Corey Adams & Alex Craig | 2009 | 91mins | Canada / USA
Imagine if John Paizs had nephews who were a bit ADD but still really looked up to him. And imagine that those boys were raised in a some magical Winnipeg art-commune where they got to just use their imaginations all the time and only had access to pre-1990s technology. And then imagine that they were really into skateboarding, and decided to make a movie about it. The result might look something like Machotaildrop, probably the quirkiest surprise of TIFF this year.
I don't actually know whether Corey Adams and Alex Craig have a Winnipeg connection, but I saw glimpses in this of the same comic instinct that makes Paizs the funniest filmmaker Canada's ever produced. This film's nowhere near as funny as Crime Wave or Springtime in Greenland, but it's reminiscent of his style.
Walter Rhum (Anthony Amedori) lives in a curious world in which skateboarding is a regal and revered sport. Like most boys, Walter wants the elusive corporate sponsorship that will allow him to live the dream of being a pro skateboarder, and spends all his spare time putting together a VHS tape of his tricks to send to Machotaildrop, the company all aspiring pros dream of working for. While he waits for their response, Walter plays video games at the local cake & skateboard shop. When Machotaildrop finally calls, Walter drops everything to attend their prestigious academy - a remote mansion run by an eccentric Baron (James Faulkner) and his creepy, stuffed-bird-obsessed sidekick Perkins (Lukács Bicskey).
Walter trains with other aspiring skate stars, battles a gang of rogue skaters called the Man Wolfs, finds himself embroiled in the Baron's scheme to open a skateboarding theme park called ApeSnake, and inevitably becomes a star. Awesome, right? Who wouldn't want to go to an amusement park centred around a giant King Kong-esque figure with an enormous snake coiled around its body?
The world of Machotaildrop is full of old-timey VHS and audio cassettes, wacky outfits, campy acting and elaborate, kooky sets. It's extremely creative, but the story's pacing is a bit off, so that it feels longer than it should and so that the stylized, over-the-top acting feels too hammy. The atmosphere here is carefully constructed, but by the end of the film's 90 minute runtime, it starts to wear thin.
Mega points for some of the most original storytelling I saw at TIFF. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite sustain. I definitely look forward to seeing what writer/director duo Corey Adams & Alex Craig do next.