Tag Archives: buster keaton

XL Popcorn – Our Hospitality

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 688/1007Title: Our Hospitality
Director: Buster Keaton
Year: 1923
Country: USA

I am honestly quite glad that Our Hospitality was the last Buster Keaton left for me to watch from the 1001 list. Whilst I may never get to the point of listing him as among my favourite actors or directors, I am now definitely able to appreciate just how ahead of the curve he was. In terms of film making Buster Keaton was a marvel and an absolutely fearless one at that.

Our Hospitality may not feature some of Keaton’s more breathtaking stunts (although, there is a lot that he does with heights which did startle me) or some of the more massive set pieces that you find in his later films – this is my favourite of his works. I guess that, since he didn’t have to start one-upping himself so much, this films feels like a purer comedic work.

It also featured, what has now become, one of my favourite sequences from a silent film: the train ride. These are scenes that went onto bigger and more death-defying extremes in The Generalbut in Our Hospitality it feels like the film takes an extended break as we watch a series of sketches poking fun at the old train system. This includes some bespoke tunnels, incredibly bumpy track and that this train could be outrun by a dog when running at medium pelt.

The story of Our Hospitality is an interesting parody of the blood feud between the Hatfield and McCoy families. It’s not something I know too much about, but I get the reference. As a McKay, Keaton spends most of the film trying to not be killed by the bloodthirsty Canfields – the title coming from Keaton’s character making sure to prolong his visit to the Canfield estate for they cannot kill him as long as he is subject to their hospitality.

It’s an interesting story, but the key parts are all the in-between sections where Keaton does his tricks and shows off the skills that made him a vaudeville hit. I only have one silent comedy (and just over 10 silent films in general) left to watch, which feels like getting through a section of the list that is still one of the most alien. It’ll be a weird to say a proper goodbye to the silent 1001 films, but that’s when I’ll start taking deeper dives into the works of people like Abel Gance and Fritz Lang.

XL Popcorn – Steamboat Bill Jr. / The Naked Spur

So, guess who has their wrist all strapped up because of an inflamed tendon. That’s right, it’s me. For an office worker, blogger and gamer this is pretty crap!

ohmywrist

This means time off work to rest my wrist and time to catch up on movies whilst answering queries remotely when possible. Still, it’s meant a lot of movie watching has happened.

As I cannot use my right hand I will be writing these film reviews using the voice recognition software on my laptop. So… dictated reviews it is. It took a month before I recovered enough for me to return to work – so I will be doubling up all film reviews and posting them everyday (otherwise we are looking at months of blog content here and I am already 5 months ahead).

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Title: Steamboat Bill Jr.
Director: Charles Reisner and Buster Keaton
Year: 1928
Country: USA

Continuing my run of silent movies is this classic from 1928. Buster Keaton is on top form as the dandy son of a grizzled river boat captain. To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of silent comedies. I tend to like my silent movies darker; like The Unknown.

However, I can really appreciate the stunts that Keaton performed in the “high wind” scenes. Especially the bit when the house fell on Keaton and he goes through the window. I cannot understand how one man could do all the stunts. As a story I felt it was pretty weak, but I can appreciate the work that went into it.

Title: The Naked Spur
Director: Anthony Mann
Year: 1953
Country: USA

One of the better westerns I have seen. Probably in part because of Janet Leigh and James Stewart. The setup is a classic of the western genre, a group of people who are accompanying their bounty back to the authorities and the paranoia that ensues.

The ending is a foregone conclusion from the start, however it doesn’t matter because the writing is far cleverer than your standard western. Plus, the interactions between the cast is truly believable. Especially the character of Tate. I do feel that the archetypal romance was a bit forced and that the ending was unbelievable. I mean, you go through all that trouble and then you just give up the bounty… What the hell!

Progress: 470/1007

Ebert’s Greats: The General & The Thin Man

List Item: Watch Roger Ebert’s “The Great Movies”
Progress: 178/409

Title: The General
Director: Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman
Year: 1926
Country: USA

Every time I stick on a silent film I have a feeling that this will be one of those silent films that I might be able to watch closely and enjoy without feeling sleepy (yes, most silent films make me feel like nodding off… I am such a philistine I know). So far I can count on two hands the silent films where I have been lucid throughout: Metropolis, Nosferatu, Napoleon, Sunrise, The Crowd, Sherlock Jr. and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

The General started out well enough and after watching it you can not help but be amazed at Keaton for all the stunts that he did which could have killed or severely maimed him. However after watching a lot of Chaplin, Keaton and Arbuckle already I have just come to the conclusion that these silent comedies just are not up my alley. I mean at times I laughed out loud or amazed at his acts of fearlessness but overall… the whole experience just leaves me cold. Sorry.

thethinmanTitle: The Thin Man
Director: W. S. Van Dyke
Year: 1934
Country: USA

Meet Frank and Sadie Doyle. Toast of the upper crust, headliners on the society pages and, oh yes, they see ghosts. After watching The Thin Man I finally can see where the inspiration for the characters from my favourite podcast (the always hilarious Beyond Belief from The Thrilling Adventure Hour) came from. Myrna Loy and William Powell star as Nick and Nora Charles, a rich couple who appear to get involved in mysteries for the sheer fun of it… accompanied by a lot of liquor and back and forth.

The premise of the film is simple. A man goes missing, murder is afoot and a rich couple with amazing chemistry help the police to solve it. If I appear to be underselling it then you have not seen the chemistry of Loy and Powell (who ended up appearing in a total of 14 films together, which is 4 more than the famous pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers) where the Van Dyke’s allowance for on set improvisation truly pays off.

The scene in this film that epitimizes this sense of fun and, ultimately, shows off the chemistry between the two, is a 10-15 second exchange between Nick and Nora Charles the morning after she downed five Martinis in order to play catch-up. Someone comes into their apartment and talks to Nick about the missing person/murder case and they turn away to use the telephone. What unrolls is a just a short skit with the couple poking and just playing about. I don’t know if it was improv between the two of them or just great scripting but it is the perfect snapshot of why they work as a couple. Similarly, later during their Christmas party Nick finds himself  being embraced by an old acquaintance but there is no jealousy on Nora’s part… just a face hinting at how much fun she will have ribbing him about this off-screen.

To be honest a lot of the film is a bit messy whenever the camera is not aimed on Powell or Loy. The cuts are a bit too quick and a lot of the cast members feel a bit interchangeable when it comes to who the suspects of the piece are… but it doesn’t matter since sooner or later that merry couple are back on the screen joking about how a case is afoot… a case of scotch that is. Hurrah!