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|11 reviews in total|
People today take for granted the style of humor that is so common today on late night TV. Don't forget that in the 1980's no one was doing that "anything goes", "screw those executive weasels", "hey, it's only TV, let's have some fun" type of show except Letterman. Dave Letterman spawned an entire generation of pale imitators such as Conan and Leno and many others. Letterman showed just how funny remote segments could be if perform with wit and disregard for consequences. Tom Green has only the latter, Leno has neither. Letterman showed that you could do a celebrity interview show without sucking up to the guests and that most celebrities actually have a sense of humor about themselves if given a chance. Letterman also turned the cameras on regular people with no special performance talent, showing that they could be as funny as anyone in the right situation. Chris Elliott and Calvert DeForest are still getting mileage out of their appearances. Fans of the old show will never forget Al Frisch, Jimmy Fitzgerald in "Technician's Corner", Gerard Mulligan, or Chris Elliott as the guy under the seats. No one could have made "Stupid Pet Tricks" and "Stupid Human Tricks" fly like Letterman could because Dave can take any silly situation and improve upon it with his quick wit. That is truly the mark of a great talk show host and no one is better than Dave. I could go on and on about all of the great comedy bits Letterman has done over the years and a couple of them may seem relatively tame by today's standards, but no one has ever improved upon the standard that Dave has set over the last 20 years. His current show isn't as anti-establishment or daring as his NBC show, mainly because there are no more barriers to break down. But the fact remains that if you want to watch a talk show that relies on cleverness and wit as opposed to smarmy pandering or mindless obnoxious behavior, The Late Show with David Letterman on CBS is the only place to go.
Go West is a movie that you seldom hear about and even Keaton did not
consider it among his best. However, every time I see it, I cannot help but
think that it is one of his funniest and most touching films. In his
independent work, Keaton had an amazing ability to portray very unfortunate
characters and yet not seem to be pandering to the audience for its pity. In
this film, Keaton plays a character referred to as Friendless. The opening
scenes of the film show him bouncing around from one unfortunate (and
hilarious) situation to another. Yet rather than feel pity for him, the
audience can root for this character and good-naturedly laugh at how
Friendless reacts to and deals with his misfortunes. It's difficult not to
admire the way he overcomes all challenges. When he finds a friend in a cow
named Brown Eyes, his loyalty to her and the rancher that employed him
precipitates an amazing sequence of events, culminating in an unbelievable
cattle stampede through the streets of LA. Although, the scene may drag on a
bit, I'll never forget the image of Buster Keaton running down a city street
in a red devil's outfit being pursued by a giant herd of cattle. It is one
of the most hilariously absurd scenes ever committed to film. There are
great gags from beginning to end and, as usual for Keaton, the final
sequence is very satisfying. In addition, the Kino release has an
outstanding soundtrack which enhances the film considerably. I would highly
recommend Go West to anyone as an introduction to Keaton, silent films, or
comedies in general.
Go West is a movie that you seldom hear about and even Keaton did not consider it among his best. However, every time I see it, I cannot help but think that it is one of his funniest and most touching films. In his independent work, Keaton had an amazing ability to portray very unfortunate characters and yet not seem to be pandering to the audience for its pity. In this film, Keaton plays a character referred to as Friendless. The opening scenes of the film show him bouncing around from one unfortunate (and hilarious) situation to another. Yet rather than feel pity for him, the audience can root for this character and good-naturedly laugh at how Friendless reacts to and deals with his misfortunes. It's difficult not to admire the way he overcomes all challenges. When he finds a friend in a cow named Brown Eyes, his loyalty to her and the rancher that employed him precipitates an amazing sequence of events, culminating in an unbelievable cattle stampede through the streets of LA. Although, the scene may drag on a bit, I'll never forget the image of Buster Keaton running down a city street in a red devil's outfit being pursued by a giant herd of cattle. It is one of the most hilariously absurd scenes ever committed to film. There are great gags from beginning to end and, as usual for Keaton, the final sequence is very satisfying. In addition, the Kino release has an outstanding soundtrack which enhances the film considerably. I would highly recommend Go West to anyone as an introduction to Keaton, silent films, or comedies in general.
Loosely intended as a satire of D.W. Griffith's Intolerance, The Three Ages was Buster Keaton's first attempt at a full length comedy feature. The only similarities to Intolerance are the opening "book" scene and the fact that similar stories through the ages are edited together into a complete film. Keaton's reasoning for appropriating this style was that if it didn't succeed as a feature film, it could be reduced to three two-reelers. Fortunately, The Three Ages succeeds brilliantly as a comedy and contains some of the funniest routines I've seen in any of Keaton's film. There is nothing unique or daring about the story lines. They are simple boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl plots, but the period satires are riotous and set the standard for future works by Mel Brooks and all films of this genre. However, I don't believe that anyone has ever topped this comedy. No one can play the lovable goof like Keaton and the stunts in this film are some of his best. In addition, Wallace Beery's appearance as Keaton's rival adds to this film's appeal. Anyone who thinks that comedy from the 1920's cannot be appreciated by modern audiences needs to see this movie.
This story of a helpless, spoiled rich boy set adrift upon a giant ship with his equally helpless girlfriend has a clever story line and a series of excellent gags, but the plot is slow to develop. It is held up by some slow-moving scenes which are not as funny as they try to be. Although the sequence of events which result in the stranding of the couple upon the sea are highly improbable, they were well-executed and the humorous possibilities to be explored make that easy to overlook. Most of the attempted humor pays off, but somehow the movie drags a bit. I especially found the underwater scene to be too long and was an anchor to the movie's momentum. However, it did lead to some very humorous moments when Keaton made it ashore. Keaton's trip back to the ship from the island may have inspired the scene in Woody Allen's Sleeper in which Allen and Diane Keaton escaped from the futuristic police by using an inflatable suit to float across a lake. Whatever one's opinion of the bulk of The Navigator, the ending is unquestionably inspired. This is a great example of Keaton pulling a rabbit out of a hat to the surprise of the audience. It's a great audience pleaser. I would not recommend this movie as an introduction to Buster Keaton, but if you're already a fan, then you have to see it.
When one makes a movie with a tacky plot such as this one, it requires great skill to make it work. There must be some real learning accomplished via the plot device and the actors must make us care about them. As I watched this movie unfold, I was satisfied at every turn while dreading the imminent horrible misstep which would make the whole film crumble into a pile of mush. Much to my delight, that misstep never occurred. The film succeeds at satisfying our desire to experience the alternate choice that the protagonist could have made at an important crossroad in her life and makes us realize that "happily ever after" is only an illusion no matter what choices we make. It was also a touching reminder that when we take a fresh look at our situation and concentrate on the positive aspects that exist in all of our lives, the quality of our lives will be dramatically improved. Are these ideas unique? Certainly not, but it's always enjoyable to have them reinforced from a new perspective. And through the eyes of the talented Rachel Griffith, the message successfully hits home.
I've seen all of Buster Keaton's silent films (several times) and this is by far the worst. It has lost almost all of the charm of his independent work. The Keaton character is still endearing, but unfortunately the plot is tired and uninteresting and the humorous moments are few and far between. I'm shocked that anyone would rate the "bed" scene in this film with his finer moments in Our Hospitality, Sherlock Jr., The General, or Steamboat Bill Jr. Clearly Buster did not have the controlling hand in this film because it has almost no heart. It struck me as sad to see the normally prideful Buster sacrificing his dignity for a shallow, obnoxious woman who certainly did not deserve his attention. Her character was not developed enough that the audience can understand why Buster's character was so captivated by her or why we should care about their "relationship". This film comes across as a more extravagant "big studio" effort with more money put into it than thought or attention to detail. I even found the Vitaphone soundtrack to be an annoying accompaniment compared to the delightful musical scores which accompany the Kino releases of Keaton's independent work. It's interesting to imagine what it would have been like if Keaton had been given complete creative control and the sound equipment he had requested.
Like many Keaton shorts, the plot is only a vehicle for Keaton to explore his imagination and to give him an opportunity to devise clever gags. When one watches a short such as this, it is important to think of it as a cartoon. It is not meant to be Citizen Kane, but only to be visually entertaining and to keep the audience guessing as to what Buster will do next. His physical comedy is wonderful here and I can't help but think that the creators of the Warner Brothers cartoons were great Buster Keaton fans. Keaton's reaction when he realizes that a burly convict whom he had just antagonized escaped from his cell and is standing right behind him is priceless, right down to Buster's cartoonish exaggerated heartbeat. This is followed by a move that would make Jackie Chan jealous. Convict 13 succeeds brilliantly at its goal and much of the humor is timeless. If you have the proper expectations, you will really enjoy this film.
Arguably Buster Keaton's finest two-reeler, Cops is the perfect distillation of the appeal of this gifted artist. One cannot help but feel great sympathy for the lead character, all the while laughing at his unfortunate circumstances. Yet in the midst of being suckered out of his (stolen) fortune and finding himself wrongly suspected of an act of terrorism, Buster never for a minute expresses a hint of self pity. He brilliantly deals with the circumstances as they unfold while his face exudes a calmness and confidence that seem quite contradictory to the madness that surrounds him. See how he calmly handles finding himself in the middle of a giant parade of police officers and how he nonchalantly lights his cigarette with a terrorist's bomb. The audience breathlessly tries to keep up with Keaton as he navigates an obstacle course strewn with hundreds of well-choreographed cops. With impeccable timing he seems to improvise his way through it using the many tools available to him, most notably his quick wit. Every second of this film is wonderfully entertaining. The ending is typical Keaton - satisfying and very funny. This is the perfect introduction to Buster Keaton and silent films in general.
There's little I can say about this movie that hasn't been said better elsewhere. Keaton is one of the great presences on the big screen and this, in addition to Steamboat Bill, Jr. and Sherlock Jr., is the ultimate testament to his genius. His inate ability to elicit sympathy without pandering and generate laughs from the audience are on full display in a fascinating plot with some gorgeous cinematography to boot. Since it is a Keaton film, by definition it has breathtaking stunts. Kino did such a wonderful job restoring this print that you would swear it was shot last year. It is truly a sight to behold. There's nothing like those old silver nitrate prints. In addition, it's been said that no one has ever caught the feel of the Civil War better than Keaton did in this film. Anyone who thinks that a movie made over 70 years ago can't be enjoyable for a reason other than nostalgia needs to see this film. Be warned, though - once you are initiated, Buster Keaton is addictive.
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