No laughing matter: a scene from Paulette James’ Enter the Preacher
Think of the last comedy to win an Oscar for best picture*. Ha! You can’t can you? Although comedies sometimes make it to the nomination stage, only a handful have ever achieved a win. In fact, so few in number are the comedy winners and nominees that some have suggested that the Academy will nominate people afflicted with everything but a sense of humour. But, it’s not just the Academy, really; it would seem that, generally speaking, comedies aren’t taken seriously. And why is that? Life’s realities are harsh enough, shouldn’t we find a way to escape them or perhaps even laugh at them for a while? After all, laughter is supposed to be the best medicine, right? Well, if you’re ailing from the blues or the melancholies or a wicked case of gloominess or perhaps even the overlooked but ever-present lack-of-amusementism, we humbly suggest you come to the festival and get a big ole dose of one, if not all, of the following remedies.
First off, if it’s laugh-out-loud, slapstick humour you need, be sure to catch Roger Alexis’s short film, Herman Tales: Gangsta. The Herman Tales series (a past winner of our People’s Choice Award) follows the shenanigans of a puppet named Herman who helps prove the theory that puppetry need not be at its finest to be at its most hilarious. This year, we meet up with Herman as he searches for a sense of belonging, which he believes he has found after joining a gang. If you enjoy taking your humour with a heavy dose of morality, then we recommend you also try Enter the Preacher, director Paulette James’ short tale of an ass-kicking, Kung-Fu fighting preacher who is on a mission to teach respect and reclaim the streets, even if he has to get down and dirty to do so.
Ironic humour more to your liking? Then feel free to laugh (ironically, of course) during the dramatic feature, Horn of Plenty, in which director Juan Carlos Tabío spins the tale of people being driven slightly nutty by the thought of instant wealth. Note: if this film had an Ingredients label, morality would definitely be on there, somewhere near the top. If you’re looking for pathos-infused humour that speaks of race and class and the human condition, then check out the Kalup Linzy videos that will be screened at StudioFilmClub on September 17. Linzy reinvents classic Soap Opera plots, but instead of tracking the lives of the white and upwardly-mobile, he follows the black inhabitants of a small, Southern-U.S. town. The fact that Linzy plays some of these rolls himself in drag (and voices all of the characters) is just one of the funny elements of this body of work, which one film critic describes as Faulkner by way of Tyler Perry.
And then there’s the hilarious, award-winning short, Melvin: Portrait of a Player, which comes to us from bfm director Lawrence Coke. We all know Melvin–he’s God’s gift to women, or so he thinks. Completely improvised and shot in a mock documentary style, Melvin is a sort of daily vitamin that will fill any deficit of humour you might be experiencing. And, as with all the other films mentioned here, it ultimately has real and significant things to say about Life (with a capital L). No joke.
* The jury’s out on this one. Shakespeare in Love won in 1998, but it’s a “Dramedy,” so some argue that it doesn’t quite count. The same applies for 2002’s Chicago, which is a “Dramedy/Musical.” Arguably, the last “pure comedy” to win was Woody Allen’s Annie Hall in 1977