[EDITORS NOTE: Kim Adelman will be writing a monthly short film column for indieWIRE.]
Every year Aspen, Colorado plays host to two stellar showcases of top-notch short films. At the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, held March 8th - 12th, 2006, funny flicks were to be expected. But it was the 15th annual Aspen Shortsfest, which took place April 5-9, that most recently had festival-goers rolling in the aisles. While the Aspen Shortsfest's jury lauded the laugh-out-loud funny "The Danish Poet," "Heavy Metal Drummer", "Eramos Pocos," and "Badgered," there were many other films that tickled the audience's funny bone.
Here, in alphabetical order, are profiles of ten comedic shorts that killed in Aspen. Buy a ticket when they come to a film festival near you - and be prepared to laugh yourself silly.
"Choque" (a.k.a. "Crash") (Dir. Nacho Vigalondo, Spain, 2005, 10 min.)
Nominated for an Oscar for his previous short, "7:35 in the Morning," Nacho Viaglondo returns with another outrageous story of romance gone horribly awry. This time Viaglondo portrays a volatile hunk whose sexy date attracts unwanted attention from the adolescent thugs who populate an underground bumper car rink. Viaglando's short can be seen on his website.
"Dog Years Chapter 2 - Health" (Dirs. Sam Hearn and Richard Penfold, UK, 2006, 4 min.)
"Chapter 2 - Health" is a sequel to 2004's "Dog Years," an edited-in-camera Super 8 film. In this installment, the canine hero confesses he's perfectly happy dragging his rear end across the carpet to satisfy a constant itch -until he discovers the vet might have the magic touch to cure what ails him. "Dog Years" can be viewed on their website.
"Dupe" (Dir. Chris Waitt, UK, 2005, 11 min.)
Chris Wiatt directs himself - and himself, and himself - in this technically-impressive short. Fans of slacker dude comedies will immediately embrace this film's hero, a slob who buys a cloning machine on Ebay just to avoid having to clean up after himself. The problem is the clone hates housework just as much as the original model. "Dupe" also played the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.
"Gopher Broke" (Dir. Jeff Fowler, USA, 2005, 4 min.)
This Oscar-nominated animated short harkens back to the glory days when Loony Tunes played on the big screen. Audiences howl as Jeff Fowler's computer-generated gopher does a victory dance when he figures out how to make vegetables fall off the back of trucks like manna from heaven. Another U.S. Comedy Arts Festival pick, "Gopher Broke" can be seen on the production company website.
"Happy Birthday Yemima" (Dir. Yishai Orian, Israel, 2005, 19 min.)
Film schools in Israel aren't exactly known for incubating comedies. In fact, "Happy Birthday Yemima" is officially designated as a drama. Unofficially, this tale of a young woman believed to be the reincarnation of her late grandmother and the sexy plumber who sees so much more in her is a quirky romantic comedy shot with a great deal of joi de vivre.
"If There Were No Lutherans . . . Would There Still Be Green Jell-O?" (Dir. Gayle Knutson, USA, 2005. 12 min.)
Like the other 9,000 motorists who pass Rev. Steve Molin's Lutheran church each day, documentary filmmaker Gayle Knutson became a fan of the churchyard sign's humorous messages. One week the sign would read "In Eternity Only Three Things Matter: Location, Location, Location," another week "John the Baptist and Billy the Kid Share the Same Middle Name." A trailer of Knutson's portrait of the reverend and his wacky signs can be found on their website.
"Jellybaby" (Dir. Ronan and Rob Burke, Ireland, 2005,
Who isn't driven crazy by those irritating babies on airplanes who never stop crying? Imagine living with one fulltime. That's the nonstop nightmare the young couple in "Jellybaby" face day in and day out. So is it any wonder that the father succumbs to temptation he when stumbles across a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do a baby swap? "Jellybaby," which also spooled at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, will be playing the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival.
"K-7" (Dir. Christopher Leone, USA, 2005, 18 min.)
It's no surprise that filmmaker Christopher Leone was unemployed when he came up with the idea of doing a film about a job application process from hell. "K-7," which won Best Live Action Short at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, has its own page on MySpace.
"Starry Night" (Dir. Ben Miller, UK, 2005, 13 min.)
Miranda Richardson stars as a woman who loves Vincent Van Gogh - literally. Richardson's demure art historian reaches orgasmic heights by hiring male escorts to impersonate the Post-Impressionist. When the escort agency accidentally double-books an evening, the art lover finds herself entertaining an endearingly inept Vincent (Raymond Waring) and a crude one-ear version of the artist (played by the director). Who knew that Van Gogh could be such a boundless source of humor?
"The Whistler" (Dir. Layla Aktinson, UK, 2005, 1 min.)
Layla Aktinson, a professional animator who works on her own short films during lunch breaks, is not afraid to admit she thinks that birds are evil. So her birdcage-bound antihero has no problem manipulating a gullible kitten to do its bidding - with incredibly cruel results. "The Whistler" can be seen on Aktinson's company's website.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Kim Adelman is the author of "The Ultimate Filmmaker's Guide to Short Films". She has given workshops on short filmmaking throughout the United States, Canada, and New Zealand.