Keaton. Keaton is the silent set-piece master of comedy (at least until Tati made Playtime). He’s ahead of Chaplin despite Chaplin having the better filmography as it grades out). The use of the locomotive (The General) and the movie screen (Sherlock Jr.) as a set-piece is an inventiveness that deserves recognition. Keaton dominated the top 100 of the combined 1910’s and 20’s list with a whopping 7 total films. One thing that makes it difficult to grade out Keaton as an auteur is its’s hard to attribute the direction of the films to Keaton. TSPDT does and that’s great. But I mean he’s actually uncredited for The Cameraman, College, and Steamboat Bill, Jr. Scholars believe he still was the actual director but again that’s at least a little like saying Spielberg deserves credit for Poltergeist or Hawks deserves sole credit for The Thing That Came From Another World. TSPDT doesn’t list Cukor (or Selznick for that matter) for credit for Gone With the Wind. It’s difficult.
Best film: The General. Innovative and hysterical. It’s one of the best directed comedies of all-time.
total archiveable films: 9
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 2 (The General, Sherlock Jr.)
top 100 films of the decade: 7 (The General, Sherlock Jr., Steamboat Bill Jr., Our Hospitality, The Cameraman, The Navigator, Seven Chances)
most overrated: Essentially nothing since I have it as a masterpiece, but if forced I would go with The General.. It is #40 of all-time on TSPDT is just a little too high (I’m at #118). Nothing bad though so I hesitate to say anything- I adore The General and slot #118 is high praise indeed.
most underrated: He really doesn’t have one of these either. His 7 films in the top 1000 on TSPDT are all slotted pretty close to accurate and I don’t have anything else outside of those that should be in the top 1000. Good job critics!
gem I want to spotlight: Sherlock Jr.– the changing background/landscape sequence in Sherlock Jr is, justifiably, one of the most discussed sequences in the history of cinema and you should see it if you haven’t already. I mean it’s a great film but also if you’re going to be a cinephile you just to have this reference as part of your film language. It’s essential.
stylistic innovations/traits: Keaton’s reputation today is actually better than it was in the 1920’s. His use of set=piece structures and architecture is just as famous in cinema circles as his deadpan. Unlike almost all the other comedians and comic directors, he displayed a gifted, apparently instinctual grasp of the possibilities of cinema, both in front of the camera and behind it.
- The General
- Sherlock Jr.
- Steamboat Bill Jr.
- Our Hospitality
- The Cameraman
- The Navigator
- Seven Chances
- Go West
By year and grades
|1923- Our Hospitality||HR|
|1924- Sherlock Jr.||MP|
|1924- The Navigator|
|1925- Go West||R|
|1925- Seven Chances||HR|
|1926- The General||MP|
|1928- Steamboat Bill, Jr.||HR/MS|
|1928- The Cameraman|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives