AFTER A LONG DAY of your unique lifestyle, you feel like unwinding with a good film. Fortunately, you picked up a Mercury at your local tanning salon! Those razor-sharp Mercury film critics never steer you wrong.

So: If all you're looking for is some festive, brightly-colored entertainment that doesn't make you think too hard, then perhaps you'd enjoy Spike & Mike's Classic Festival of Animation, in which case please Go to (1). But if you'd prefer to dig into a gripping, morally ambiguous foreign suspense film, then you might enjoy The Interview, in which case please Go to (5). Otherwise, kick off your unique lifestyle footwear, pour yourself a libation and go to I'm Staying Home, page (41.)

1. Spike & Mike's Festival, playing November 24-30 at Cinema 21, bills itself as the yearly round up of the best short animated films from around the world. But are they really the best? And where are they actually from? And how short are they?

If you've never been to a Spike & Mike's animation festival in your life, go to (2). If you've been to Spike & Mike's before, but not recently, go to (3). If you saw Spike & Mike's when it came through town last year, go to (4).

2. Gosh, are you in for a treat! This festival is a great introduction to some of the best work in animation from around the world. The selection of 15 short films will surely offer something for everyone. I especially liked Konstantin Broznit's "At The Ends of The Earth," but I'm sure you'll have your own favorites. Go see the festival, then go to (9).

3. Spike & Mike's is like Burger King. It's always available, it's always about the same, and it goes down easy. There're several really funny pieces, some stuff that's technically very interesting but kind of unsatisfying to the average Cartoon Network viewer, and a few pieces of pretentious crap. But it's easy enough to ignore the rough spots and enjoy the high points. I mean, if you wanted real quality, you should have gone to (5). Instead, go to (11).

4. The rip-off starts with the title; Mike's been dead for six years. This is really Spike's Festival of Demographic Appeasement. His formula: one part comedy, one part "artsy," one part cloying family drama, and two parts rerun. The program promises "premier animated shorts" but includes several leftovers from last year's festival. Considering today's animation renaissance in cinema, on the Web and on prime-time network TV, I expected this year's Spike & Mike's festival to eclipse all others. Color me disappointed. Go to (10).

5. Welcome, art film lovers! The Interview (the debut of Australian director Craig Monahan which opens Fri, Nov 24, at Clinton Street Theater), tells the story of Eddie Fleming, normal dull guy, who is abducted from his flat in the wee hours by Australian police officers who have vague questions about unspecified crimes. The film documents Eddie's interrogation by Detective John Steele at police headquarters. It's an intriguing premise for a film... but can Monahan make it work?

If you like Spielberg films a lot but you thought Citizen Kane was a bit too "arty," go to (7). If you are fan of noir suspense films in general, or you enjoyed Kafka and Tim Burton's Batman films, go to (6). Otherwise, go to (8).

6. If the resolution of uncertainty is what gives mystery stories their kick, and the ambiguity of human character is what gives film noir its flavor, then The Interview is a remarkably perfect noir-mystery. For three-quarters of the film, we struggle to decide who is the hero and who is the villain, as the main characters struggle with the same question. Strong writing and acting complement the delicate unfolding of this film's excellent premise. One of the best films of the year. Go to (9).

7. I could not follow this film at all. All the actors talked funny, and nobody ever, like, explained anything. It was one of those foreign films, only without the subtitles. And then they let him go at the end, which is, like, ridiculous because he's obviously guilty. Ew. Go to (10).

8. Enjoying this film is a bit of work. The ideas are strong, and the acting is first-class; however, the accents are kind of thick, and the tilted-tripod camera shots get silly after awhile. I like this kind of thing, but maybe you won't. I guess there's only one way to find out. Go to (11).

9. OK! Encouraged by the Mercury's ringing endorsement, you rush to the theater and enjoy a great film! On the way home you find a dollar. THE END.

10. Whew! Close call! Good thing your Mercury pals saved you six bucks and a wasted evening. You decide to go hear the Goddamn Gentlemen instead. On the way home you narrowly avoid stepping in dog doo. THE END.

11. Gee... um... you still aren't sure what to do with your evening. You wander aimlessly around town. You get lost, and cannot find your way home. THE END.