Buster Keaton – The Art of the Gag. Tony Zhou does a lot of good stuff. Closely related to this one, and just as wonderful, is his video essay on Jackie Chan and action comedy. Filed under: Buster Keaton.
One of the weaknesses people have noticed about his work—but have not, I think, yet commented enough upon—is that he can’t do comedy.
Philosophy and jokes proceed from the same impulse: to confound our sense of the way things are, to flip our worlds upside down, and to ferret out hidden, often uncomfortable, truths about life. What the philosopher calls an insight, the gagster calls a zinger.
In Apatow, the enemy is adulthood, which ruins life; in Phillips, the enemy is women, who ruin men.
What these auteurs truly have in common, though, is that they have systematically boiled away many of the pleasures previously associated with comedy — first among these, jokes themselves — and replaced them with a different kind of lure: the appeal of spending two hours hanging out with a loose and jocular gang of goofy bros.
Buster Keaton is my jam. Quoting James Agee:
Perhaps because “dry” comedy is so much more rare and odd than “dry” wit, there are people who never much cared for Keaton. Those who do cannot care mildly.
Saturday Night Live – George F. Will’s Sports Machine. “As always, the questions will focus exclusively on baseball, the only game that transcends the boundary between fury and repose.” Also, “The answer is: the exhilarating tension between being and becoming.” This kills me. (via)
He dips the pen… in the ink AND HE’S OFF… it’s the first word BUT IT’S NOT A WORD. Oh no! It’s a doodle way up on the top of the left-hand margin. It’s a piece of meaningless scribble!
A wonderful blooper reel featuring footage of Chaplin flubbing his “lines”, pranking his co-stars, & cracking up mid-scene during the making of his late 1910’s-early 1920’s films (most of this footage via the excellent documentary The Unknown Chaplin)
1. If you can be yourself on stage nobody else can be you and you have the law of supply and demand covered.
It seems to me that making escapist films might be a better service to people than making intellectual ones and making films that deal with issues. It might be better to just make escapist comedies that don’t touch on any issues. The people just get a cool lemonade, and then they go out refreshed, they enjoy themselves, they forget how awful things are and it helps them—it strengthens them to get through the day. So I feel humor is important for those two reasons: that it is a little bit of refreshment like music, and that women have told me over the years that it is very, very important to them.
The General. I’ve grown to love me some Buster Keaton. Seems like every scene in this movie has a laugh built-in. But it’s not just a gag to hold you over until something happens. They’re all connected with the chase or to at least show you what the hero is like. And I love the efficiency of the stunts. Everything seems so cleanly done. Great stuff. Roger Ebert on The General.
Update: This movie is also set in my home state of Georgia. Just sayin’…