A Year in Shorts Day 243: "Omnibus"
It’s been quite some time since we’ve covered a One Joke Short, hasn’t it? For those of you new to the blog (welcome!), or perhaps just don’t remember, a One Joke Short is what I call any short film in which most of the film’s runtime is used for setup to the punchline at the end. I guess technically Negative Space was a One Joke Short, albeit an incredibly depressing one. There have been good examples of the One Joke Short, and there have been bad ones, and it all comes down to whether or not the punchline is worth the setup. And in the case of today’s short, the 1992 French film Omnibus, it was definitely worth it.
As a point of interesting trivia, Sam Karmann's Omnibus is the last short film to both win an Oscar AND the Short Film Palme d'Or at Cannes. The last film to win the Palme d'Or and be nominated was the 2016 film Timecode, which was the first film to do so since When the Day Breaks. Why the Academy's taste in short films have veered so wildly from that of the Cannes Film Festival's in the 21st century I have no idea, but I thought it was worth pointing out. Either way, that has little to do with the story of Omnibus, which is a fairly straightforward one- A man gets on his train for work one morning only to realize it no longer stops at the place he needs to get off. (Yes folks, it's another One Joke Short about public transportation! Another French one too, come to think of it.) There was a time in my life in which I had access to a version of this short with English subtitles, but I can't find it right now. Luckily the short is pretty easy to follow whether or not you understand the language, especially when you have an Oscar Baiter on hand to give you the necessary context. So check it out on Vimeo here!
Admittedly it's better if you have the subtitles. But for any French speakers out there I hope you enjoyed! Still, I think you can piece together why it works so well. The short does a good job of establishing the stakes, providing the setup, giving us a great payoff and then subverting it. Again, all that's more effective if you have a better grasp on what's going on, but that's life for you. These one joke shorts can be a little hard to discuss- the direction is usually focused more on efficiently delivering the joke than anything else, the acting is typically good but not spectacular, and the dialogue is mostly just setup- and your enjoyment of them really depends on your sense of humor. For my money, one of the best One Joke Shorts we've covered so far was Election Night, which had a little more going on in terms of filmmaking, characterization and writing. Still, none of those are really what the One Joke Short is about. Omnibus is a good time either way, and especially so if you can understand what's going on!
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