The good, the bad, and the just plain disturbing.

It was a good weekend in Birmingham. I spent most of it downtown, attending the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. I don’t tend to miss this one, as I have a passion for short films- and the feature length films I can see at the times when there isn’t a block of shorts playing.

When I got on site, the sign for the Carver Theater reminded of the added bonus: Sidewalk goes on at the same time as the Taste of 4th Avenue Jazz Festival.


Carver Theater


I didn’t have time right away to enjoy the jazz fest, as I spent the morning running between blocks of short films that were too close together on the clock, and too far away on the map. I started with some excellent documentary shorts done by UAB students, then headed over for two blocks of shorts. The fun part was when I rushed over to see Troll 2, which was the subject of opening night documentary Best Worst Movie. Troll 2, made in 1986, is a display of some of the worst writing, acting, costumes, and effects I have ever seen on the big screen, and it was fabulous! It’s not a sequel to Troll, and it contains no trolls. However, it does teach us three important things:

  • Softballs are very good communication devices
  • Goblins are vegetarians
  • People have a very hard time seeing that ‘Nilbog’ is goblin spelled backwards, even if they’re in a family constantly troubled by a child telling horror stories of them
  • Midgets clad in sackcloth are supposed to be terrifying, but are actually very funny
  • Corn on the cob can be sexy and deadly
  • A double-decker baloney sandwich can be an effective life-saving device

It was rather horrible, but in a really good way.

After Troll 2, I got a chance to grab a BBQ sandwich at one of the 4th Avenue businesses (something I don’t do enough), and took in a little bit of the jazz fest.

4thfest


I like this fest a good bit, as it takes place in a predominantly black neighborhood, but having Sidewalk on at the same time brings in people of many ethnicities. It’s a good reminder that a city known for being the site of sometimes violent racial strife has mostly moved forward, and people of all types can come together and enjoy themselves side-by-side.

I returned to the fest today for more films, and was treated to a rather more relaxed pace than the one I had Saturday. When I got to my first block of films, I got another nice reminder- this time about the number of my friends who volunteer for Sidewalk. Here, my friend Thomas uses a scanner to get attendance numbers for a block of local short films.

thomasscan


Just after the block of shorts, I had a really special moment. World-famous animator Bill Plympton was on hand for a screening of his new feature, Idiots And Angels. I got a chance to chat with him about film for a while, and we even exchanged a few film tips before he signed my copy of his compilation Dog Days.

plympton


Sadly, I only got to see about half of Idiots And Angels before I had to run to my next block of shorts. The block was followed by one of the most disturbing films I’d ever seen, Taxidermia. It was full of things like a pig slaughter, graphic sex, competitive eating, men with tails, human embryos encased in plastic, and self-taxidermy. Yes, self-taxidermy. You jsut have to see it. I’ll offer the warning given by the guy who introduced it: “Taxedermia- in case there are any concerns- is just fucked up”.

The fest ended for me with a screening of Alabama Moon, a family-friendly tale of a young boy making his way into civilization after living in the woods with his reclusive father most of his life. It’s set in central Alabama, and was a decent film- though I was amused at their representation of Tuscaloosa as a slice of small-town south, complete with early 20th century courthouse. If you’ve been to Tuscaloosa, you’ll understand. :)

Sidewalk to me ranks among the best the city has to offer. It’s a good chance to highlight some of the talent the region has to offer, and brings in some fabulous national and international films. If you’re a film fan at all, be sure to get to the Magic City for next year’s fest.

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