Spike & Mike's Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation 2003
2003, NR Directed by Various.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 24, 2003
If you've never been to one of Spike & Mike's Sick & Twisteds, which run for a couple of weeks every year or so at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown, here's what you can expect: a big line. I don't have to deal with that because, heh, I saved the venue owner's life back in Nam, but even on the Monday night I wandered over, the line was around the block. And like the final game of the big series (pick one), you can count on revelry (subhead: youthful) of the type involving lotsa booze and more than a lingering scent of pot clinging to assorted wardrobes. It is, after all, a party, and a sick & twisted one at that. Spike & Mike's animation festivals -- there are several kinds, ranging from the classic to the willfully disgusting -- have been going in one form or another for 26 years now, and while founder Mike Gribble passed away some time ago, Craig “Spike” Decker holds down the fort as well as ever. One thing you can count on with the Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation: Popular opinion to the contrary, truth in advertising is alive and well. Preshow hijinks hosted by S&M toastmasters in oversized cowboy hats and baggy trousers (you've got to wonder if they switch out their sartorial choices depending on locales -- does the New England contingent get giant lobster hats?) feature audience members in risqué contests (this night's theme seemed to be bestiality), while much hollering and general goofiness take over the packed house. There are 24 new animated shorts this year, backed by some returning favorites from previous outings, including the inscrutably annoying “No Neck Joe,” which opens this year's fest (as it has in the past and which still leaves me cold) and the great Don Hertzfeldt's “Ah L'Amour,” in which a hopeful stick-figure boy meets a series of stick-figure girls who routinely bludgeon him, in one of the more perfect, and hilarious, summations of modern courtship out there. As with any compilation reel like the kind Spike & Mike specialize in, the ratio of “great shit” to “crap” is somewhat skewed, even on a good year, toward “crap.” There are only so many brilliant animators out there who can merge scatologically inclined gags with a decent story or joke or social commentary of some sort in five minutes or less; it's tough to do, and so it helps that the audience is as forgiving as the usual S&M crowd. (During S&M's run the Alamo's beer and wine sales go right off the charts, natch.) Highlights this year include Jason Baskin's CGI “Cubism,” which makes farting funny all over again, thank God, and Adam Robb's lunatic, Bill Plympton-inspired “Shh,” which argues that infants are in general gross and nasty little squallers. Speaking of Plympton, there are a few new shorts by the Great Man here as well, and the ever-popular "Coco the Junkie Pimp" returns in a third short that merges dirty, evil-clown comedy with hard narcotics and Britney Spears parodies (and if that isn't a recipe for “phun” I don't know what is). A mixed bag, sure, but as always with Spike & Mike, half the fun's in getting stinko and watching the squealy sorority girl to your left shoot Shiner Bock out her nose from laughing so hard.