The Lakewood Theater pulls out the big guns for Pearl Harbor.
The Lakewood Theater pulls out the big guns for Pearl Harbor.

Sick, Not Twisted

The final half of this year's Spike & Mike's Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation--which is creeping around this country's finer theaters, leaving in its wake a fine layer of slime--is damned near unwatchable. Or maybe your tastes run toward necrophilia and fecophilia, sprinkled with more oral sex than the Clinton White House. In Mike Grimshaw's Deep Sympathy, a gravedigger satisfies his sexual urges with the recently deceased; Clayboy Enterprises' Sloaches Fun House comes complete with a hideous claymated he-male whose floppy dick oozes semen like a heavily stimulated Vesuvius; and in Mute & Motormouth's Birth of Abomination, a chubby homunculus gets a blow job from a pregnant junkie whore, who summarily gives birth to a disfigured fetus that's promptly dismissed with a flush down the commode. So, this is what a beating feels like.

This isn't your older brother's Spike & Mike or, for that matter, Mike Judge's or Bill Plympton's. Long gone are the days when the traveling film fest debuted the foremost and finest in cutting-edge cartoonery; long gone are the thrills of discovering Beavis & Butt-head or Plympton's Oscar-nominated Your Face or prehistoric South Park shorts. There's barely a drop of charm or wit left in the fest (gallons of semen, though), which has become a touring freak show; now, it's but a refuge for the racist, homophobic and juvenile--all in one, usually. Most of this year's offerings teeter toward the sophomoric. Maybe it's just a warning that most people shouldn't be allowed into a Best Buy...or, in the case of Q. Allan Brocka's Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World, a Toys "R" Us. It's either the best or worst thing in the fest--a commentary on the relationship between gay men and women; a criticism of drug cocktails; or an eight-minute fag joke. Of course, by the time you get to Sloaches Fun House, Rick & Steve will seem downright charming--quaint, even, a vestige from simpler times. Like, 20 minutes ago.

There are the occasional flashes of brilliance, but they're from reliable sources: Pixar, home to Toy Story, delivers the short For the Birds, which ought to come with Leonard Cohen's "Bird on a Wire" on the soundtrack; Raymond Persi and Matthew Nastuk, who work on The Simpsons, offer a brilliant homage to the Fleischer Brothers' surreal cartoons of the 1930s, all done to the klezmer strains of Squirrel Nut Zippers' "The Ghost of Stephen Foster"; and Aardman Studios, home to Wallace & Gromit, proffers the claymated middle-brow lunacy of the Angry Kid. Don Hertzfeldt's Oscar-nominated short Rejected, a series of fake ads done with stick figures and gallons of blood-red paint, makes the rounds; it's as banal as it is brilliant. And for a second or two, Roy Wood's Wheelchair Rebecca elicits a chuckle or two; nothing's so funny as watching Ken and Barbie engage in bloody-rough sex. Right? Oh, the triumph of the tasteless.

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