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A little artsy animation goes a long way in this 'Festival' at the Charles


I hate it when they do that.

The new administration at the Charles Theater has tried so mightily to provide the city with a menu of interesting cinema, something far removed from the blander product of the suburban multiplexes, and in the long months of their regime, they've not once had to stoop to conquer.

Enter: "Spike & Mike's Festival of Animation '95."

I hate it when they do that!

For those of you not burned hopelessly out on artsy animation, here's a preview, delivered by a man with a jaundiced eye and a clothespin on his nose. An extra 10 points to the person who knows what a "clothespin" is.

The "Spike & Mike" productions usually seem to have a bit more edge than the more bourgeoise "Xth Annual Tournee of Animation" also in circulation, and this new collection does have some tougher numbers.

On the other hand, these pieces seem to be longer and more drawn-out, which somewhat undercuts their charm. If you get a bad one, you're in for the long haul. Time for a Chuck cappuccino break. Take your time. You'll have plenty of it.

Still, one of the best of the pieces is one of the shorter. It's a nifty little number by Tim Watts and David Stoten called "The Big Story," in which dueling Kirk Douglases battle for camera attention in a big city newsroom. You don't even have to remember Billy Wilder's bitter fable called "The Big Story," which starred Douglas back in 1954 -- but it helps.

Last year's Academy Award winner, "Bob's Birthday" is a whimsical story of a dentist seeking the proper way to celebrate his birthday, unaware that his wife has planned a surprise party. It has a kind of flavor of bittersweet horror to it.

The big ticket number is probably the claymation odyssey "The Wrong Trousers," an elaborate account of a man (Wallace), his dog (Gromit), and his pants, which are electric and have a mind of their own. Thirty minutes! It does go on and on, but fortunately the level of technical expertise and mean-spirited wit is high enough to keep you riveted.

Less successful is "Triangle," a semi-abstract dance concert, flowing and erotic but ultimately quite banal. "The Village," a stylized medieval tale by Mark Baker, also sent me slithering toward the cappuccino urn.

There is a total of 13 films, enough for everybody.

"Spike & Mike's Festival of Animation '95"

Animated short films

Various directors

Released by Mellow Mannor Productions

Unrated (erotic material)


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