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SXSW: A Bat, Hat, Bag and Head

At the Animated Shorts Program this afternoon, Bill Plympton's SHUT EYE HOTEL made me sad. I don't think it was the film's fault. But I had such high expectations and...it was handsome, I'll give it that, but only in the face. It just let the body go.

That disappointment reminded why I should do everything in my power to avoid expecting anything at all. When it comes to the art of film, I think I prefer ignorance.

In the same program, I was completely ignorant about a young filmmaker named Becky James and her film I HATE YOU DON'T TOUCH ME- OR, BAT AND HAT. Despite crude drawing and garage-studio sound, James' film had more sincerity and complexity than even the Oscar nodded MADAME TULTI PULTI which was also in competition. I won't get into the details of it because the program plays again on Wednesday and Thursday and I think everyone should go see it, but just know that BAT AND HAT is about a bat (see picture) that has a little green hat, but then the bat loses the hat and then makes a new hat. The film also made me realize I'm living my life all wrong and that self-destruction is not equal to self-sacrifice. Seriously, see it. But none of the films were mistakes on behalf of the programmers, and the variety of animation styles was remarkable. Jesse Rosensweet's PARADISE was particularly inventive, creating a sterile and repressed 1950's America out of mechanically operated tin-toy characters and sets.

A shorts program, for me, is more bang for the buck. You watch a short, you know the filmmaker had no budget, little help and boundless love for the project. You get more variety, more creativity and a better shot at walking away with something new. A feature film usually has too much money, too many hands on the story and some slick cigar-smoking asshole in the shadows making sure no one could possibly find anything objectionable (or entertaining) in the investment...

Which thankfully didn't seem to be the case with BAGHEAD. This new lo fi film from the Duplass Bros (THE PUFFY CHAIR) had no money, a clear vision and (seemingly) no asshole. It blended white-knuckled suspense and horror with one of the most truly endearing and tragic romantic comedies I've seen since SWEET AND LOWDOWN. The camera shakes and goes in and out of focus in a borderline mockumentary style, but it only adds to the charm. It's not a slick film, just a good one. Highly recommended.

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