If there ever was a golden age of comedy, it was the 1920’s. Three geniuses led the way: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. There were others of course, Harry Langdon, Laurel and Hardy, Snub Pollard, Mabel Normand, Larry Semon and Fatty Arbuckle among others. But it was the top three who reached the exhalted status of genius. Of the three, there was always a battle on who was the greatest. Lloyd always seemed to take the third spot. No disgrace considering the talent of the other two. Between Chaplin and Keaton, it’s always been a matter of individual taste. Chaplin was the sentimental artist with a social conscience. Keaton’s comedy was always more cerebral. I personally love both and have always went back and forth on who I thought was better. I have resigned myself to the fact that they both share the top spot.
This is the first in a series of monthly posts that will highlight my favorite comedies of each decade. Key word here is favorite and not necessarily the best. Comedy is a highly subjective category. While many film lovers see Billy Wilder’s Some Like it Hot to be one of the best comedies, there are folks, well informed film lovers, who disagree.
I myself believe many of our modern day comedies rely too much on trashy jokes and not enough on sophisticated humor. A fart joke gets the laugh. Why bother with intelligent humor. Now, I have nothing against low-brow or bathroom humor, but how many times do we have to see Will Farrell take off his shirt, pants, or more (Old School, Blades of Glory, Talledega Nights, Anchorman, Step Brothers, Daddy’s Home)? Today’s audiences also have an intolerance for the buildup to the joke. Attention spans have diminished over the years. Television is partially to blame for this; the jokes have to come quick to get them all in a twenty minutes time frame. Laurel and Hardy would never survive in today cinema world. It’s not that there are not good comedies today. The Big Sick is one of my favorite films of 2017, and Judd Apatow has a pretty good record. However, overall they are far and in between. Continue reading →
The Cameraman is an ode to the world of filmmaking. Like Sherlock Jr. this is a film about an artist looking inward at himself and his art. It was Keaton’s first film for MGM and not directed by him. However, while officially directed by Edward Sedgwick, Keaton’s foot prints are all over the film. Buster, who liked to improvise, was forced by the MGM honchos to have a completed script along with all the jokes and pratfalls worked out in advance. Still, there is a feeling that Keaton managed to work in some inspiring improvisational moments during the making of the film, despite all the corporate overseeing and demands. The Cameraman ranks up there with Keaton’s best work. The corporate interference was sadly a sign of things to come. Continue reading →