Tattoo
Friday, March 6; 7 p.m. in the Video Box
Tattoo's alternate title could be How Not to Make a Documentary; its makers' apparent love of their subject suffers two major, though connected, flaws: One, the maddening repetition of interviewees' points makes this come across like an informational film for morons (let's have yet a fourth person explain again why hand tattooing is a bad idea). And two, giant holes in information pervade the simplistic interview structure--as in, why is that person important enough to interview in the first place?--which ironically leaves the thrill of recognition to insiders only.

So while it posits a weak "Hey, let us, the tattooed, show you, the non-tattooed, why we do this," the uninitiated will walk away with no idea of whom they've watched prattle on about the traditions, current trends, ethics, and social implications of permanent body art (especially disconcerting after 10 full minutes of blather from an old guy whose forehead scar is the remains of a removed swastika). To boot, we don't get to see enough of the artists' work. Tattoo is textbook example of a potentially intriguing subject in the hands of amateurs. (CR)

SIGGRAPH Art and Animation
Friday, March 6; 10 p.m. in the TV Lounge
SIGGRAPH: Electronic Theater
Saturday, March 6; 1:45 p.m. in the Electronic Theater

From the Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics' annual festival come these reviews of the best in computer animation and special effects. Some familiar images show up here: the Toy Story guys; scenes from the Bruce Willis flick The Fifth Element; a commercial for a GM minivan featuring an opera-singing baby (all in Electronic Theater); the band KMFDM's "A Drug Against War" video from MTV self-promotion bumpers (in Art and Animation). But even Walt Disney would grow antsy sitting through these hour-plus reels all at one time. Because these programs showcase the wide world of animation, many of the pieces are either painfully esoteric or examples of how precise computer animation can be (see "Digital Smoke," a rendering of--you got it--smoke, where the credits just might be longer than the animation) or, even worse, both. Still, there are some can't-miss gems: "Mass Manipulator," an Argentinean offering that presents a demagogue who ends up using his audience as toilet paper, and "Digital Truth in Tian An Men," a virtual, first-person look at the tragedy of the student protests in Beijing. (SKJ)

La Pommose d'Adamour
Friday, March 6; 10:30 p.m. in the Video Box
French video artiste Sandrine Vivier gives us something that plays out like a Saturday Night Live "Sprockets" clip turned self-serious. This experimental interpretation of the Snow White tale smacks of early '80s Euro-pretension. It's dense, confusing, and self-congratulatory (read: misguided performance art). There are lots of vinyl pants and plastic mask-wearing people jerking around robotically and having sex to shrill Casio-keyboard plinking in a half-hour mime that screams, "I'm provocative!" Overall, this looks like amateur art-school sensibilities punched up with once-new video technologies, or, at best, an homage to early Mark Mothersbaugh--without his saving irony. (CR)

London International Advertising Awards
Saturday, March 7; 1 p.m. in the Electronic Theater
Tabasco's exploding mosquito, Nissan's G.I Joe scoring a date with Barbie, Levi's-wearing youth swooning in elevator mating fantasies...these popular TV ads have a rightful place among this year's winners of the global contest of advertising companies' creative genius. But the U.S. commercials' thematic familiarity makes them not nearly as intriguing as the foreign ones, and the real gems--produced everywhere from Scandinavia to South Africa, Japan to the consistently impressive U.K.--show an adventurous, intelligent (not to mention racy) spirit often missing in American ads. Look for the Guinness Stout and Tango soft drink commercials from Ireland and England: Each is more entertaining and sophisticated than any television program it's designed to interrupt. (CR)

Shakespeare's Children
Saturday, March 7; 1:30 p.m. in Bart's Bistro
Everyone who's ever been bored by poorly taught Shakespeare in public schools should get a small kick out of Shakespeare's Children, which shows how a small team of driven theater teachers steps into an inner-city school's talented and gifted program and imposes a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

These non-black teachers guide (and, in some cases, pester) a group of black and white kids at Malcolm X Elementary in Berkeley, California, into pronouncing and emoting Shakespearean language. Although probably of chief interest to educators, Shakespeare's Children does suggest some intriguing cross-cultural issues that the Bard himself might appreciate. Is mastery of arcane Elizabethan English any richer or more relevant for a black kid from the ghetto than African-American slang? Certainly, neither is a ticket out of poverty. And to contemporary mainstream ears, Shakespeare's dialogue is as rhythmic, specialized, and stylized as that of the late Notorious B.I.G., and both deal heavily with themes of revenge and violence: Why is one better for a minority kid than the other? You may think the answers are obvious, but the questions are never even posed here. Shakespeare's Children invites us to feel good about watching disadvantaged kids get culture, but it assumes too much about some hotly contested educational issues. (JF)

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