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  • In college I regularly got to view many short films that were labeled 'experimental.' On the surface they didn't make much sense, but the better ones haunted me to consider things that came to me untold. Emilie Hubley, whose animation is meditative in ways so different from the computer cartoon revolution that has taken over megaplexes and weekly box office lists, has created a feature length experimental film that playfully merges a small real life story with glimpses from an animated world that one must consider as the mover of it all.

    There are connections between the world of imagination animation denotes and our common experience. What is wrong with a film that ponders that the ingenuity we use to work through our travails might not be inspired by imaginative sources from elsewhere. At the festival I saw this at (Sarasota) there were several films where an imaginative world intercedes with the real (Phoebe in Wonderland, Jellyfish, Christmas Story). The Toe Tactic simply kicks it up a notch.

    So the idea that a group of mischievous dogs and other creatures are moving life along in pleasant and unpleasant ways while playing an organic game of tic-tac-toe with few rules is enchanting. The execution of this may not connect to everyone viewing films critically from their normal aesthetic constructs. If they don't drop their guard, they might miss the point entirely. Some in my viewing definitely did.

    But for someone entirely over modern animated features, this film was so refreshing and bursting with imagination. Eddie Murphy popping donkey punch lines galore isn't imaginative, and imagination is the major ingredient missing from this recursive, hopelessly derivative industry that creates repetitive computer generated films designed to sell one ticket for the price of two.

    Thank goodness there are places like the academic ends of Sundance that provide sustenance to vehicles like this. Though traditional audiences may have no patience with the effort and the film likely has little chance of box office success, is there not a place for viewing efforts like this in a different light from traditional narrative forms?

    Why see this film even though it may not be your cup of tea? Go simply to experience the influence of its almost sweet innocence, likely a principle component in the personality of the film's creator. Then ponder a while on where this feeling takes you. Get it?
  • Control - of our lives, our relationships, our destiny or ultimate fate may be the greatest fantasy most people have.

    In The Toe Tac Tic, Emily Hubley's soon-to-be classic, the often subtle physical expressiveness of the cast (which includes Kevin Corrigan, Daniel London, Novella Nelson and Sakina Jaffrey), epitomized by actress Lily Rabe, combines with other symbols - like language - and animated mischief-making characters in the Native American tradition of Coyote.

    Everyone sees symbols, signs to which they give meaning, or refuse to consider might be indications, like a slave's quilt, of where to find freedom from their fear of losing control. Mona Peek appears to learn, eventually, that control is an illusion. Perhaps, just perhaps, what's real is that we're all just characters.

    Go see it. You'll know what I mean. You'll want to be surprised where life leads you when you stop believing you have the power to control it.
  • Animation and live action combined. The animation is generally good. The live action is competently done. Unfortunately the whole is spoiled by a poorly conceived story.

    I cannot make a lot of sense of the story. It involves a young woman who loses her wallet which is recovered by a kid who takes secret lessons from a piano teacher who crosses path with the kid's mother and love is in the air. Concurrently the young woman gets a temporary job cataloguing notes for a woman who lives in a building with a warehouse-like manned elevator. The elevator man gets a fix on the young woman and meets her at a singing bar where he plays guitar. I suppose it ends with everyone living happily ever after.

    I held for an excruciating seventy minutes hoping the story would get somewhere interesting. I gave up, defeated by the childish tenor of the narrative, the uninspiring surrealism, the flimsy narrative connection between animation and live action and, principally, the poorly conceived screenplay.

    Part of the problem is that the audience for this film is ill-defined. Children may enjoy the animation bits but not a lot more. Teenagers are out of the question. Adults may be bored by the narrative that drives the animated characters.

    It's too bad this is a flop for there is talent here. Clearly good technique and imagination are on display when it comes to animation.

    The title's reversal of the traditional children's game may be clever, but the forced justification, done through a flashback, is an annoying contrivance.
  • One recalls reviewers and critics proclaiming what a breakthrough "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" was in 1988 when it convincingly combined cartoons and live (a.k.a. human) interaction in the same frames throughout a feature length film. The technique wasn't new, of course -- one also recalls live hands drawing real-time animations in cartoons of the 1930s -- but the method was.

    How it was done here, one hardly knows, but it seems that here, the cartoons have taken over. Not in their predominance in the film, mind you, but in that they seem to be controlling every aspect of the actors', especially the lead actor's, lives. The larger context of the film, you see, is that the cartoon characters are playing a game, a board game, a table game, a card game, call it what you will, but a game that at least creates situations in which the live actors' interactions are led to behave in some particular manner or other, or to achieve some predestined result.

    But what was the genesis of such a film? One gets the impression that creator-animator-director Emily Hubley had been doodling in class throughout her schooling, and that this film represents some collection of those doodles animated and set into a story, whether real from her life experiences or dreamed as she drew.

    This may or may not be the case, of course, but it's the impression that this viewer, at least, was left with throughout the film.

    Aside from the cartoons, perhaps the most interesting aspect of this film is the offbeat mixture of A-, B-, and C-list actors in the cast. As others have observed, it certainly ain't the story.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The Toe Tactic is a film with so much novelty and creativity that it's hard to describe, so I'm not surprised at a few of the reviewers on IMDb who don't quite get it. It's about people who are basically lonely, but doing the best they can, and trying to make it through their days. The animated characters are bursting with life, and their intrusions into the live action cause havoc amongst the live action actors, but they force them to move! When Jane Lynch appears as the nightclub host, the audience realizes 'oh, this is funny', if they haven't figured it out yet. The voice overs by the legendary Eli Wallach and equally legendary Marian Seldes, along with comic David Cross and Andrea Martin, are vivid and just plain funny. Lily Rabe, as Mona Peek, definitely captures the essence of loss, which intrigues Daniel London as the singing elevator man. Mona has a great movie mom in Mary Kay Place (Amelia). I'm tempted to explain more, but don't want to be a spoiler.