In an age of perfect high-tech imagery, the fuzzy black-and-white images of Fisher-Price's PXL-2000 camera retain their appeal for many no-budget filmmakers. Now, the 13th annual PXL This Fest offers a pleasing demonstration of just what a children's toy that records images and sound onto audiocassettes can do. The best tapes on show take advantage of the camera's built-in smeariness to abstract into pure form such childhood stalwarts as skateboarding (Jason Bickford's 30th Street) and horses (Tedi Tate and Eliot Fons' Horse).
Even better, John Humphrey's Pee Wee Goes to Prison pulls authenticity from the PXL's surveillance-camera aesthetic for its parable of the comedian's arrest, acted out with old Pee-wee's Playhousepuppets. Characters you haven't thought of in years (Jambi, Chairry) make cameos, and Pee-wee's jury of peers is made up of trademarked PEZ dispensers. Keeping the toy motif going, Joe Gibbons' droll The Stepfather tries to discourage Ken from marrying the rebellious Barbie. A number of the shorts employ the PXL's DIY aesthetic for political commentary: In Dahvi Bolog's Hippies Use Side Door, a long-hair is re-educated with successive barbering jobs into upright citizenship. Perhaps the funniest short for film buffs is Ross Craig's PXL Manifesto, a hilarious sendup of Denmark's self-righteous and purity-demanding Dogme 95 movement (No color! Hand-held camera!). After this program you'll never dismiss the aesthetic capacities of any toy again. We look forward to the productions of the Etch A Sketch school of graphic design. Screenings begin at 8:30 p.m. at Artists' Television Access, 992 Valencia (at 21st Street), S.F. Admission is $5; call 824-3890 or visit www.othercinema.com.
-- Gregg Rickman
Perhaps the only multi-DJ crew to emerge as a local force in the wake of the recent dissolution of the Invisbl Skratch Piklz, the six-man San Jose based posse known as the Fingerbangerz has come a long way from dominating late-'90s Zebra Records DJ battles. While the group's latest gig -- part of True Skool's series of turntablism showcases -- won't feature a live rendition of one of the Fingerbangerz's jaw-dropping 12-turntable routines, a tandem set with vinyl stars Goldenchild and Custo (re-creating tracks from the Fingerbangerz's recent full-length, VI-R-US) offers ample reason to hear the 'bangerz out on Friday night. Talented freestyle MC Subverse and his outfit Dubphonics open at 9 at Milk, 1840 Haight (at Stanyan), S.F. Admission is $7-10; call 387-6455 or visit www.milksf.com.
-- Dave Pehling
Conspicuous consumption in San Francisco
I couldn't be more sick of Atkins dieters. Wrapping fast-food hamburgers in lettuce leaves? Dominating dinner-table discussions with feverish carb calculations? Sending away bread baskets like they're filled with radioactive rat droppings? It's all the work of dangerous obsessives who must be stopped. Hell, on my last visit home I sat in the breakfast nook with my low-carb-crazy father, who, in the midst of inhaling a mountain of nitrate-laden deli ham, cast a gimlet eye on my organic apple and rasped, "It's poison, I tell you."
But Daddy isn't invited to "Eat Something Already," the combination spaghetti feed and dance showcase that features the Rubenesque gyrations of local size-positive dance outfits -- and a whole lot of marinara sauce. Dig in starting at 6 p.m. at Cell Space, 2050 Bryant (at 18th Street), S.F. Admission is $5-20; call 756-5593.
-- Joyce Slaton
Tiny toys writ large
Any single photograph by Vik Muniz is enough to pique our interest. Whether it's a celebrity portrait fashioned from bits of glossy magazines or a picture of a skywriter's cartoonish "cloud" over the Manhattan skyline, his work instantly draws us in. And the more you know about this Brazilian-born New Yorker's pieces, the more fascinating they become.
The first we saw was an image of Alice Liddell (Lewis Carroll's inspiration for Alice in Wonderland) made of millions of tiny, colorful toys: The relationship between subject and medium is meaningful, and the execution is astonishing. But seeing it in postcard form didn't prepare us for the original, a 100-inch-by-72-inch Cibachrome print. At "Rebus," Muniz's construction is displayed with others in his "made of small playthings" series, at the Rena Bransten Gallery, 77 Geary (at Grant), S.F. Admission is free; call 982-3292 or visit www.renabranstengallery.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Theirs Goes to 11
Audiologists claim that just a half-hour of concert-hall rocking can cause permanent ear damage. But there's a lot of annoying day-to-day noise -- car horns, spousal nagging, Muni cell-phone babblers -- we'd like to drown out. So we're going defiantly earplugless to the "Loud Music Symposium," a decibel-heavy celebration of tuneful cacophony. Hear, if you dare, the clamorous strains of the Punk Rock Orchestra and its roster of classic punk covers, badass drum-and-bugle antics from the San Francisco Renegades and the Fever Drum & Bugle Corps, and earsplitting metal from Krenshaw, starting at 3 p.m. at the Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness (at Grove), S.F. Admission is $15; call 392-4400 or visit www.renegades.org.
-- Joyce Slaton