How CGI Can Convert People To Silent Films

It was towards the end of Aquaman (2019), where a stunning underwater battle full of glowing aquatic kingdoms and zapping weapons and vast crab armies and armored sharks ended with the superhero commanding the most enormous sea beastie ever while standing triumphantly on its head (seriously, the only thing missing was him whipping out an electric guitar), when it occurred to me that CGI had entered its Baroque period.

Thất Hải Chi Vương Aquaman: Hành trình từ chàng thanh niên bị coi thường  tới Bá chủ biển cả
I mean, dang.

Generally speaking, we live in a remarkable era of special effects, don’t we? Anything we can imagine, no matter how epic or “out there,” can be brought to life onscreen. Mythical creatures, gorgeous landscapes, alien cities, giant robots, ancient gods, dinosaurs…the sky’s the limit if you have the right team of artists and animators. It’s no exaggeration to say that the scope of our creative abilities is something unprecedented in human history.

The Best CGI Characters in Movie History
Image credit: Screen Crush

So naturally, while being faced with jaw-dropping visions the likes of which no human eye hast heretofore seen, we complain about how there’s too much CGI. If we comment on it at all, that is–it’s not a given the way it used to be.

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One Of The Unsung–A Nod To Bit Player Joe Bordeaux

While I’d originally hoped to put out two more posts, this is going to be the last one for Forgotten Comedians Month 2–it needed a bit more care. I hope you enjoyed following along! It was fun to have a “round two” of this theme month, so maybe it could become a recurring series…? I’d be down, just sayin’!

If you’ve been lurking around Silent-ology for awhile, you might’ve found my little bio for an apparently random bit player named Joe Bordeaux (sometimes spelled “Bordeau”). Why did I decide to write about this obscure person? Well, there’s a story involved. And a quasi-drinking game, of my own invention. I’ll explain.

Thoughts On: “His Wedding Night” And “Oh Doctor!” | Silent-ology

Pictured in cop garb on the far left: our subject.

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The Lively Al St. John: An Appreciation

Have you ever had an actor who grew on you? Someone you really didn’t care for at first, but who finally won you over? For me, it was a comedian you may or may not have heard of: Al St. John, nephew of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and a key player at the legendary Keystone Film Company.

Why didn’t I care for him? Well…

The Waiters' Ball (1916) - FATTY ARBUCKLE & BUSTER KEATON - YouTube

Let’s just say he was a little much. But only at first! …Let’s take a look. Continue reading

Obscure Films: “Just Imagination” (1916)

Does your life seem a little too normal right now? (I know, I know–“so to speak.”) Are you longing for something more…surreal? Do the people around you have a frustrating lack of pancake makeup and fake potbellies? Does your furniture just sit there? Wanting to have a trippy experience without getting…well…trippy?

This was probably the most down-to-earth intro I could give to this sentence: Then The Mishaps of Musty Suffer series may be for you!!

Now, I’m betting 99.5% of you just asked, “Who or what the heck is Musty Suffer?” I understand, my friends, for I have been there. For all my wanderings through the zany universe of silent film comedy, I had never, ever heard of the comedian Musty Suffer before Undercrank Productions successfully Kickstarted a Musty DVD series a few years ago. And now that I’ve watched him, I, well, definitely can’t forget him. Continue reading

The Sixth Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon

UPDATE: Just put up a couple more posts, check them out! Apparently WordPress likes to add some comments to the spam folder for no discernible reason. 😉 Since there might be another late post or two still trickling in, I’m going to give everyone a little extra time and hold the drawing for the gift certificate tomorrow (the 12th) instead of today. Many thanks, everybody!

Aaaaand we’re back! Welcome, my friends, to:

Busterthon 6 2

I feel like the past year really flew by, didn’t it? And now our ‘thon is on year 6–I can hardly believe it, folks! A hearty “Welcome Back” to all my regular readers who’ll be checking out the blogathon this weekend, and a big “Welcome!” to all new readers! Every year many talented bloggers take part in this big Buster Keaton celebration, and it’s always exciting to see what fun, informative, and even heartfelt posts are in store.

This year is extra special since our blogathon is proudly being sponsored by the famed International Buster Keaton Society, which has worked for over 25 years to preserve Buster’s films and share his extraordinary work with new generations of fans. I’ve enjoyed their annual convention and have also written for the Keaton Chronicle, so I can say from personal experience that you couldn’t ask for a lovelier group of Buster superfans. I’ll go ahead and plug the fact that you, too, can become a Damfino–memberships are inexpensive, and you’ll be playing a small role in keeping Buster’s legacy thriving!

Image result for international buster keaton society logo

Bloggers: Please send me the link to your post whenever it’s ready today or tomorrow (and thanks to those of you who sent me a link early!). I’ll be updating periodically throughout the blogathon. Don’t forget that I’ll be holding a drawing for the participants, too! The winner will receive a $50 gift certificate to the Damfinos’ online Buster store. The drawing will be held on Thursday, March 12th–I’ll be in touch with the winner!

Image result for buster keaton

Readers: Drop by often today and tomorrow to see the latest posts–and don’t forget that we bloggers love comments!

And if you’re curious, here are the links to the First, SecondThird, Fourth and Fifth Annual Buster Blogathons–a veritable library of all things Buster!

Alright, get cozy on your couch and let’s start reading!!

The Roster:

Silent-ology | Reviewing all of Buster’s 1930s Educational shorts

MovieMovieBlogBlogIIThe General

Cameras Against Humanity | Keaton and the Kuleshov Effect

Big V Riot SquadThe Saphead

MovieRobThe Stolen Jools

and The Navigator

Thoughts of One Truly LovedThe Navigator

Groovy Like a Silent Movie | Essay on Buster’s fandom

Ben Model’s Blog | “Buster Keaton Inspires Don Lockwood” essay

and “Undercranking Study: Buster Keaton Trails a Suspect” essay

Taking Up RoomIn the Good Old Summertime

Wonderful World of CinemaDay Dreams

Movie Crash CourseThe General

The Everyday CinephileThe Cameraman

Century Film ProjectConvict 13

Way Too Damn Lazy To Write a BlogSpeak Easily 

Critica RetroSherlock Jr

Talk About CinemaThe Railrodder and Buster Keaton Rides Again

Silver17 Productions | Fan trailer for The Cook

Kino JoanSherlock Jr

 

Did Billie Ritchie Really Die From An Ostrich Attack?

In his day, British music hall veteran Billie Ritchie was a popular film comedian with a mighty suspicious resemblance to Charlie Chaplin. Today, he might be best known as the hi-larious answer to a trivia question: Which obscure silent film comedian was kicked to death by an ostrich? Why, poor Billie of course!  (Or maybe it was several ostriches–or maybe they bit him–the trivia question varies.)

Billie Ritchie ostriche pics picgoer July 10 '15

This was taken years before the supposed attack, btw. Pictures and the Picturegoer, July 10 1915.

But maybe, like me, you’re wondering precisely how an ostrich-related injury could lead to someone’s death–a full two years after the fact, mind you. (Didn’t know about that time frame? Yup, it’s true.) And maybe you’re suspicious that the details about the ostriches vary so much–was the unfortunate Billie kicked or mauled by the savage birds? And how many birds were there? One or more than one? Since this is obviously is one of the most debated questions of the modern age, let us examine it more closely. Continue reading

Who Is Douglas MacLean (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?

Okay, in this context “everybody” means “a decent selection of the silent film community.” And if you’re part of that decent selection, you might’ve already heard: Undercrank Productions is bringing two Douglas MacLean features to DVD!! With the help of fine fans like yourself, of course.

Douglas MacLean in One a Minute (1921)

I’m sensing a lot of you are thinking: “Wait, who?” An understandable question. In an age when someone like Harry Langdon is deemed obscure, Douglas MacLean is practically obsolete. But that’s exactly why two of his surviving features should find new audiences. Like the work of other obscure figures such as Alice Howell and Marcel Perez, it shines a new light into some of the hidden nooks and crannies of early cinema. Continue reading

Thoughts On: “Soldier Man” (1926)

To say that the gentle, baby-faced, cartoon-character-come-to-life Harry Langdon is not an obvious pick for a World War I-themed film might seem like a huge understatement. But funnily enough, there was something about the sight of Langdon’s innocent clown blundering through shell-pitted battlegrounds that worked. Was it the contrast, which was so stark that it became funny? Did the “Little Elf’s” bewilderment echo the disillusionment many folks had felt during those stressful war years?

Harry soldier man crouching

In any case, Langdon would use WWI gags a bit more often than most clowns, in the short All Night Long (1924), the feature The Strong Man (1926), and the three-reeler Soldier Man (1926). Soldier Man in particular seems to get overlooked, which is a shame–many of the scenes and gags are certainly what I would call “classic Harry.” Continue reading

From Pie Throwing To Polished Farce: How Silent Comedy Evolved In Under Two Decades

Say the phrase “silent comedy,” and instantly a host of clichés come to mind–pratfalls, silly mustaches, banana peels, wacky acting, and of course, pie throwing. (Although the latter wasn’t as common as we think).

BehindScrene pie face

50% of silent comedy pies were in this film (maybe).

Of course, there’s more to the huge world of silent comedy than those clichés (not that we don’t love them). From the one-reel farces of Max Linder to the light comedies of John Bunny and Flora Finch to the epic scale of The General, a wide variety of films fit under the “laughmaker” label, and this is partly because there were distinct trends in comedy that evolved just as quickly as cinema did itself. Continue reading