Film Reviews Uncategorized

REVIEW: Australia’s Funniest Shorts @ Fringe

Words by: Jack Dawson


The scene before me is familiar, but the setting has changed.

I’m sitting down to watch Australia’s Funniest Shorts again, but this time it’s in Fremantle, specifically at the Naval Club. The Naval Club is a charmingly kitsch venue nestled in the pedestrian-friendly streets of Fremantle, decorated with nautical memorabilia and brown brick. It’s oddly appropriate, there’s something terribly comforting about watching comedy while surrounded with 70’s era architecture. And an open bar that serves everything from Cabernet-Merlot to lemonade is a nice touch.

I’m not sure the seating arrangements are ideal, instead of a row of seats there are instead several circular tables surrounded by chairs, which means anyone with their back to the screen has to shift to get a decent view.

But with a cold beer in hand and pleasant surroundings, it’s not a deal breaker.

But the venue is one thing, a collection of the best comedic shorts from around Australia is another.

How To Stop Cats Forever:

A fun piece to start off with, and one that wears its internet influences proudly on its sleeve. A man so irresponsible that by all rights he shouldn’t have an internet connection, let alone a YouTube show, invents devices that have no real utility or basic concept of safety. And after noting all the cats who walk into his yard to piss everywhere, he decides to put his hardware skills to use.

Props have to go to Craig Turner, who walks a fine line between zany and down-to-earth as the host who is a few whiskers short of an Internet Meme involving Cheeseburgers. It’s a winning performance, and along with the surreal script, it provides the framework for most of the comedy.

And the payoff is as satisfying as you’d expect, if slightly less explosive than I would have thought.

Tech Support:

And now we dip into familiar waters. Most of the other shorts I saw were also shown at last year’s Australia’s Funniest Shorts. Considering the opportunity it gives people to see shorts they might have missed out on before, I can’t say I mind.

The success of this short is that it keeps the story as simple as possible, while satirising the overly-complex bureaucracy that plagues so many businesses. The result is a comedy about IT that can be enjoyed by anyone, with a clever pay-off that demonstrates how effective simple stories can be. To say anything more about this relatively low-key short would spoil the surprise, suffice to say that you should check it out yourself.

Morning Coffee:

Simple jokes with flawless execution are fine enough in their own way, but there’s something to be said about a short that employs a novel technique in order to get a laugh. Nobody is at their best in the morning, (anyone who is alert and pleasant in the morning is obviously an alien infiltrator and need to be knocked out as soon as possible), and sometimes a cup of coffee is needed to get through the day.

And so it is with a woman who moves entirely in shuttered images, managing physically impossible feats with the aid of her Morning Coffee.

A perfect marriage of visual flair, expert sound design and situational comedy, Morning Coffee is just the thing to perk you up.

Touch:

Speaking of sound design, we have a film that is, contrary to what its title might suggest, all about sound. A man wakes up one morning to discover that anything he touches with his hands will say its name in a thematically appropriate voice.

It’s more a novelty than a comedy in parts, but the suffering of the main character produces its share of laughs over the course of the film. And it’s really fun listening to the different voices of the different objects that are touched throughout the film.

And the focus on sound doesn’t end here.

Laugh Track:

The sound here is laughter. Specifically canned laughter that only plays over jokes that are neither good enough to be funny or creative enough to be bad. It’s a fun mockumentary on the history of the Laugh-Track that gradually builds as the jokes keep coming hard and fast, prompting genuine laughter from its real audience. Anyone who hates what’s become of situational comedy will enjoy the digs that this film gets in at a tired sub-genre of comedy, to say nothing of the vicious scathing it delivers upon the ‘Funny Foreigner’ Trope.

And I have a special soft-spot in the blackened walnut-shaped mass that is my heart for any film that contains the line:

“The Fap-Track… Was a mistake.”

Dayne’s World:

There’s a certain persona that some stand-up comedians employ to exceptional effect, that of a socially stunted introvert who has a loose grip on reality at the best of times. Dayne’s World presents a character who exhibits these behaviours vividly, while shocking people who come to realize that it’s no persona, he really is that stupid/awkward/psychotic.

Taking shots at white South Africans, Stand-up-Comedy and traditional symbols of masculinity is a lot for one short to get through, but Dayne’s World makes it look effortless. Cringe Comedy isn’t usually my cup of tea, but Dayne’s earnestness as well as the clever trick of making his painful awkwardness funny as a plot point creates a deliriously funny short that makes me want to check out the rest of the series on YouTube.

The Cut-Off:

I wish I had more to say about this short, but it’s brevity as well as the simple set-up mean I have a limited window to avoid spoilers. Suffice to say that it occupied my interest with the same confidence as any of the other shorts on this list.

Huntin Dinna:

I wasn’t terribly enamoured with this short when I first saw it last year, and I’m still not convinced that it measures up to the other entries on this list. This is mostly due to the broadly-drawn characters, unpleasant edge to the story and the random decision to focus on Bear Grylls.

I’ll admit, I might have just missed the point of this short, And it reflects more on me than it does the film itself. But I just didn’t find it very funny.
But I appreciate more about it than I did before, like the music and the costume design, which are both genuinely excellent. So maybe when I next see it I’ll have changed my mind again.

The Boy Who Had No Thumbs:

My absolute favourite entry from last year’s show, a ghoulish comedy which is so absurdly dark that it warps around to endearing.

Or at least that’s what I thought, I understand that a story framed like a fairy tale which features a Red Devil who cavorts and whispers cruel rumours into the ear of a Stern Father figure might perplex some viewers, and lead others to dislike it for being a bit more ‘dark’ than they’re comfortable with.

I can’t blame anyone for not liking this film, but I defy anyone to think of a more shocking ending.

Battle of Who Could Care Less:

Some people delight in acting like they hold all the cards, even when they’re holding a hand that holds two threes and a UNO Pick-Up-Two card, and this short is essentially about such people. Two attractive strangers try and psych the other out while on a date, mostly by acting like they don’t have any investment in the date whatsoever.

A simple idea with a slick execution, it’s probably the palate cleanser the audience needed after The Boy Who Had No Thumbs.

The Polygamist:

Yet another Palate Cleanser that sets up the following film rather nicely, while being a rather sweet film on its own. Admittedly it does take a few potshots at Polyamorous relationships, but there’s no real malice from any of the characters. It speaks to the confidence of the film-makers that an actor shedding real tears while looking back on how they took a former partner for granted doesn’t feel forced or awkward in any way, and coexists with the comedy rather comfortably.

And while the ending is a bit of a shaggy-dog story, the audience is left with a curiously optimistic feeling.

Make Over:

The finale to the evening, and easily the most visually impressive. It feels like most of the set is computer-generated, though I couldn’t say for sure.

I certainly hope that the eponymous make-over is a product of smoke and mirrors, this film isn’t for the faint of heart or light of stomach as it is.

And old man decides to get back in the dating game, and goes about cleaning himself up the only way he knows how, which involves an alarming number of power tools.

Otherwise Make Over is a pleasant film with a heartwarming ending, a perfect evening to a fun evening out and about.

~

When I saw that many of these shorts were carried over from last year, I took the opportunity to look at my review from last year. And after I got over the burning shame that any writer feels on seeing their old work, I realized I had more to say on every film I’d seen, and that I’d missed out important details on my first viewing.

 

So even if you have seen these shorts before, even if you haven’t, even if you’re unsure of whether this is your kind of event, I’d strongly recommend you go up to the Naval Club and sit yourself down to watch some great comedy.

The way this year has begun, it looks like we’re going to need a few good laughs.