Visiting the BALTICON 48 Film Festival

I try to make the BALTICON film festival every year, and nowadays Garrett likes to come with me, mostly for other reasons but he likes the film festival too.

This year we only had the Sunday free to attend.  B48 seemed reasonably well attended, and the vendors, while thin on the ground compared to previous years, had a fair share of great genre fiction in book format, which is why I go really.  There are just some things in life you’re not going to find on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, no matter how hard you look.

So Gar and I got to B48 in decent time from Northern Virginia, and did what we always do, which is hit the dealer’s area hard.  I got about five books and some various chapbooks and magazine items.  Not a great haul, but a very good haul.  Garrett got a leather dice bag, because he’s a cool kid.

The first thing I did was attend a critical discussion of the Oz series and L. Frank Baum’s history and legacy by a Baum literary authority.  Directly afterward they put HIS MAJESTY, THE SCARECROW OF OZ (1914) on screen. This is a pretty crazy little early adaption of Baum’s work that combines several of his novels together. I was sitting at a pretty bad angle, as the only empty spot was wedged to the right of a 300 pound transvestite with a Michael Meyers mask on (for some reason?).

So, instead of a bad photograph, here’s the whole thing:

After that I went to a voice acting narration panel. This was without a doubt the best panel I’ve been to at a SF Convention  in eons. I’m trying to hone my own narration skills and the folks who participated were both professional and encouraging.

We went out for some food (not the traditional Wegman’s visit, there was no time) and came back in time for the film festival. Rather than type it out, here’s the ballot for the whole shooting match.

Ballot for Balticon 48 Sunday night film festival. Click to enlarge

There were roughly twenty films presented in two halves, the first half being more family friendly. This was a festival of mixed media, mostly animation but also live action and mixed live action/animation short films.

I won’t analyze each one because frankly, I don’t have the energy. I will focus on the ones that delighted me and point out the others that transcended mediocrity to become something truly awful.

And the Film Festival begins, 1900 hrs.

First half: Family Friendly mixed category

Voice Over (Fr, subtitles)

(Live Action) A French film with three interlooping narratives. Very surreal and strange. I loved the “tough guy” sounding French narration throughout.

Second Wind (Ru, no subtitles needed)

(Live Action) A Russian(?) film with no narration or dialogue, about a man who staves off madness in the Wasteland by building his own flowers out of junk. Very steampunky.

My favorite of the first half:

The Ballad of Poisonberry Pete (Eng)

(Animated) A somewhat traditional cowboy showdown told entirely with animated pie products. It pokes fun at stereotypes and has a gentle humor that I love. And tons of baking puns.

Second Half

This wasn’t as “adult” as the folks who were running things promised.. they didn’t seem to be unduly violent or disturbing any more than the first half.

My Little Friend (Not sure, no dialogue)

(Animated) A short, short film about a mooching bird that got more than it bargained for. Hilarious.

Death Tells a Story (Fr, subtitles) was great and a real tear jerker, about a man who tells stories of cheating death to his dying son. Mixed animation and live action.

Little Man of Steel (Eng)

(Live Action) a cute little short film comedy of the perils and pratfalls of Superman and Lois and the problems of “hooking up” Probably inspired by Larry Niven’s MAN OF STEEL, WOMAN OF KLEENEX.

Viande Rouge (Red Meat) (Sp/Fr) English Subtitles

A very well crafted short dark comedy with a nice macabre twist ending. I loved it!

And without a doubt..

the worst films of the Festival:

ODD ONE OUT.. long, boring animated film, pointless and almost plotless.

La Casa De Arriba.. a very unclear and muddled live action morality play of some kind. It’s trying to either be spooky or preachy but I can’t figure out which one it is.

MARS II.. A short live action film about a doomed Martian expedition that borrows heavily from feature film MISSION TO MARS (I thought), with the central twist telegraphed miles in advance and replete with poor pacing and soulless acting.

So that was our Film Festival, and it was definitely worth a visit. Overall the choices were not as strong as previous years, but the ones that I liked, I really, really liked. We’ll be back next year.

Our final moment of Zen:

“Why no, I HAVEN’T kissed a girl. What makes you ask that question?” (click to enlarge)


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