Slightly skewed festival of films

Movies: MicroCineFest brings the best of the weirdest to Baltimore.

November 01, 2001|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

It's time to check your cinematic conventions at the door - MicroCineFest is back in town.

Baltimore's annual celebration of movies defiantly outside the mainstream kicked off last night with a party, but the movie-going begins this afternoon. Audiences should find plenty to confront, confound and convulse their sensibilities before the festival wraps up Sunday. Organizer Skizz Cyzyk, who started MicroCineFest four years ago in a decaying old funeral home on York Road, promises the 2001 version will continue to push the boundaries of cinema.

"The majority of submissions were shot on digital video," Cyzyk says - just 134 of the 365 films submitted for consideration originated on film. But while digital video makes it possible for almost everyone to call themselves filmmakers nowadays, he hasn't seen a concurrent rise in the quality or daring of the work. "The digital revolution is making filmmakers lazy," Cyzyk says.

That said, MicroCineFest 2001 features enough films - about 100 in all, including eight that run 45 minutes or longer - to justify a four-day run at the G-Spot, an art gallery at 2980 Falls Road. This year's offerings include a preponderance of films and documentaries dealing with the American music scene.

"I really don't know how that happened," says Cyzyk, who has beaten the drums in a few bands over the years. "I saw most of the films at other festivals and approached the filmmakers. A lot of the best stuff I saw was about music."

Among those films featured this weekend are ... An Incredible Simulation (5 p.m. today), about tribute bands trying to replicate the look, feel and sound of such acts as Molly Hatchet, Led Zeppelin, Joy Division, even Adam and the Ants; The Drum Buddy Show (5 p.m. tomorrow), an "infomercial" about a mechanical drum machine and its creator; and Wesley Willis: The Daddy of Rock 'N' Roll (3 p.m. Sunday), the story of a Chicago man described as "an obese, African-American, medicated, schizophrenic artist desperately fighting off his inner demons," who's also known for giving an obligatory head butt along with every autograph request, double-billed with El Rey de Rock 'n' Roll, a visit with Robert Lopez, the Mexican Elvis.

Perhaps the real heart of MicroCineFest can be found in the shorts programs that unspool every night. Tonight at 8, "New Ways of Looking at Things" includes Airplane Glue, about twin brothers convinced the moon landing was faked; Noise In My Backyard, about the filmmaker's efforts to restore his back yard to its pre-Columbian condition; and What's In It For Me?, detailing an evil scientist's experiments on a sleeping man who dreams he can fly.

Tomorrow at 8, the "Experimiscellaneous" program of shorts includes Deadpan, recalling the days when dad would bring home tongue for dinner; Fightloop, in which a scene from an old Jacques Tourneur film featuring Robert Mitchum is cut up and re-arranged; and The Peritoneal Surfaces are Smooth and Glistening, described by director Walker Allen as "a largely incoherent experimental mish-mash. You could say it's about cats. But I wouldn't."

Saturday at 8, "Simplicity, Brilliance and Confusion" shorts include Beware of the Hot Dog People, in which wieners take over people's minds; Gods of Porcelain and Plumbing, an infomercial in which toilets are presented as objects of worship; and Smashin' It Up, with guys busting up stuff with axes and baseball bats.

Tickets cost $3 individually, or $30 for a four-day pass. For a full schedule, visit the Web site www.microcinefest.org.

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