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Accidentally Funny at the Worldwide Short Film Festival


Only you can prevent unintentionally hilarious public safety videos. Or could have, if you lived in 1952 and had devised some crack means to prevent the NFB and various American agencies from making PSA-style short films about how to be fanatically alert while driving, how to eject from an aircraft at low altitude, and how likely your cluttered house is to survive a nuclear firestorm.

Subjects like these formed the bumper crop of the Accidentally Funny: How the World Was Safe screening at the Worldwide Short Film Festival last night. The series was made up entirely of works made in the 50s, 60s, and 70s - "no Q&A after the screening," programmer Andrew David Long quipped before the show - and the films screened made for pleasant proof that every spoof The Simpsons ever ran on this subject wasn't anywhere near as hilarious as the real thing.

Speech: Stage Fright and What To Do About It is such a horrific look at the effects (and suggested cures) of stage fright that it veers towards Cabinet of Dr. Caligari territory, with the lead character literally mocking a miniaturized version of himself in some kind of internal nightmare world at one point. The House in the Middle demonstrates why leaving your house untidy makes it far more likely to go up like a tinderbox in the event of a nuclear war.

Handling takes a smartassed approach to improving workplace safety - by making endless fun of a pack of workers who stack boxes improperly, fail to bend at the knees, give themselves unintentional cuts, and put themselves in strong jeopardy of getting flattened by a rolling oil drum. That's way better than what happens to a guy in The Unplanned, which takes the Rashomon approach to a workplace accident by showing how the minor errors of six different people lead to one clueless yokel getting his arm stuck in a machine.

It's all patently ludicrous, with laugh-out-loud lines that either vastly overemphasize the relative importance of getting a splinter, or radically downplay the seriousness of finding your house enveloped in a nuclear inferno. I pretty much laughed myself sick throughout, and went home and YouTubed every vintage PSA I could find.


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