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Wow, Canada! 

Animation, like ice fishing, is that much better in Canada.


Sure, Canadians are responsible for Celine Dion, Jim Carrey, and hockey, but they've also given us some of the best animation of the past 15 years. While the U.S. wastes ink on Treasure Planet and The Prince of Egypt, our northern neighbors have been making animated films that people actually want to see. Animania 2003!, the collection of Canadian animation screening this weekend at the Cinematheque, includes four features, the highlight of which is A Decade of Canadian Animation. It's a stunning 10 years of funny, sad, and brilliant films. Below, a survey of this year's program.

Hy Hirsh and the Fifties: Jazz and Abstraction in Beat Era Film -- You know those seemingly to-the-beat, multicolored ambiance visuals that bounce around your computer's CD player when music is playing? Hirsh got there first, constructing a series of short formless films that spin, bop, and weave to jazz soundtracks. It's mesmerizing, potentially eye-straining stuff. (7 p.m. Thursday and Friday)

Fritz the Cat -- Ralph Bakshi's 1972 groundbreaking work, slapped with an X rating upon its release, features a filth-spewing feline that indulges in the era's sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It's based on Robert Crumb's underground comic, but is weighted a bit by Bakshi's cranky cynicism. (8:45 p.m. Thursday, 10:15 p.m. Saturday)

A Decade of Canadian Animation -- Nine films touch on humor ("Bob's Birthday"), history ("The Boy Who Saw an Iceberg"), prehistory ("How Dinosaurs Learned to Fly"), death ("When the Day Breaks"), and Leonard Cohen ("I'm Your Man"). It's a virtual tour of life from the National Film Board of Canada. Don't miss this one. (8:40 p.m. Friday, 6:45 p.m. Saturday)

*Corpus Callosum -- Michael Snow blurs the line between reality and animation in this film from last year. Shot on digital video and altered to the point where the inanimate becomes animate, *Corpus Callosum is a heady brain snack. (10:15 p.m. Friday, 8:25 p.m. Saturday)

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