Despite the plethora of TV comedy out there, it isn’t actually all that often that I find myself truly and consistently tickled by a TV show. Luckily for me, Adult Swim exists. And whilst I find most of what I’ve seen from them very, very funny there is one show in particular that rises above their own very high standard and deserves far more attention and accolade than it receives. That show is The Venture Bros. Having waited for what seems like an eternity to an avid fan, Season 4 Part 1 is now available to purchase on DVD in Australia thanks to Madman Entertainment. And it’s every bit as absolutely awesome as the three incredible seasons that precede it.

At the end of Season 3 viewers were left wondering not only where the line between “good” and “evil” lay with relation to key characters but also who exactly would make it back alive for Season 4. Well, I’m not going to spoil things by answering those rather excellent questions but what I will say is that you needn’t worry because – one way or another – all your favourites will be returning and, as has been the case all along, the “plot” (I think we can just about call it that) thickens. There are important updates afoot with regard to The Guild of Calamitous Intent, The Sovereign, budding romances between certain young characters, the mental health of various other characters and of course, the very complicated, legal minefield that applies to the world of Arching.

If everything I wrote in the last paragraph means absolutely nothing to you then I suspect you are unfamiliar with the best cartoon ever made, in which case, you really ought to start with Season 1 and catch yourself up. Don’t worry, this recommendation is about as iron clad as anyone’s sanity, so if you have a sense of humour (and particularly if things that are a little bit not quite right so happen to tickle your fancy) go buy Seasons 1-4 NOW.

The only negative thing to be said about this DVD is that once you’ve finished watching the eight wonderful episodes it boasts, you’ll no doubt wish you had the next eight at the ready (sadly, they are not yet available over here). But, on the up side, you can go back and watch those eight episodes all over again which, so far as I’m concerned, is actually pretty bloody exciting because if Seasons 1-3 taught me anything, it’s that The Venture Bros. only gets better with repeat viewings.

The Venture Bros. Season 4 Part 1 was released on DVD on Thursday February 16 through Madman Entertainment.

Written by Tara Judah for Liminal Vision.

MIFF Shorts Awards

August 3, 2010

Having not really had time to check out all of this year’s Shorts strand at MIFF, I thought heading along to the Shorts Awards would at least afford me with a working knowledge of and opportunity to see the festival’s most outstanding highlights. After a fair bit of talking and some occasionally amusing anecdotes, the actual award ceremony got under way and the winners in each category were announced. They are as follows:

  • Jury Special Mention: Out of Love (2009)
  • Melbourne International Film Festival for Best Experimental Short Film: Long Live the New Flesh (2009)
  • Melbourne International Film Festival for Best Animation Short Film: Angry Man (2009)
  • Melbourne International Film Festival for Best Documentary Short Film: The Mystery of Flying Kicks (2009)
  • Cinema Nova for Best Fiction Short Film: Autumn Man (2009)
  • Melbourne Airport Award for Emerging Australian Filmmaker: The Kiss (2010)
  • Film Victoria Erwin Rado Award for Best Australian Short Film: Franswa Sharl (2009)
  • City Of Melbourne Grand Prix for Best Short Film: The Lost Thing (2010)

Somewhat disappointingly they didn’t quite have enough time to show all the shorts (although I dare say that if they’d cut some of the comedy intro – no offense to Colin Lane intended – along with the absolutely pointless “montage” of shorts’ opening credits that some poor bastard spend time needlessly editing together, then they could have fit them all in), but the majority of those shown were of a very high standard.

First up was The Kiss, a well observed Australian “coming of age” dramatic short that was well shot and suitably atmospheric.

Next was the fascinating documentary surrounding the act of “shoe tossing” which illuminates a number of global theories on the “origin” and “meaning” behind the phenomenon. Amongst the reasons cited are; marking the loss of one’s virginity; signaling a crack house; indicating gang territory; a sign of bullying and performance art. Using mixed media and with a strong but not omniscient voice, The Mystery of Flying Kicks is a tidy little film with peculiar yet intriguing subject matter.

The less said about Franswa Sharl the better – let’s just leave it at this: sometimes it seems Australian filmmakers don’t know where the line is – no matter what the motivation, an intentionally comedic character who “blacks up” is wildly inappropriate and always offensive.

Finally, The Lost Thing: a sweet, endearing, well animated tale about individuality and imagination. A kind, subtle metaphor for the anomalous nature of pure imagination within an industrial cityscape: “A place you wouldn’t know exists.”

Thomas Caldwell said it best in his brief intro when he urged the filmmakers present, “Please continue to make films that are true to your own visions because they’re going to be the good ones.” Just so long as they can leave the racial offenses aside, I wholeheartedly agree.

In accordance with MIFF (Melbourne International Film Festival)  and though not strictly associated with- more something of a timely selection in lieu of- MIAF (Melbourne International Animation Festival), Sunday’s special preview screening of Komaneko – The Curious Cat (2006) at ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) was a fantastic first look at an intelligent and well observed Japanese children’s film whose title character rivals Hello Kitty when it comes to cute.

Komaneko is a 60 minute stop-motion animation that consists of five short segments, each of which operates on two clear and decipherable levels; as a lesson in the virtues of patience for children and filmmakers alike.

First Step:  

Komaneko wants to make a short (self-reflexively stop-motion animation) film starring his/her (Komaneko is gender ambiguous) soft toys. Storyboarding the scene during the title sequence, Komaneko then embarks upon creating an appropriate mise-en-scene. So, “the first step” is the necessary though not entirely dynamic process of creating and staging; props, set design, lighting, wardrobe, and camera angles. The First Step is the shortest in the series, but affords its viewers with a suitable level of understanding and anticipation for the creative processes and obstacles that follow.

Hands On Camera:

As not all processes of filmmaking, or any creative project for the matter, rest solely upon the omniscient control of their directors/creators, a degree of allowance must be made for what could be called “capturing the moment” or “artistic accident” within the context of creative output. Through an amusing anecdotal sequence that sees Komaneko attempt (and fail) to capture natural occurences of beauty and excitement; from a flower blooming to a ghost ghouling the often frustrating element of artistic endeavour is exemplarily explicated.

Koma and Radi-Bo:

The third section focusses on the simultaneous and contradictory reliance upon and enablement of technology, with specific attention paid to the physical toil that is involved in successfully controlling and manipulating it to a positive end. Just like their respective parents, Komaneko and his/her friend Radi-Bo (also gender ambiguous) toil with (not against) technology for a creative outcome. From a malfunctioning disco dancing robot to a projector that’s jammed, Komaneko and Radi-Bo learn that it takes sweat and tears (quite literally) to create a successful item for artistic entertainment.

Radi-Bo’s Battle:

Section four sees Komaneko’s friend Radi-Bo battle with (an)Other – one of the most difficult battles of all, be it in filmmaking or life more generally, getting along with Others and resolving conflict with one another is no simple feat. Radi-Bo is flying a toy plane and there is a certain bird who continually sabotages his/her recreational activities. Radi-Bo learns to deal with the interference to his/her recreational/creative endeavours through an agreement to work together. Although it seems, for the inconvenience caused, it is not without something of a retainer for revenge!

Real Friends:

The final chapter in Komaneko – The Curious Cat involves the most sought after filmmaking technique, and life skill, of all: the search for the Truth. To show something true and honest is the noblest of quests for any filmmaker and certainly when considering theories of spectatorship and photography (see Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida and Chirstian Metz’ The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema, to name but two of many great sources on the topic) it is indeed a significant point of contention within schools of visual/film theory and for viewers alike. Indeed the search for the truth in life more widely is too riddled with issues, but as Komaneko soon discovers, it is the search that ultimately rewards and validates its seeker. Sweet and heart-warming, an exemplary exercise in animation, Komaneko is an absolute joy to watch.

Komaneko – The Curious Cat screens exclusively at ACMI Friday July 2 – Tuesday July 6 daily at 1pm.