Charlie Chaplin vs. Buster Keaton: Who cares??

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The following is my first of two entries in The Charlie Chaplin Blogathon: The Life and Films of the Little Tramp, being co-hosted by the blogs Little Bits of Classics and Christina Wehner from Apr. 14-16, 2018. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ tributes to Charles Chaplin on his 126th birthday (Apr. 16)!

(All images from Chaplin films made from 1918 onwards, Copyright © Roy Export S.A.S. Charles Chaplin and the Little Tramp are trademarks and/or service marks of Bubbles Inc. S.A. and/or Roy Export.)

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I first came across Charlie Chaplin when I was 11 years old and just “getting into” silent movies. I didn’t start watching Buster Keaton movies until a few years later, mainly because I never had access to any of them until a local PBS station began showing them. I find both men, in their individual ways, brilliant silent-film comedians.

Ever since I was a kid, I have been listening to the ridiculous debate about Chaplin versus Keaton — which comic is funnier, less sentimental, more artistic, etc. — as though great movie comics are so plentiful that we must compare apples to oranges. For the final word on this subject, I have two quotes. The first quote is from The Silent Clowns, Walter Kerr’s invaluable study of silent-film comedy; the second is a seemingly irrelevant quote about a completely different subject by Susan Sontag. (However, in Sontag’s case, replace “The Doors and Dostoyevsky” with “Keaton and Chaplin,” and you’ll see what I mean.)

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* “…[Keaton] has been hailed, here and there, not only as Chaplin’s equal but as Chaplin’s superior. This, I think, is waste effort, a misreading of Keaton’s very values…Let Chaplin be king, and Keaton court jester. The king effectively rules, the jester tells the truth.” – Walter Kerr, 1975

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* “If I had to choose between the Doors and Dostoyevsky, then — of course — I’d choose Dostoyevsky. But do I have to choose?” – Susan Sontag, 1996

(If you liked this blog, please click here to read my second blogathon entry, about Chaplin’s The Great Dictator.)

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R.I.P., Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

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April 4 marks the fifth anniversary of the death of Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert.

Ebert “came into” my life at the perfect time. As a child, I began immersing myself in movies, and just a few years later, I became equally obsessed with film criticism, going to the library and checking out volumes of work by James Agee, Pauline Kael, and Stanley Kauffmann. Shortly after that, “Sneak Previews,” the first national version of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert’s long-running movie-review TV show, premiered on PBS. Agee et al., while obviously articulate experts in their field, seemed to exist on some vague Mt. Olympus of film criticism. Seeing the equally articulate Siskel and Ebert on TV made the concept of critiquing movies more accessible to me.

Many filmgoers are often very quick to dismiss any movie critic whose opinions counter their own. I always felt just the opposite towards Ebert. His criticism was so compelling and heartfelt, he was fun to read even when you disagreed with him.

Nowadays, anybody who can set up their own blog can automatically designate themselves as movie critics. (And yes, I’m as guilty as anyone.) Ebert worked his way up through the ranks at the Chicago Sun-Times, eventually becoming one of America’s most-read and -seen critics, and deservedly so.

In the ‘90s, Ebert got an account on the then-in-vogue Internet platform provider CompuServe, and I corresponded with him fairly frequently. I’m not trying to say we were close friends, but I would often remark about some online comment he had made, and nearly as often, he would politely answer me.

At one point, Ebert did a Sunday-morning online and print column titled “The Movie Answer Man,” where he would answer questions from readers, and he sometimes fielded some of my queries to him. (One of my questions even made it onto Page 157 of Ebert’s book “Questions from the Movie Answer Man.”)

For anyone who wasn’t there, it’s hard to understand how much effect and influence a well-written critic had on fervent moviegoers. But when Roger Ebert passed away in 2013 (following his old partner, Gene Siskel, in 1999), it seemed as though a huge part of the old guard of great movie criticism had slipped away as well.

THE END OF THE WORLD BLOGATHON – Da Big Finish

Well, we knew the end was coming. Hang onto your hats (or whatever is left of them) for

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If you missed Day 1 or Day 2 of our blogathon, click on those respective days to read more of our terrific entries. For Day 3, click on the name of each individual blog listed below to read their entry.

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Old Hollywood Films gives us a how-to guide for surviving the apocalypse, as demonstrated by Ray Milland & Co. in Panic in Year Zero!

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Matthew Broderick’s video games quickly escalate to WarGames, the weapon of choice for Moon in Gemini.

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And last but not least, Realweegiemidget Reviews explains why Steve Carell is Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.

Thanks to my co-host Quiggy at The Midnite Drive-In, and to all of the participants and readers of our little foray into make-believe mushroom clouds. Be sure to click here to read about our new blogathon that has already begun — The 1961 Blogathon!

 

 

 

Announcing THE 1961 BLOGATHON!

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Happy birthday to me!

On Friday, April 27, I will turn a ripe old 57 years of age. Usually, I do some kind of gag post at my blog on that date to commemorate the occasion. But this year, I thought I’d up the ante with

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Rules

Here is the subject matter I am looking for in this blogathon:

  1. The obvious choice — movies that were theatrically released in the U.S. or elsewhere in 1961. This can include live and animated short subjects as well as feature films. (I’m doing a Bugs Bunny cartoon myself!)
  2. Movie-related news from that year. Did a significant event take place in Hollywood in 1961 that you’d like to write about? Was one of your favorite actors born in 1961 or died in that year?
  3. If you have any other idea related to movies of 1961, let me know. If it’s not too outrageous, I’ll probably allow it.
  4. Sorry, no duplicate posts. Please check the list below (which will be updated regularly) to ensure that your idea is not already taken.

How Do I Join the Blogathon?

In the “Comments” section at the bottom of this blog, please leave your name, the URL of your blog, and the movie you are choosing to blog about. At the end of this blog entry are banners for the ‘thon. Grab a banner, display it on your blog, and link it back to this blog.

The blogathon will take place from Friday, April 27 through Sunday, April 29, 2018. When the opening date of the blogathon arrives, leave a comment here with a link to your post, and I will display it in the list of entries (which I will continually update up to the beginning of the ‘thon, so keep checking back!).

I will not be assigning particular dates to any blog posts. As long as you get your entry in by the end of the day on April 29, I will be satisfied. (That said, the earlier the better!)

Again, be sure to leave a comment below and grab a banner, and have fun with your blog entry! Here’s the line-up so far:

Movie Movie Blog Blog – Compressed Hare (Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote cartoon) and Stan Laurel receiving an Honorary Oscar

BNoirDetour – Blast of Silence

Thoughtsallsorts – Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Reelweegiemidget Reviews – The Innocents

Cinematic Scribblings – Lola

The Stop Button – Through a Glass Darkly

The Midnite Drive-In – The Phantom Planet and Assignment: Outer Space

Silver Screenings – The Misfits

portraitsbyjenni – The Hoodlum Priest

Caftan Woman – One, Two, Three

Whimsically Classic – The Parent Trap

Love Letters to Old Hollywood – Come September

Movierob – Town Without Pity

dbsmovieblog – La Notte

Seetimaar-Diary of a Movie Lover – The Guns of Navarone and Judgment at Nuremberg

Moon in Gemini – The Full Monty (1997), starring Robert Carlyle (born in 1961)

 

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CELEBRITY (1998) – Woody Allen’s weak take on the excesses of fame

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Three caveats about the cast of Woody Allen’s Celebrity must top this review. First, this movie got more than the usual publicity for an Allen film solely because Leonardo Dicaprio is in it. But any teenaged Leo fans must be forewarned: The guy from Titanic takes up about 10 of the movie’s 113 minutes, and the rest of the film will leave you either bewildered or apathetic.

Secondly, when I heard that Kenneth Branagh was in the movie, I envisioned the wonderful British actor bring grace and suavity to the lead role. Instead, Branagh ends up doing an uncanny imitation of Allen — the gestures, the stuttering, even the wardrobe. This nebbishy impersonation makes his character — a womanizing journalist who drives around in an Aspen-Martin — quite implausible, bordering on intolerable.

Lastly, the unsung heroine of the movie is Allen alumnus Judy Davis, whose performance as Robin, the journalist’s neurotic ex-wife, creates the movie’s only believable character. With all the fuss that critics have made about Branagh’s and Dicaprio’s appearances, there was barely a whisper about Davis’s work. But without her, the movie would be downright soulless.

Branagh plays Lee Simon, a lowly travel writer who itches to become a celebrity journalist. But writer-director Allen doesn’t begin to get the details down. Star-chasing Simon carries only a pocket-sized notepad, on which he occasionally scribbles some notes. As the husband of a local newspaper editor, I can tell you that the backpacks of my wife’s staffers weigh more than Simon does.

(Simon is also an aspiring novelist and scriptwriter, yet he still composes on a typewriter, and he had only a single manuscript of his half-completed novel. Forget computers, even–hasn’t this guy ever heard of copy machines?)

Simon inexplicably gets assigned celebrity beats and does his best to foul them up. In the middle of an orgy with the room-trashing heartthrob (Dicaprio), Simon tries to get the guy to green-light his script. And Simon’s date with a hot fashion model (Charlize Theron) is ruined when he plows his sports car into a showroom during a passionate kiss.

In the meantime, Allen inserts some scattershot satire. We’re meant to lament a pop culture that makes celebrities of one-hit wonders and supermodels. This lecture disguised as a movie carries little weight, coming from a director who shuns publicity yet still gets photographed at only the poshest hot spots and fashion shows. In middle-class America, we call that having our cake and eating it too.

The rest of Allen’s standard big-name cast — including Joe Mantegna, Winona Ryder, and Melanie Griffith — come off as ciphers. And Allen, once renowned for his movies’ memorable females, here presents Bebe Neuwirth (of “Cheers” and “Frasier”) as a prostitute who tutors Robin, in the most insulting female movie scene of the year.

A lot of Woody Allen’s latter-day work features interesting characters and insights that are far offset by Allen’s obsession with sexual mechanics. Celebrity is a prime example.

THE END OF THE WORLD BLOGATHON – Day 2 Recap

Death is not taking a holiday here at our blog, nor at The Midnite Drive-In, where our blogs are covering apocalyptically- and post-apocalyptically-themed movies. So join us for

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If you missed our Day 1 Recap, click here to see more great entries. To read the entrants from Day 2, click on the name of each individual blog below.

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The Midnite Drive-in reports on Bruce Willis’ mission from the grim future, as depicted in 12 Monkeys.

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Critica Retro critiques the 1936 film Things to Come, which made some sadly accurate preductions about the dangers of modern technology.

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Once Upon a Screen brings us Fail-Safe, a thriller from the Cold War that, er, pushes all the wrong buttons.

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And while Douglas Adams gives thanks for all the fish, Movierob does not give thanks for Adams’ movie adaptation of his book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

We still have one more day to go in our blogathon, so keep us bookmarked, right to the end!

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THE END OF THE WORLD BLOGATHON – Day 1 Recap

We had a slew of bloggers who couldn’t wait to write about the apocalypse — at least, as it is depicted in movies. See what they had to say as we present

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Click on the name of each individual blog below to read their blogathon entry.

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Diary of a Movie Maniac reaches way back to another country and another era for his end story — the Danish silent film The End of the World.

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Caftan Woman decided to consult a Pal (George, that is) to find out what would happen When Worlds Collide.

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Speakeasy offers a double feature of doom with This Is Not a Test and Five.

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Fate brings the hammer down on Mike Hammer in the apocalyptic film noir Kiss Me Deadly, as reviewed by The Dream Book Blog.

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Silver Screenings looks at cinema’s first adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984.

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Seeker of Truth ponders whether humans should be allowed to survive, based on the evidence provided in The Story of Mankind.

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In the first of two entries from our co-host The Midnite Drive-In, nuclear (and dysfunctional relationship) fallout is inevitable in Stanley Kramer’s On the Beach.

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Maddielovesherclassicfilms observes the effect that an incoming meteor has on the world and its inhabitants in Deep Impact.

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Movierob gives his take on I Am Legend, the first of two entries in his apocalyptic annals.

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The sun is dying, so ThoughtsAllSorts tries to grab a little Sunshine for us.

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And finally, yours truly takes a look at the cheesier side of apocalyptic cinema, as shown in Plan 9 from Outer Space and the film-within-a-film of Strange Brew.

We still have two more days of the blogathon to, er, survive, so keep us bookmarked for more ominous fun — we’re not dead yet!