by Dan DeMaggio
People will jam themselves into the quaint ex-porno house on Woodward and be treated to a guaranteed antidote to all the forced sweetness and light of Christmastime. Did you miss A Charlie Brown Christmas this year? Did you forget the scratchy and homely Frosty the Snowman? Spike and Mike can relieve all your holiday cartoon jonesin’ in just 70 minutes with this counterpart to their artier and much more “serious” Festival of Animation that usually plays at artier and much more “serious” venues. The laid-back and liquor-stocked Bag is the perfect home for all the bloodletting, sexual depravity, and dead-on raunchiness of the more than twenty shorts presented this year. That doesn’t count the vintage sci-fi intermission clip or the hilariously sincere coming attractions for such ’70s sex-and-blaxploitation films as Sweet Sugar (“Cain wasn’t all she raised!”) and The Mack.
As in past festivals, the show opens with the sad, pathetic and existentially acute adventures of No Neck Joe. No Neck’s creator, Craig McCracken, has gone on to greater acclaim and prime-time accessibility with the Powderpuff Girls; a fate also afforded past festival contributor Mike Judge of Beavis and Butt-head and King of the Hill fame. Joe does not have a neck, as promised, and is punished in these blink-of-an-eye vignettes by two giggling burn-outs. Joe never loses his dumb smile or his youthful gait as he continues to walk right into their sinister and humiliating traps.
Like No Neck Joe, most of the films presented are under three minutes. This is merciful in the case of the one or two clunkers like Peepshow by Debbie Bruce and Natalie Repp, a lame stop-action involving those foamy Easter candy creations (in this case, rabbits) fornicating and propagating in various locales. The shortness of the films can also be frustrating when the brilliance and originality of pieces like Here Comes Dr. Tran by Breehn Burns and Jason Johnson (an unrelenting spoof on coming attractions featuring a clever jab at the audience with the use of some 3-D glasses) and Mousochist by John Dillworth segue into the overdone “brains-getting-blown-out” motif.
It’s strangely satisfying watching sweetly rendered cartoon animals getting mowed down in a fast-food restaurant, a la Flipping Burgers by Mondo Media and white boy gangsta pretenders getting their comeuppance in Mama I’m a Thug by Jim Lujan. It’s also quite amazing how much masochist pleasure you will take in the ripping out of bloody hangnails, which is present in two of the festival’s offerings.
Take part in this freshly minted holiday tradition at the Magic Bag and cleanse your mind of all the candy-caned foofaraw you’ve had to endure for two months.
Runs at the Magic Bag (22920 Woodward, Ferndale) from Dec. 22 through Jan. 4. Call 248-544-3030 for more details.
Dan DeMaggio writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.