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starcrossed

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  1. 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? The silent film actors and directors were obviously aware that since the audience couldn't listen to the movie, the story had to be told with lots of gestures & expressions, not unlike a stage production (even though there is sound). If that is what makes them so different then I would have to agree with Canby. After giving this some serious consideration, I feel that the silent films require the audience to think and analyze. They are more engaging as the viewer has to consider what the actions and re-actions are. Watching them makes me feel like I have to put myself in the place of each of the actors. This is as opposed to comedies where the dialogue and delivery tell the audience what the feelings are between the characters. The viewer is just a passive although breathing laughing machine. 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? When Chaplin first approaches the stand he appears to not have any bad intentions. It is the dog that sets the bad example by snatching the sausages and woofing them down (no pun intended). Even though Chaplin puts the dog out of harms way, he appears to have every intention of eating the entire plate of cakes even after it's obvious the owner is suspicious. Having an opening in the frame of the stand where the policeman spies Chaplin in the act and Chaplin realizing it's time to clear out is a clever way to bring an end to his free loading. 3. What do you think a gag like this and its brilliant on-screen execution contributes to the history of slapstick comedy? This gag makes me appreciate the genius behind the concept of taking an ordinary scenario (the guy preparing food to sell) and someone just nonchalantly helping himself to the goodies. The repetition of the action has the audience wonder if and when Chaplin will get caught. Then there's the thought about what will happen if he does. To get so drawn in by this is a huge contribution. Furthermore, the simplicity of the plot makes it easy for the audience to remember long after watching it. Yet, because it is so enjoyable one wants to see it again and encourage others. In fact, Canby sets the reader up for what is going to happen in the film, but you still have to view it to get the effect.
  2. 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? As I get older I can appreciate the pure genius behind the invention of moving pictures and have come to value most nearly everything from fashion to automobiles that were made in the past. That being said, I don't think I would necessarily agree with Agee and Youngson. In fact, with the exception of Mel Brook's "Silent Movie," I don't think that I can say I've laughed nearly as hard watching/reading any of the old movies. When a movie makes me laugh so hard that tears roll down my cheeks, or I have to stop and walk away to compose myself, that is what comedy is-period! Perhaps I haven't seen enough of the silent movies to say that anyone of them strike me as funny as Mel Brooks or Woody Allen films, but either way the title of comedy's greatest era would be an overstatement. Golden age would be more appropriate. 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? It would be too easy to say that the visual nature of gags has all but disappeared, but perhaps at the time Agee & Youngson created their compilation, it may have been true. Comedy relies on gestures and gags so it would be hard to say that these aren't used anymore. It would be better to say that some comedies aren't as funny as others and perhaps that's what they are lacking. I do agree that the gags in the film clips were pretty darn imaginative. I especially like how the film clip revealed to the audience the tricks behind the scenes and then incorporated them into the show. 3. What impact do you think documentaries, compilation films, and essays like these have had on popular opinion about the silent film era? For me, this compilation helps be to better understand an era that I most likely would pass on. In my childhood, I found black & white movies boring and silent films were especially annoying. After watching TCM's summer of noir films last year, I've gained a whole new interest and perspective on black & white movies. My interest in silent films is on the rise too as I continue with this course.
  3. I would have to say that yes, I do agree with the definitions of slapstick. As for the violence, I am probably sure that when I was a young child my parents assured me that no one was hurt. In fact listening to them laugh or foretell a gag under a chuckle probably let me know that it was 'harmless' fun. Silent movies, no matter the genre, seemed to be shot in a different speed. The quick jerky movements of even the most melodramatic films always made the action and mood seem less serious to me anyway. Then suddenly there's sound effects coupled with the still quirky actions and the gags appear even less violent in nature. Sound really does signal our emotions! In time the audience comes to expect comedic stunts from the usual actors. Not to mention the movie posters telling them the show is a comedy already sets up the audience. I can recall watching old black and white movies as a child and hearing my mother say things like, "This guy always gets hit over the head." Although that let me know that the actor wasn't hurt, it gave me the false belief that actors were just immune and immortal. Think about it, even in dramatic roles where they get shot they don't REALLY die. They live to make another movie and we do our part as audience. We believe the drama to be real and the slapstick to be just harmless fun.
  4. Looking at the film through the eyes of a student, i realize that one reason the viewer laughs is because we already know whats going to happen to the gardener. It's not the element of surprise so much as the element of expectation. We can't wait for the water hit that guy in the face! The other reason the audience gets a chuckle is because it's human nature to to find harmless fun at the expense of another person. As an act of contrition, the watcher then puts themselves in the place of the protagonist mentally saying, 'If that happened to me I would ... (though we really don't know what we'd do and I would venture to guess some of us would DO nothing, but yell. In having the gardener turn the hose on the boy, the film gives us the opportunity to live vicariously and get the satisfaction we seek. That is of course if we identify with the protagonist. Were we to connect better with the antagonist we might have been pulling for the boy and wonder what other clever though devilish deeds he might do next. In fact, we might be anxious to know when the next film will be ready.
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