MODERN TOSS

MODERN TOSS
Created by Jon Link and Mick Bunnage
Premiering Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Showing on IFC

MODERN TOSS was originally created by Jon Link and Mick Bunnage as a comic book back in 2003. The success of the comic eventually led to a pilot episode of an animated series for British TV, eventually spawning six wickedly odd episodes. And now the series is making its American debut as part of IFC’s “Automat” block of programming.

I suppose the best way to describe MODERN TOSS to an American audience would be to call it sort of a variety show meets SOUTH PARK. Each 22-minute episode is jam-packed with over ten cartoons and live-action shorts. They feature a variety of recurring characters and bits, including: Mr. Tourette (he paints signs that have just a bit too much truth in them); Alan (a misanthropic blob who hates his brother so much that he actively tries to destroy his property)’; Drive-by Abuser (who… well, he drives by things and people and verbally abuses them); Sneezeman (whose sneezes are so violent as to disrupt his life, set his girlfriend on fire, and more); and Barney (a man with anger issues that turn him into a large, red, rampaging monster. There are many others as well. But what catches your eye as you watch MODERN TOSS isn’t just the snark-heavy humor that Link and Bunnage have invested into their cartoon. It’s the underlying theme at most of the bits’ heart.

And that theme is: “People are complete assholes.”

I can’t remember watching anything in recent memory that evoked a more loathing response about humanity. Mr. Tourette’s signs strip away the veneer of polite society and label items bluntly. Hired to created a sign for a ski resort for wealthy drug addicts that need rehab, he chops down a forest and builds an edifice at the front displaying the words “Alpine Cunt Cabin.” (Just in time for an animated Pete Doherty to arrive, which was brilliant.) Alan is so disenfranchised by his family and friends that he lays a trap for them that causes their own work to collapse a telephone pole on their car. In a recurring segment called “Help Desk” (shot with live actors but dubbed voices), a stream if ignorant people call and visit help desks at the hospital emergency room and the local legal advice office asking for ways to assist in their own stupid slide into self-destruction. In “Illegal Alphabet”, letters roam the countryside trying to form naughty words, trying to do so one step ahead of a legal crackdown. Because after all, the phrase “git stack” could kill, right?

MODERN TOSS is about humor fueled by, and paying homage to, hate. On the surface, it’s good for laughs, and the writing and dialogue are wonderfully clever. It’s also amazing that they have accomplished what they did what a budget that looks to be about twelve dollars short of thirteen bucks. However, it isn’t for the faint of heart, easily offended, or those who have a strong belief in the goodness of humanity. Because its creators certainly make it clear that they don’t. I was good with that. Will you be?

Marc Mason

Got a region-free DVD player? Buy it at Amazon:

GOTH CRUISE

GOTH CRUISE
Directed by Jeanie Finlay
Premiering on
IFC Free on November 27, 2008

Even if you aren’t a goth, you know someone who is or was. The one subculture that still thrives despite its roots in the 1980s, goth is everywhere and running strong. And yet still, after over twenty years, completely misunderstood by “mundanes” or “norms.” Who are the goths? What are their values? Important questions. But the most important question is this:

What do goths do on vacation?

Much to what may surprise some, they go on cruises. Yep, cruises- those same boat rides that swallow the disposable incomes of millions of senior citizens every year. Documentary filmmaker Jeanie Finlay, remembering her own teenage years as a goth girl, took her cameras along for the ride in 2007, and the result is GOTH CRUISE, a fascinating and illuminating look at how a dark subculture mixes in with a vacation synonymous with sunshine and light… and how 150 goth folk mingle in with 2500 other cruisers that are not only wildly uninformed about the goth lifestyle, but that also harbor some fears of the tattooed and pierced people sharing their dinner tables.

What emerges in Finlay’s narrative is a story about acceptance. First and foremost is the level of acceptance that the goth cruisers have amongst themselves. Unlike so much of “norm” society, those in the lifestyle have a stronger level of body acceptance with each other. There is no pressure to present a certain body type to the world; women with curves are respected for who they are, not rejected for failing to conform to an ideal. The portrait that Finlay paints is one of a group that lacks a certain level of vanity about their shapes. It’s heartwarming and inspiring to see it.

The flip side of that acceptance is in how the fellow cruisers perceive the goths among them. What unspools along the way is an understanding by the “norms” that they are dealing with a group of people who have morals, values, families, jobs and mortgages… just like them. Some passengers do have a level of fear and keep their distance, but for the most part, you can see the non-goth sailors warm to the presence of the darkly clad vacationers.

Filling out the story is a cast of characters that vividly capture the imagination and interest. There’s an elder goth, who is a veteran of the first Gulf War, and his cruise is a break from raising his two teenaged daughters as a single father. A pair of goth newlyweds is using the cruise as their honeymoon, and their ceremony and families play an integral role in giving the documentary an emotional center. Finlay also covers a different married goth couple and focuses on where their union has taken them as far as personal philosophy goes. But two other cruisers catch your eye more than others, and it is them that makes the movie tick.

The first is an extrovert named Lobster who does not consider himself to be a goth, despite the fact that his dress and manner squarely place him within the culture. The highlight of his journey comes when he slathers on $50 worth of red makeup and horns in order to venture out into the night dressed as Satan. On the flip side is DJ Storm, a six-foot-six black man who not only lives the goth lifestyle but also enjoys cross-dressing as part of it. If you’ve ever wondered if they make size 16 women’s patent leather boots, you’ll get your answer here. Watching his transformation into character is something you cannot turn your eyes from, and the final product is something to behold.

GOTH CRUISE could almost serve as an infomercial for the goth lifestyle; these people are fun, funny, and more interesting than the majority of people you’re ever going to meet. Finlay’s camera plays fair with their quirks and oddities, and despite plenty of opportunities to come off as scary, the cruisers simply come off as… normal.

The irony is palpable, really.

Best of all, I enjoyed this documentary because it reminded me of my youth when chasing goth girls was all I wanted to do, because I thought they were the sexiest girls on the planet.

(And I still kinda do.)

Check it out November 27 at midnight on IFC Free.

Marc Mason

HELL GIRL VOL 1 BUTTERFLY

HELL GIRL VOL 1: BUTTERFLY
Episodes Showing on
IFC FREE VOD
Episodes Showing on Independent Film Channel Beginning 10/3/08

Is someone tormenting you? Making your life miserable to the point you don’t know how to cope? Are you beset by someone who wants to do you harm just because they can? If so, Hell Girl is ready to listen. At midnight, you can type the name of your tormentor on Hell Girl’s website and she’ll show up to hear your plea. The deal sounds good up front- she’ll immediately take that person straight to Hell if you want. But then there’s the catch: after you finish your own natural existence, you’ll find yourself in Hell as well, no matter how good a person you might have been in life. So what do you do?

What do you do?

A few weeks back, I reviewed volume two of the manga and found it to be a bit inconsistent in how it drew in reader interest in the characters who crossed Hell Girl’s path. But that’s not a problem here; not at all.

Sometimes the manga is much better than the anime because it can capture certain aspects of the story better and take more time in development. Shows like SUZUKA come to mind. But there are times when the anime is WAY better, and HELL GIRL is one of those.

What makes it better? A number of factors. The stories are tighter and more interesting. Having color gives more dimension to the stuff Hell Girl puts the bad guys through. The voice actors give extra depth to the characters on screen. So in the end, this series comes across as a dark, creepy, disturbing piece of entertainment about very sad and very damaged people. I’ll be watching… but only in daylight.

Marc Mason