compellingly animated, scored, and edited into a sort of hellish pièce de résistance; why Spike and Mike placed it in the first half of their program instead of saving it for the kicker is anyone's guess, but it succeeds brilliantly nonetheless. It should go without saying that none of these animations is suitable for kids (and very few of them for anyone else, really), but if you're a fan of genuinely noxious cartoons, you could do a lot worse than this year's smorgasbord of dreck.

3 Stars


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