In order to master a dance machine,  Tom must 
    become one.
In order to master a dance machine, Tom must become one.
Ward Evans

Short Jokes

"When I found the dance machine, I found myself," says Tom, the protagonist in the film Dance Machine. The machine in question is one of those Japanese video games where wannabe superstars bust move after move in order to get points. And Tom is serious about training for an upcoming competition, even going so far as to hire a Euro-trash choreographer and purchase a shimmering jumpsuit with racing stripes. "I have never been so prepared or so confident about anything in my life -- more or less," muses the hero in this short film by John Benson and Ward Evans.

By the end of the flick, Tom is ready -- physically, spiritually and groovily -- and we can't help but get caught up in this guy's goal to be the man on the dance floor (or rather, the dance machine). Then the comedic twist comes back around and slaps us in the face. We see an image of our hero walking away from the arena, with these words captioned below his downtrodden face: "Tom was unable to compete due to the 16 and under age limit. He is appealing the ruling, and continues to pursue his dream."

So goes the fate of our dancing protagonist, and so goes the tone of many of the offerings in Microcinema International's "Independent Exposure Compilation: Comedy Edition 2004." Always irreverent, Microcinema has focused this compilation on short films with punch. In Earthquake, bouncing rubber puppet-heads jiggle all over the screen. In The Art of Lovemaking, a spandex-clad couple goes through all the sexual motions, even though the two partners never seem to be in the same room at the same time. A deadpan narrator in Tales of Mere Existence theorizes about why beautiful people are usually not very interesting: "I have a feeling that if a person is listened to no matter what the hell they're talking about, they're a lot less likely to think about deep, soul-searching, metaphysical shit."

Even the beautiful people will think about their civil liberties after watching Air Square, a mock in-flight safety video from Marcus J. Carney. Says Anne, one of the flight attendants in the presentation, "The profile of the modern terrorist is the equivalent of the ideal green-card applicant." Her partner, Pat, continues, "He's a young, dynamic, intelligent and single man with an academic background, originally from an Arabian, African or Asian country, who knows how to fit in. He might have a degree in computer science or even knowledge of piloting a wide-body aircraft, like the one you're in."

Because of heightened security measures, the video explains, all electronic devices must be turned off during this eerie ride across the skies, including mobile phones, laptops, hearing aids and pacemakers. All articles of clothing must be removed and sorted by a Sweat Squad of child laborers who hang out below the cabin. All passengers are monitored, creating a Maoist system of checks and balances. Stripped, handcuffed, drugged and catheterized, the travelers sit back and enjoy the safety of the ride with smiles on their faces. Come to think of it, that's not a half-bad way to enjoy the shorts -- but you might want to wait for the DVD.

The screening starts at 8 p.m. Friday, June 11. The Axiom, 2524 McKinney. For information, call 713-522-8443 or visit $5.


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