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About TCMCeci

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  1. Good question! You're right and I think it has all of the other elements of slapstick. I do think that there is always the threat of violence (if he is caught by the cook, or worse, by the police officer) against the Little Tramp. As I'm writing I'm remembering that, at the end, the cook does end up hitting the cop in the face with a large sausage, having really meant to finally give the Little Tramp his due! So there actually is violence, just not toward the intended target!
  2. 2. I disagree that this "completely visual" style of gags has disappeared from comedy. Montages of multiple gags over time with music playing would be one type of example in which we see this gags without words being performed to great effect. So, even if the film or show is not silent, there are pieces of it which are funny physical comedy being performed wordlessly. I think these gags have evolved in the sound era, especially now with all the visual special effects. There are different ways to insert physical comedy into a work. One is by integrating it with new technology or new cultural references - think a similar gag but this time done by an other-worldly superhero in an imagined universe - or by having it be silent and acting as a contrast to other "wordier" parts of the modern comedy. Moreover, If you pay attention and have watched classic films, you start to see how the directors and writers of early shows and movies reference and pay homage to the comedic giants of yesteryear in their own modern creations. They love and appreciate film and film history just as much as we do, and I see those references come through sometimes. 3. I think these documentaries, compilation films, and essays affect popular opinion on the silent film era in a positive way. These directors, writers, and scholars helped people appreciate the past as having been a wonderful, fruitful era that produced great art and great comedy. They helped, I think, provide a context for the comedic films of the past and the comedy of their present. The past is important to study, remember, and appreciate. Sometimes, there's so much to watch and consume in our modern-day lives that it can be easy to overlook the artistic predecessors to the films and shows we love today. Documentaries and essays can help to bring attention back to what was exceptional in the past and help us understand what and why we love what we love today. Still, I do think that referring to something as definitively "the best" or "the greatest" can be off-putting since that may be *your* favorite, but how can it be unequivocally determined to be the best? There had to be part of that 1950s audience who read Agee's essay or saw the silent gag reel clips and still thought that the comedies of their era were pretty darn great and maybe even the best. I can't say those people were wrong!
  3. 1. I really don't think there is a "greatest era" of anything. I think nostalgia is often a big factor when people are judging the best and the greats of a genre. Agee and Youngson are writing from the 1950s and judging the greatest comedy era as having been decades earlier. Yet, today, Lucille Ball and her iconic show "I Love Lucy" are widely regarded as monumental comedy greats. Didn't they realize they were in the middle of a great comedy era - what we know call the Golden Age of Television -themselves? (To be fair, Agee wrote his essay before "I Love Lucy," but this does seem to be a broader '50s perspective and I wonder if Agee would've changed his mind later on in the decade(s) to come). Nostalgia, I think, had them looking backwards. There's no doubt that Chaplin and Keaton (I'm looking forward to getting to know Harold Lloyd and his films better this week) are comedic geniuses. Their films continue to resonate and their gags continue to make us laugh even today. Yet, I wonder who people during the early 1900s would call their comedic heroes and which era they would say produced the best comedy. I don't necessarily disagree with Agee and Youngson's assertions, if I *had* to choose an era, I might very well choose that one. Rather, I think it's too reductive to call one period the best of all time for comedy or anything, really. Anyone who's watched "I Love Lucy" knows that she took great inspiration from earlier comedic forms, especially vaudevillian numbers (Fred Mertz and Williiam Frawley had vaudeville roots just as Keaton and Chaplin did) which often figure largely into the show's storylines. Lucy's gags and storylines are often mimicked in modern comedy shows and many today would cite her as one of the best comedic performers ever and the 1950s as a golden age of comedy as well. What these two eras have in common is that each had new technology (film at the turn of the 20th c. and TV in the 1950s) that was revolutionizing the popular culture. The best and most memorable comedians of each era were pioneers in adapting and creating jokes, gags, etc. within and for this new technology. I think artistic invention on the heels of great technological change is a common denominator between these two golden ages of comedy, and I think that there will likely be another renaissance soon with the advent of the new technology that's in our midst now (streaming sites like Netflix and YouTube). I realize that I'm jumping between two different modes - film and television - but they are both visual and since the two critics are from the '50s, I thought it seemed appropriate.
  4. I keep thinking about what Dr. Edwards quoted Charlie Chaplin saying about slapstick - how "nothing transcended personality." How would the same gag look if someone other than Chaplin as the Little Tramp were performing it? I wonder: how does the personality inform and transform the physicality? In the first bit where the Little Tramp eats a banana and throws the peel on the ground, the Little Tramp does a little flourish with his left foot right before he turns and slips on the banana with his right foot. This is how I think he injects his personality into his physicality. That gesture shows he's so happy and carefree (why shouldn't I toss my banana peel up into the air??) and suddenly, his other foot prompts the reversal (you can slip on your own banana peel and fall!). One last note: I was actually surprised that he himself slipped on it! (A lot of people seem to know exactly how these gags will end, but I don't!) I've so often seen a second person slip on the banana peel, and that's what I expected to happen here.
  5. I think it's interesting that some people see the boy as perhaps being from a different social class than the gardener and that the ultimate comeuppance the boy gets has social undertones. I didn't notice that difference in class when I saw the short film. They didn't seem to be wearing clothes that would indicate such a thing. Is it simply because the gardener is working and the boy seems to have some time on his hands (enough to play a joke)? Could one also say it's as much about age/generations as it is about working class v. middle class? I'm not sure it's either, but these are interesting questions some of the previous posts brought to mind. This film is a classic example of slapstick, and as such, I definitely felt the tension of the impending payoff. The gardener is forceful in his handling of the boy as he drags him back toward the hose. Even though it only ends in a "sprinkling" of water, the scene is quite a physical one and I'm not surprised that the earlier version ended more violently with the gardener actually "hitting" the prankster.
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