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About Ninnybit

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    Austin, Texas
  • Interests
    libraries, dogs, movies
  1. My mom used to diss modern avant-garde movies. She didn’t like the non-linear plots and the twists and ambiguities, and I used to argue with her that’s there’s no odder turn in a movie than for a group of people to suddenly burst into organized song and dance! THERE’s surrealism for you! Just depends on what you’re used to.
  2. My favorite is Singin’ in the Rain. I can’t help it. But I’ve always liked It’s Always Fair Weather, especially “Baby You Knock Me Out”.
  3. It does feel like a cartoon and I loved it when I was a kid. As an adult, it's pretty and fun and clever, but it's too broadly played for me now. This one and Those Daring Young Men in Their Flying Machines and their Jaunty Jalopies--loved all three of them when I was a kid.
  4. I've watched a lot of Peter Sellers but I never thought of this until I just now. It applies to this clip, maybe not elsewhere, but this whole pool room scene is hilarious even though--maybe because--you see it coming. You know when he turns that bent stick the other way he's going to tear the felt, and you know when he goes near that forest of sticks it's going over, and you know he's going to go the wrong way out of the room, so I think the projection builds tension, and then you can laugh because what you expected to happen happens. The pool-stick nest is hilarious. And his face with the serious pinched mouth and the wide eyes is hilarious, and George Saunders is the perfect straight man. He did this scene beautifully. He can afford to let Clouseau tear his house up a bit. He's almost not even exasperated.
  5. I just had to pause the second Dr. Gearing vimeo to comment. He says Chaplin is Dickens, but Keaton is Beckett. Spot on. Never thought of it that way. Exactly.
  6. How many takes did it take before they got the paper to tear just right timed to the dialog, I wonder. I've always considered this one of the great comic bits any time, anywhere. I never pass up a chance to tell somebody there ain't no sanity clause. Was this in their vaudeville act, or did they write this for the movie?
  7. I'd never noticed Charley Chase before. He's not nearly as appealing as Harold Lloyd, or anybody we've watched so far. He's just kind of annoyed all the time. He's better as the conventioneer in Sons of the Desert (in which he's not as important as Mae Busch, btw, and gets higher billing on imdb). I've always wondered when movie makers switched from running the same music through a whole film regardless of what's onscreen to making the music fall and rise with the action. Anybody have any good info?
  8. 1. In what ways does Lloyd use the settings, amusements, and attractions of Coney Island in pursuit of creating original slapstick gags? Be specific. One stands out--the stack-of-bottles game where the mean guy throws the ball that wins Lloyd the doll. 2. Do you agree or disagree with Schickel's assessment of Lloyd as more "real" or "freer" of "exaggeration and stylization" than Chaplin or Keaton? Why or why not? Lloyd isn't a character like Chaplin and he doesn't keep a stone face like Keaton. He's somebody you might expect to see walking down the street. Where Chaplin would wheedle out of something he didn't want to do, and Keaton would face it and do it as well as he could, Lloyd would be swept along by circumstance, more like a modern anti-hero. He comes through though he's out of his depth.
  9. 1. What elements (set design, costume, prop, camera placement, acting) make this gag effective as visual comedy? ALL of them! The fake piano carried on the shoulder! And then when it got into the house, it was a real piano! The squishy ceiling/floor. The big rectangle Keaton cut in the side of the house to yank the piano in. Even his wife's dress! Big silly houndstooth. And the house on the naked lot--just bare naked. 2. In what ways do you sense that Keaton's comedy differs from that of Charlie Chaplin? Chaplin is about relationships and sentiment; Keaton is about machinery. Chaplin's always a poor tramp who needs a meal. Keaton's always a stone face, but he's not locked in to a class or a costume. He can be a middling schlub or an effete heir. Chaplin dances and Keaton builds or demolishes; or both. 3. When you watch a scene like this with Buster Keaton, what contributions do you sense he added to the history of slapstick comedy? I think The General is the best silent movie, so every second of The General is a peerless contribution to slapstick. It sets the standard for epics, for big stunts, for the arc of the story, for the understatement of sentiment at the end. Perfect. It's every inch as good as any talkie made since.
  10. 1. Similar to Agee and Youngson's perspective in Daily Dose #1, Canby makes a claim at the end of his analysis that there is something missing into today's visual comedies when compared to the silent classics. Do you agree or disagree with Canby? I agree there's a difference. The same thing could be done today, but more likely they'd cut away between takes so the actor could spit out the cakes; you wouldn't wonder how he fit so many in his mouth--maybe they were just cake shells?--you'd know what was happening when they cut away. It's funnier watching Chaplin make innocent faces between feasts and watching how the two actors coordinate so the baker can't see the theft. 2. Beyond the placement of the camera in middle distance, what other elements (set design, costume, props, acting, etc) makes this gag effective as visual comedy? The window in the back of the food truck that the cop looks through. Funny place for a window. It's hilarious that the baker has to know why his cakes are disappearing, but feels he has to catch Charlie red-handed, even though Charlie's the only one anywhere near.
  11. 1. Do you agree or disagree with Agee and Youngson's statements that the silent films from 1912 – 1930 constituted "comedy's greatest era" or its "golden age?" Why or why not? I agree with most of the other people on the message boards, I like comedy talkies better. Sound just gives you more options. The Marx Brothers are a perfect example of a transitional combo: silent slapstick (Harpo) and great language jokes. There is no comedy, silent or talkie, better than The General, that's true, but for my money, that's the pinnacle. 1912-1930 might have been the golden era of physical comedy, but not comedy. 2. Do you agree with the film's narrator that in the silent film era the "gags were completely visual—a form of wit that has all but disappeared from the land, but which experts now agree were among the most imaginative and enduring comedy of all…?” Did this form of comedy "disappear" or did it simply evolve in the sound era? If silent-era gags were completely visual, you wouldn't need title cards. You need to know, for example, why the confederate recruiters are preventing Buster from enlisting in the army or that whole scene in the office isn't funny--you have to know he's being rejected because he's more valuable as a train engineer, not because he's incompetent, because the movie's funny because he's UBER competent--and I don't know how you'd get that info without intertitles. 3. What impact do you think documentaries, compilation films, and essays like these have had on popular opinion about the silent film era? I'm so glad you asked. I love documentaries. Silents--or lots of subjects--wouldn't be as appreciated without non-fiction studies of them, but holy cow, the inexpensive talking-head documentary has been done to death. If I see one more film critic say "Buster Keaton was a GEEEnyus!" I'm gonna... well, change the channel. Film clips, yes, exposition, yes, behind-the-scenes footage, yay; talking head with nothing original to say, yeeeeesh. Enough already.
  12. We just replaced an aging fence, but nothing like Chaplin's! That thing really looks 50-years patched! Makes me think my old one could have lasted longer.
  13. It's not my favorite kind of comedy, either. I think that's why I like Buster Keaton best. The humor in his slapstick is that he avoids being hurt. It's more a ballet of avoidance than getting a laugh from being smacked in the head or slipping on a peel, which is ironic because from what I've read, he got hurt plenty doing those stunts--broke his neck when a water tank emptied on him. (Well, there's the gag that proves my theory wrong.) That's why I've never been a fan of the Stooges. They hurt. I don't want to watch their noses pinched and their faces slapped. My favorite movie of theirs is a short called Disorder in the Court. It's more absurd than it is hitting.
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