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cmovieviewer

TCM was excellent for SUTS Buster Keaton day

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Although at first glance you might think for Summer Under the Stars TCM was merely repeating Buster Keaton films that have been seen many times before, TCM stepped it up by including the premier of the very interesting documentary by Peter Bogdanovich - The Great Buster: A Celebration (2018).  In addition, TCM featured several titles restored by the Cohen Media Group that have just been released on Blu-Ray in the past few months.  In their restorations, Cohen went one step further than the original Blu-Ray versions that Kino did several years ago by cleaning up the dirt and scratches and in some cases updating the scores.  The video for these titles now looks nearly as good as when it was originally shown in theaters.  The list of Cohen titles presented by TCM includes some of Keaton’s most highly acclaimed classics:

Battling Butler (1926)
The General (1926)
Sherlock, Jr. (1924)
Seven Chances (1925)
Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1926)
The Navigator (1924)

All of these titles (including the documentary) can still be seen on WatchTCM for a few more days, so Keaton fans should check them out while they can.

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Buster Keaton is God to me and I like to think I am an expert on all things Buster. With that said, I have mixed feelings on the documentary. I think it could of been edited better and without a doubt it should of had a strong narrator for it and not Bogdanovich. The inclusion of younger entertainers as Johnny Knoxville, Bill Hader and others seemed very forced. There was even one guy included in the documentary that directed Spiderman and had the audacity to compare Spiderman to Buster. 

Also, mixed feeling on the Cohen restorations. The films looked crystal clear but what was wrong with the Kino versions in the first place? Plus, where is the tint on the Cohen version? I just don't understand why this Cohen company would even undertake this project in the first place when Kino has already did it and perfected it.

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2 hours ago, vidorisking said:

Buster Keaton is God to me and I like to think I am an expert on all things Buster. With that said, I have mixed feelings on the documentary. I think it could of been edited better and without a doubt it should of had a strong narrator for it and not Bogdanovich. The inclusion of younger entertainers as Johnny Knoxville, Bill Hader and others seemed very forced. There was even one guy included in the documentary that directed Spiderman and had the audacity to compare Spiderman to Buster. 

Also, mixed feeling on the Cohen restorations. The films looked crystal clear but what was wrong with the Kino versions in the first place? Plus, where is the tint on the Cohen version? I just don't understand why this Cohen company would even undertake this project in the first place when Kino has already did it and perfected it.

They're including the younger comedians to try and make Keaton relevant to today's audiences. However, that ploy will look dated five or ten years from now, when some of those comedians are no longer in vogue. 

One of the silliest documentaries I saw was on Errol Flynn where people like Burt Reynolds and Joanne Woodward were interviewed. Like they would have no great understanding of Flynn, probably had never met him, and were just fans like the rest of us. The documentary hit its stride when Olivia De Havilland took over and talked about working with Flynn on set. But the other stuff was unnecessary fluff.

Some of these documentaries are not made with a sharp eye on the performer being profiled and what they did that makes them timeless. Instead it just becomes a lot of chatter about who likes this person and why, without providing real insights into the star's career or longevity.

A documentary should be more than name dropping, or present-day celebs dropping by for a few quick soundbites. My view.

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Comments concerning:

 - the documentary
As Dave Karger mentioned in his introduction, Peter Bogdanovich chose to do the narration himself because he felt strongly about the material and wanted to make sure it was presented as he intended it to be.  Of course Bogdanovich is getting older now so his voice may not be announcer quality, but I respect the passion he had for the project and found no problem with how it was conveyed.
There is a no-win situation in selecting speakers for a documentary.  No matter who is chosen the presentation will be dated for that time.  Dick Van Dyke is used frequently throughout as a close friend of Keaton, which to me counterbalanced the use of younger contributors such as Bill Hader and Knoxville.  There were also “middle-aged” speakers such as Quentin Tarantino so to me a variety of viewpoints were included and I had no problem with the comments that were made.  For me the most important thing is that each speaker was knowledgeable and respectful of Keaton and had interesting things to say that specifically related back to the source material being shown.

- the restorations
I am familiar with the individual Kino Blu-Ray presentations that were released between 2010-2012 or so.  In these editions the focus was on finding the best negatives/prints available, but pretty much no effort was made to clean things up.  Kino released a combined set in 2016 that cost in the $300 range, but I don’t have that set for comparison to know what if any enhancements were made at that time.

Here are some examples from the Kino 2011 Blu-Ray for Battling Butler.  You can see there can be a heavy amount of defects or scratches that appear in the prints.

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Similar scene from TCM:

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Kino:

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TCM:

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My understanding is that Cohen is tinting their releases on a case-by-case basis.  The Battling Butler video has the amber tint throughout.  I noticed The General was not tinted.  I assume there is a rationale for how this is done based on research and the source material they are using.  I don’t have the recent Cohen Blu-Ray for a direct comparison, so these are lower-resolution frame grabs from WatchTCM.  Certainly the Cohen Blu-Rays have much more detail than what is showing on WatchTCM so my comparison does not do them full justice.

As another example you can read a review of the Cohen Blu-Ray for Battling Butler here (several screen shots are included):


https://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Battling-Butler-Blu-ray/246979/#Review

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17 minutes ago, cmovieviewer said:

There is a no-win situation in selecting speakers for a documentary.  No matter who is chosen the presentation will be dated for that time.  Dick Van Dyke is used frequently throughout as a close friend of Keaton, which to me counterbalanced the use of younger contributors such as Bill Hader and Knoxville.  There were also “middle-aged” speakers such as Quentin Tarantino so to me a variety of viewpoints were included and I had no problem with the comments that were made.  For me the most important thing is that each speaker was knowledgeable and respectful of Keaton and had interesting things to say that specifically related back to the source material being shown.

In my view, it really has nothing to do with the age of the people interviewed. I'd be happy with them interviewing a star's grandchild or great grandchild. But it has to be someone who's more than a fan...someone who's either an expert, because they are a scholar who has spent years studying the star's life and career. Or someone that's an expert, because they lived with the star or come from the star's family. Basically, it has to be someone who can provide real insights. 

In the case of Buster Keaton, I don't mind someone like Richard Lewis being interviewed. Mainly because Keaton has had an effect on Lewis' career and from my understanding Lewis had become friends with Keaton's widow. So to me, he would know a bit more than the typical celebrity fan.

But just throwing a person into the documentary because they are a popular celebrity now, and they really don't know much about the star, that's fluff and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

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I own that $300 Kino box set and the blu rays are phenomenal! It really is sacrilegious to not tint The General and I believe Cohen loses their film restoration card in my opinion for this act. I appreciate your insight on all this cmovieviewer, although you have to admit the Spiderman comparison was ridiculous. Anytime a millennial tries to compare a CGI fake creation to the great Buster we have a problem.

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Of course TB, that has nothing to do with the possibility that the younger, "current" star used in the documentary may have been greatly influenced by Keaton.  But that too, is something we may never really know until in depth information about said star is available. So, yeah.  I'd go along with not using them in these instances. And besides.....

Whatever shortcomings I may have felt the documentary had, they made up for it (for me) by including that CANDID CAMERA footage.  I laughed just as hard seeing it this time as I did when it originally aired!  :D 

That man really was a true American treasure!  :P

Sepiatone

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19 hours ago, vidorisking said:

I own that $300 Kino box set and the blu rays are phenomenal! It really is sacrilegious to not tint The General and I believe Cohen loses their film restoration card in my opinion for this act. I appreciate your insight on all this cmovieviewer, although you have to admit the Spiderman comparison was ridiculous. Anytime a millennial tries to compare a CGI fake creation to the great Buster we have a problem.

I hope you will not take offense when I say that I did not find the Spider-Man comparison to be ludicrous at all.  IMO Bogdanovich is trying to introduce Keaton to an audience the majority of which would likely have little to no idea who Buster Keaton is.  (We are not representative of the current typical movie-going audience.)  It has now been over 50 years since Buster Keaton passed away, and 90 years since his great silent features were originally released.  The two Spider-Man films directed by Jon Watts have made a total of almost 2 Billion dollars world-wide (and climbing) so I think it is accurate to say that many more people currently on the planet know who Spider-Man is than know who Buster Keaton is.

My impression of Jon Watts comments was that he was paying respect to Keaton by saying that his character Spider-Man has scenes where he must convey emotions and humor while using limited facial expressions because most of his face is completely covered, and he took inspiration from Keaton for ways to do this.  I did not take this to mean that he felt his Spider-Man portrayal was the same or better than Keaton or was in any way being disrespectful or improper.  To me this would help current audiences relate to what Keaton was known for.  Obviously the two situations are not the same, but I think the analogy is reasonable.

For similar reasons I did not feel that the speakers in the documentary were a case of stunt-casting, but were chosen either because they had personal knowledge of Keaton or had more recent examples of situations that could be related back to concepts that Keaton was famous for.  I personally don’t care for Johnny Knoxville as a filmmaker one bit, but I take him at face value when he explains to audiences who might not be aware that stunts he has done are based on Keaton’s ideas.

It seems reasonable to me that a basic way for Bogdanovich to get his points across to a younger audience is to show them people they might be familiar with explaining how what they do was originally inspired by Keaton and why.  I think we would agree that this approach is more likely to connect with a broader audience than a documentary which consisted solely of Keaton clips and voice-over descriptions.

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21 hours ago, TopBilled said:

They're including the younger comedians to try and make Keaton relevant to today's audiences. However, that ploy will look dated five or ten years from now, when some of those comedians are no longer in vogue. 

One of the silliest documentaries I saw was on Errol Flynn where people like Burt Reynolds and Joanne Woodward were interviewed. Like they would have no great understanding of Flynn, probably had never met him, and were just fans like the rest of us. The documentary hit its stride when Olivia De Havilland took over and talked about working with Flynn on set. But the other stuff was unnecessary fluff.

Some of these documentaries are not made with a sharp eye on the performer being profiled and what they did that makes them timeless. Instead it just becomes a lot of chatter about who likes this person and why, without providing real insights into the star's career or longevity.

A documentary should be more than name dropping, or present-day celebs dropping by for a few quick soundbites. My view.

What is even worse to me is when clips are presented without much explanation as to why. The Story of Film: an Odyssey is really bad with this with random clips and interviews just thrown in without much explanation. For example, say an episode on 1920s cinema will have random segments from films from the 1940s to 1980s thrown in without any real explanation. :wacko: Though in that case, it makes up for it with some really rare interviews of people who actually knew the directors (iirc they actually got a former classmate of Pasolini). I had the Buster doc on in the background and I thought the guy from Jackazz was an odd inclusion as I doubt he has any real appreciation for older Hollywood and probably just did the documentary for the money. I mean really, what insights do they expect to get from the Jackazz creator? :blink: I remember reading an anecdote that he didn't even know who Lon Chaney was so I highly doubt he even knew about Keaton before doing this doc either. Hader at least used to host a segment on TCM so I can imagine him having some insight for the documentary at least.

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53 minutes ago, cmovieviewer said:

For similar reasons I did not feel that the speakers in the documentary were a case of stunt-casting, but were chosen either because they had personal knowledge of Keaton or had more recent examples of situations that could be related back to concepts that Keaton was famous for.  I personally don’t care for Johnny Knoxville as a filmmaker one bit, but I take him at face value when he explains to audiences who might not be aware that stunts he has done are based on Keaton’s ideas.

He didn't even know who Lon Chaney was. Do you think he really knew about Keaton before the documentary?

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25 minutes ago, Gershwin fan said:

He didn't even know who Lon Chaney was. Do you think he really knew about Keaton before the documentary?

I am not familiar with the evidence that he did not know who Lon Chaney is.  I assumed that of course he knows who Keaton is, or is at the very least familiar with his works because he had previously replicated the famous scene where the wall of a building is dropped on him.  You might have missed this point if you just had it on in the background.

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7 hours ago, cmovieviewer said:

I am not familiar with the evidence that he did not know who Lon Chaney is.  I assumed that of course he knows who Keaton is, or is at the very least familiar with his works because he had previously replicated the famous scene where the wall of a building is dropped on him.  You might have missed this point if you just had it on in the background.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0322802/trivia

When Johnny Knoxville claims that he was Lon Chaney's lover after being thrown out of the liquor store, Knoxville actually had no clue who Chaney was. He saw Chaney's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as he was thrown out and thought it would be a funny thing to say.

-

So you really think a guy who didn't even know Lon Chaney knew about Buster Keaton because he recognized just one of his most famous gags that has been recreated numerous times? If he didn't know about Chaney what makes you think he really knew about Keaton?

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On 8/22/2019 at 7:31 AM, vidorisking said:

Also, mixed feeling on the Cohen restorations. The films looked crystal clear but what was wrong with the Kino versions in the first place? Plus, where is the tint on the Cohen version? I just don't understand why this Cohen company would even undertake this project in the first place when Kino has already did it and perfected it.

"Perfected it" is stretching it quite a bit.  I have all of the Kinos too and enjoy them very much but the new restorations are really quite wonderful.  One thing that I do not like, though, is that each of these will be presented in 1080/24p.  This is absolutely fine and right for 24 frame per second films like The General, Sherlock Jr., and Steamboat Bill Jr. but the films intended for a lower frame rate such as Our Hospitality and Three Ages will have duplicate frames inserted to conform to 24 frames per second, making them noticeably jerky.  The original Kino editions of these two films were transferred using interlacing, which has preserved the smooth motion that these films can and should be seen in (ditto their edition of One Week on the original Keaton shorts collection - one of the gems of my home video collection.)  This will be lost on the Cohen editions, despite the improvement in picture quality that is quite likely with Our Hospitality (based on the documentary, this certainly seems to be the case.)  For me, this is a step forward...and a step backward.  I'm considering that the trade-off might be worth it but we can and should have both improved picture quality and proper smooth motion for these films.

(Oh yeah, whatever negatives you may have heard about interlacing, like "combing," are all bogus.  De-interlacing an image for playback is dependent on the player - not all of them do it properly.  A great Blu-ray player like the PlayStation 3 or 4 prove that these supposed issues are, in fact, non-issues.)

Criterion's upcoming restored edition of Keaton's The Cameraman, not yet announced, will fortunately preserve smooth motion.  I believe they, with the possible exception of Milestone (haven't seen their recent titles,) are the only company that currently does silent films with non-standard frame rates the right way - interlaced.  Their edition of Safety Last and many of the Harold Lloyd shorts, the 20 fps version of The Passion of Joan of Arc, The Phantom Carriage, etc., all play back smoothly and beautifully.

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Thanks, JonasEB! I had no idea Criterion was releasing The Cameraman, that’s phenomenal! And oh yeah, that was another thing I disliked about the Buster documentary the way Bogdanovich shrugged off The Cameraman. He was so anti-MGM in that documentary that he blew off a masterpiece like The Cameraman, certainly one of Buster’s best. Methinks Peter and Orson (his idol and houseguest) had negative feelings about the studio to be so negative about the output coming from the greatest of all studios.

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Kino has announced a new 2K restoration of Keaton's Our Hospitality (1923) coming out on Blu-Ray October 15:

https://bottomshelfmovies.com/2k-restoration-of-our-hospitality-1923-coming-from-kino-lorber/

Here is some additional information about the film and the restoration:

https://anttialanenfilmdiary.blogspot.com/2019/02/our-hospitality-world-premiere-of-2019.html

(Text is in different languages in sections.  Scroll down for English text.)

 

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I don't follow the intricacies of the technology behind transferring old films to tape or disc or whatever.  But, when I was a kid Silent movies looked amusing to us because they always looked "sped up".  We al thought that it was intended to make the movies more funny looking, but later were told it was because the movies were filmed on cameras that filmed the images at a different speed than then modern day( 'bout the mid to late '60's) projectors payed back and that projectors back in "those days" ran the film at a speed that matched the speed at which the film was photographed, and so looked "natural" in theaters then. 

What really matters to me is that these movies have been preserved on some kind of medium that will defy deterioration much better than the nitrate and cellulose stock they were originally shot on. I'll have to rely on all y'alls word on which collection will be the more worthwhile.

Sepiatone

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