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About CinemaShari

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  1. Previous commenters have done an excellent job of identifying the Marx Brothers' characteristic gags and describing how the five conditions of slapstick fit into this clip, so I would just like to say how much I love the term "verbal slapstick" for the Marx Brothers. I always feel a bit slapped around after I watch one of their films! Their jokes/gags are so witty, fast, and intricate, that it can be hard to keep up. I was thinking about Harpo (who we unfortunately did not see in this clip), and how he is sort of the personification of the "slapstick", or wooden paddle, that we talked about earlier in this course. The sound effects he makes with his voice heighten the effect of his gags and serve an an impetus for the audience to laugh. They also signify to the audience that any violence against Harpo is not real (as if the audience needed a reminder that the situations in a Marx Brothers film are make believe!)
  2. First of all, I was very excited to see Charley Chase included in this course! I have only seen a couple of his films, but thought he was fantastic in them. If anyone is interested, here's a link to a particularly great one, called His Wooden Wedding: 1. The slapstick humor was far more subtle here than in any of the silents we watched.The exaggeration was more in the creative ways he tried to spruce himself up, rather than in gestures or physical movements, though there was absolutely a certain physicality to Chase's humor (getting squirted in the eye, punch spilling from a cup). Chase had to make several attempts with the flower squirter, which provides repetitiveness. More importantly, in my opinion, is the fact that making multiple attempts at something is a strategy used over and over again by other slapstick comedians (think Keaton pulling the piano into the house in One Week), giving a ritualistic aspect to the film. I didn't find make believe or violence incredibly prevalent in this clip, as the gags were pretty tame and fairly realistic (except perhaps the reflective jacket!). 2. I definitely agree that Chase's greatest emotion is exasperation. We do see him express other feelings, such as satisfaction, but he seems particularly talented at expressing exasperation. 3. The sound in this clip was impressive for 1931! The sound effects realistically matched what was happening in the gags, the music sounded great and worked well with the scene, and the volume of the dialogue was at a good level. So many early talkies did not utilize music, so it was nice to see some here.
  3. Agreed! It makes total sense that Chaplin, with his little tramp character, would be the one causing trouble in his films. Stealing cakes, teaching his adopted son to break windows so he can get paid to fix them, etc. are exactly the kinds of things we would expect him to do. I think part of what makes him so endearing is that, as a tramp, his character is in dire need of very basic items, such as food; yet, despite his poverty, he maintains a cheeky and resourceful personality that gets him through any situation. There are certainly exceptions to him being the problem, like when he unwittingly gets caught up in a protest in Modern Times, but I think it works well as a general rule. Keaton, on the other hand, seems to find himself thrown into sticky situations all the time, which frequently turn out to be quite outrageous. Some good examples are this clip, basically the whole train chase in The General, and having to outrun a horde of brides and giant boulders in Seven Chances. Like you said, he is usually battling outside forces. I think these kinds of setups allow Keaton to be incredibly creative in developing his gags and stunts, which he uses to react to the situations in which he finds himself.
  4. I'm more familiar with Chaplin and Keaton, so it was really nice to see an episode focusing on Lloyd. I recently read a book called "The Silent Clowns" that examined the styles of the major silent comedians, and if I remember correctly, it took Lloyd much, much longer than Chaplin or Keaton to develop his particular on-screen personality he is known for today: middle class, elegant, charming, with those fantastic glasses. Luckily for us, he finally found his style and gave us some wonderful films. Safely Last! is superb. I thought he did a great job building off of Arbuckle and Keaton's "high-striker" gag and making it a bit more clever. I've seen people describe Lloyd as the second "greatest" silent comedian, second only to Chaplin. If this is the case, I would think he would be more well known. As it is, I don't know anyone who even knows Lloyd is. I got my undergraduate degree in film studies a couple of years ago, and he was never even mentioned. Has he become less popular recently? The world needs to know of his talent!
  5. It was really fun to see the progression of complexity in Chaplin's gags over several years. As the gags get more sophisticated, one would think that they would grow funnier as well. However, I thought that the first and third clips (By The Sea, A Dog's Life) were funnier than the second (Tillie's Punctured Romance) due to the stronger personality Chaplin had in those clips. In both By The Sea and A Dog's Life, the tramp is very confident in his actions right before the main joke happens. In the first film, the tramp nonchalantly eats his banana and tosses the peel on the ground, complete with a sassy flip of his foot. We laugh when he slips on the peel because his confidence is thwarted. The same thing happens in A Dog's Life; after outsmarting the first cop, the tramp lifts his arms in triumphant victory, only to realize that there is a second cop he has to contend with. I think it is the little tramp's inexplicable confidence followed by a humbling gag that makes these scenes so funny, and also assures us that he can take whatever life throws him.
  6. I agree with all of the definitions (I thought they were excellent), but exaggeration and ritualistic are the most interesting to me. When I hear the word "slapstick", my mind tends to go straight to the exaggerated facial expressions in connection with some kind of violent act we see from someone like The Three Stooges. However, some of my favorite slapstick comes from Buster Keaton, who with his stone face is known for his lack of exaggerated facial expression. The exaggeration in his films is expressed more through his incredible stunts and crazy situations in which he finds himself, such as the giant boulder avalanche and the "bride" mob he has to escape in Seven Chances. It feels like his dedication to that stone face created a necessity for him to be exceedingly inventive in creating his gags. That inventiveness makes his comedy all the more appealing to me. Keaton's lack of facial expression also plays into the ritualistic aspect of slapstick, which is super interesting because it isn't even really an action, but it's something that any Keaton fan loves to see from him. The same goes with Chaplin - who doesn't love seeing him shrug his shoulders, scrunch his nose, and adjust his oversized-shoe-clad feet? I love how these rituals allow the viewer to get to know the character's personality; it makes everything they do that much funnier.
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