Tag Archives: SlamDance 2024

SLAMDANCE 2024: ODDS & ENDS

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Bitcoin Car

Trygve Luktvasslimo has many things to say about the evils of global business, agricultural affairs, and especially bitcoin. As screeds go, Bitcoin Car is, at least, a largely whimsical one. The plot description (if you’ll pardon the long quotation)—“a musical adventure in which a young goat farmer on a small coastal village finds herself on collision course with the megalomaniac death wish of a young crypto investor. After her brother comes home for the summer, she has to explain that she’s partially responsible for the gold-plated bitcoin mining facility located on top of the cemetery where their parents are buried because she accepted a lot of money in order to pimp out — and gold plate — her old Toyota”—suggests a number of possibilities, and its oddness is what caught our eye.

However, Gloria’s campaign against Big Crypto is peppered with long remarks extolling the evils of This (I do feel that bitcoin mining is an appalling waste of resources), and the goodness of That (I do not feel that digging in a hole in the ground should be romanticized). Bitcoin Car is capably executed by all involved, and has a few fun musical interludes with singing angelic electrons (“My Electric Blues,” with accordion and holy chorus, is an unalloyed delight), but it is far more preachy than weird.

Darla in Space

Are you getting enough from your kombucha? Sure, it may revivify and refine your gut—but where are the mind-blowing orgasms? Susie Moon and Eric LaPlante feel you deserve more. It’s nothing tawdry (despite the motel backdrop), it’s therapeutic, a “menage.” And unless your scoby is getting your rocks off, are you really having a refreshing quaff of kombucha?

Darla in Space is a fairly compact experience in cuteness, supported by solid performances and a charismatically deadpan scoby around the size of a kiddie pool. Darla is in horrible debt to the IRS (courtesy of her insensitive mother), and a chance discovery of a sensitive, sentient scoby (referred to as… “Mother”) puts her on the path to paying off her massive tax burden through its power of delivering mind-blowing orgasms.

Characters are established (Darla is quirky, as we know from the start with her advertisement for “Kitty Kaskets”), plot points are ticked, montages montage, and complications in the film, as in life, get complicated. But, this being a movie, we know all loose ends will be tied. Alex E. Harris keeps the hipster-awkward Darla just this side of believable, and J.S. Oliver provides a cuddlier take on the HAL phenomenon. Perhaps worth another look by our crack squad here at 366, but at least all the synopses, trailers, and press releases are up-front about the hyper-quirk. You have been warned. (Or, just as reasonably, you have been intrigued.)

The Washer

Major points awarded to writer/director/&c. Nils A Witt for this science-fiction oddity. His protagonist’s assuredness and mechanical aptitude renders The Washer a combination of Primer and Pi,  as our hero (of sorts) falls deeper and deeper into developing his time-bending invention comprised of an ever-growing array of synchronized washing machines. There is never any point in this tech-thriller where the premise is explained, even with the clever inclusion of various academic-looking types explaining this, that, and the other about the physics of time, space, light, and causality.

Jan is at the start of his career with what appears to be a small but respectable law firm, but his growing fascination with the spinning, watery-eye of his washing machine’s view port shunts him down a rabbit hole of strange science and personal alienation. As his research deepens, a mysterious woman stalks the periphery, and his failure to pay his bills—alongside the tremendous increase in water and electricity use noticed by the municipality—grind him down, leaving him covered in grease, clothed in ragged garments, and limping by the time he has fully assembled his rig. While Witt’s directorial debut makes the human toll all too clear, the science is left both mysterious and mundane. The Washer is a nice, quiet little speculative noodle-scratcher, and I look forward to another Witt work, whether I’ll understand it or not.

SLAMDANCE 2024: SLIDE (2024)

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DIRECTED BY: Bill Plympton

FEATURING: Voices of Maureen McElheron, Jim Lujan, Tom Racine, Ana Sophia Colón, Daniel Kaufman

PLOT: Emerging from a desert whirlpool, a mysterious slide guitarist defends the locals—and the local monster—from the corrupt machinations of the mayor of Sourdough Creek.

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE APOCRYPHA: Plympton’s absorbingly grotesque animation style, paired perfectly with his oddball storytelling, make his films a shoo-in ’round these parts.

COMMENTS: A bearded hick, launched from his horse-driven observation perch above an incomplete dam, hurdles through the air as dozens of flying logs arc in his direction. He screams, and the camera appears to crash through his mouth, past his teeth, down his esophagus, through his guts, and out again through the… other end. This dramatic journey is animated in Bill Plympton’s signature, jaunty style, and is just one of the countless examples of him playing with lines in motion.

The man in question is Jeb Carver, the mayor of hickturesque Sourdough Creek, the rustic locale where Tinselwood Studios is hoping to film their latest blockbuster. Never one to abstain from milking a chance for all its worth, Carver takes this opportunity to convert his logging town into “Monte Carlo del Norte,” pushing his citizens to deadly lengths to whip up a dam, casino, and resort over the course of a week. The immigrant fishing village gets leveled, the “service girls” work extra shifts, and the band is banned from playing slow music. Enter a mysterious stranger, and his slide guitar.

The silly plot is pushed forward with silly machinations, silly dialogue, and a sinister (but still fairly silly) monster which is disturbed by the deforestation. This silliness serves mostly to allow Plympton to play around with his weird cartooning. Characters chase other characters up interminable stairs; dozens of unnaturally proportioned firearms pop up and fire from trees, fish, and hats; teardrops slide and slosh in extreme closeups; bosoms bounce up and down (and, for the kinky types, side to side) courtesy of the in-film technological marvel, The Sugar Shaker; and Yellow Submarine-esque fantasies play out like nauseous reimaginings of psychedelic whimsy.

Slide is not groundbreaking, it’s not “big” in any sense of the term, and as a pastiche, isn’t “new” per se. But, it is unfailingly interesting to watch (a necessity for a cartoon—something that other animation studios would do well to remember) and oh-so-reassuringly bizarre. Bill Plympton is a talented artist, particularly for having chosen the (difficult) route of animation in his unique style of comical grotesquerie writ (er, drawn) large. Kick back, keep your eyes peeled, and allow Plympton’s latest eccentricity to Slide deep down your pie-hole.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Named after its completely mute lead character and his ‘slide guitar,’ this surreal movie overflows with ideas and mesmerizing imagery…. If Slide sounds bonkers, it absolutely is.” — Josh Batchelder, Josh at the Movies (festival screening)

SLAMDANCE 2024: LOVE AND WORK (2024)

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Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Peter Ohs

FEATURING: Stephanie Hunt, Will Madden, Frank Mosley

PLOT: Diane and Fox love to work, a banned practice which may land them in “Time Out,” but this does not thwart their pursuit of productivity.

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE APOCRYPHA: Quirky black and white dystopian rom-com: sure, we can dig it. But Love and Work‘s particular breed of social commentary is unlike any other I’ve encountered.

COMMENTS: Diane and Fox extol the virtues of The Weekend, without fully grasping just what it is; but in their gut they know The Weekend is good, and that it is good only because of what comes before. Their former boss, still recovering from a stint in Time Out and a close run-in with the Reminders after trying to recreate the workplace, seeks answers from them as they stand on a street corner holding inspirational placards.

It’s better than a hobby. It’s better than a job. It’s The Weekend.

“What’s ‘The Weekend’?”

The answer to all your troubles.

Peter Ohs’ Love and Work is among the breeziest of bleak future visions put to screen. In this world, jobs are outlawed—a mandate enforced, free of charge, by busy-bodies whose only qualification is having memorized every governmental ordinance.

An underground network has grown among those who wish to work, employing coded language to dodge the Reminders who would put them in Time Out (a much-dreaded punishment, though not quite so bad as “The Relaxation Room”). In the foreground are Diane and Fox, two rebels who crave supervision, productivity, and shifts as long as possible.

Will Madden’s gangly Bob Fox attempts to woo Stephanie Hunt’s tight-lipped Diane. Love and Work efficiently pushes romantic comedy tropes to their extreme to bring this pair of ambitious workers together, instilling a level of awareness generally lacking in the hobby-filled, run-down town in which they’re stuck in. A previous boss winces as he shows them the ukulele he’s been doomed to play, and a former co-worker stealthily knits a sweater whilst lurking in a back alley after a crack-down on a job site.

It’s all rather silly, and delightfully so. But it serves a purpose. Loath though I am to phrase it this way, Love and Work is a manifesto, and Ohs and his team have an agenda. The scenario could have been a hyper-capitalist dream: “See? People want to work! They long for it!”; alternately, it could have been some wispy musing on the evils of forced productivity. To my surprise and palpable relief, it turned out to be neither. Love and Work is a fun, oddball little comedy, passing along to the viewer a message of hope: hope for a sensible world, where everyone can truly enjoy The Weekend.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Even the character’s speech feels unnatural and broken, almost a cross between a Yorgos Lathimos screenplay and kids trying to sound like adults. The tone of the dialogue works perfectly in tandem with the setting to create the feeling of peeking in on a surreal, alternate universe.”–Elle Cowley, Slug Mag (festival screening)

SLAMDANCE 2024: THE COMPLEX FORMS (2024)

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DIRECTED BY: Fabio D’Orta

FEATURING: David White, Michele Venni, Cesare Bonomelli, Enzo Solazzi

PLOT: An out of work cook needs cash, and a mysterious organization can provide it, so long as he is willing to undergo temporary possession.

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE APOCRYPHA: D’Orta’s background in commercials, music videos, and set design is on display here—in a mighty fine way, to be sure. And while there are plenty of odd flourishes, ornate screen compositions, and the noodle-scratching premise itself, the “entities,” and their grand bejeweled appearance, is what delightfully seared my mind.

COMMENTS: There is a villa deep in the Italian countryside, and every so often a shining black Mercedes saloon pulls up to deliver a new occupant. This guest is, invariably, a middle-aged man with scant prospects and no family to speak of—but in good health. The management prefers the men be hard-up loners; the “clientele” prefer them healthy.

My thoughts on art house films would be more positive if there were more art house paranormal thrillers. The Complex Forms is among the few of those. (I’d be interested to hear further recommendations in the comments.) The action takes place in a hotel that looks plucked straight out of Marienbad, with officious, cryptic—and friendly—staff. We are often assured that, once an occupant leaves, “He’s fine. He’s left the villa. Nothing to worry about. Go back to your rooms.” While this would be unconvincing on its own, it’s typically intoned after a dramatic visitation from the beings who occupy the woods surrounding the lushly appointed edifice.

D’Orta’s film is an always beautiful, often menacing, and occasionally puzzling examination of angst, ritual, and time, done up in the guise of a horror film that occasionally borders on creature feature. The rote choreography of the dispirited guests, whether synchronicly mopping or dining in isolated assembly, lends a monastic quality to the film, while the protagonist’s occasional nightmares and growing fear spike the proceedings like a thumbtack jabbed, ever so slightly, under the fingernail.

And then, as I’ve mentioned, there are those sylvan forms. Are they are what the title refers to? Probably yes; but, the film does kick off with the main character filling in an exhaustive survey before traveling to the villa. No matter. D’Orta has crafted a playful and enigmatic debut, whose slick looks and cheeky musical cues meld perfectly with the heavy melodrama of the narrative. And in addition, he does us the favor of serving up many memorable, majestic monsters.