(Just a single rule: mix-tape-style, no more than one film per director. You know, because otherwise the whole thing would be pointless.)
(#10) Sherlock Jr.
Comedy • dir. Buster Keaton • 1924 • USA
A few years back I was having what polite society calls a bad day at the office. (I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say my colleague was being a big old douche.) When I returned to my desk, my hackles were up and motivation levels distinctly down… All I had in front of me, it seemed, was rancor and a wretched afternoon. But no! On my computer was a fullscreen image of Buster Keaton. From The General, it was a wallpaper image out of 50 or so I had on an endless random loop. Right then and there I could have given Keaton a kiss and the monitor a hug. I could have thrown myself to my knees and waved happy hands in the air, like a gospel sing lost in song. Almost unmatched in my life, it was a wave of pleasure so unexpected and high that it overwhelmed utterly the grim encounter leading to it.
Buster Keaton makes me happy. I love how he overcomes odds, escapes injury, and outruns chaos. I love how there is something innate in him that refuses to be contained, and the way his films are unfailingly kinetic – the opposite of his trademark stony-faced, deadpan demeanor. Even in the rare moments that Keaton is still, the world around him is a rush. It’s ostensibly an antagonistic world but, in fact, one he cannot help but survive, with impossible agility, a backbone a thousand pratfalls can never break, and a thousand more near-misses the thrilling result of unblinking obliviousness, or else, as needs must, some crazy scheme only he can execute brazenly enough to work. And I love most of all how rousing a contrast his films are to the occasional drudgery of real life; how they can outflank limitations, outpace disappointment, and outlast – easily – the small frustrations of the day. In movies as mighty and as funny as Sherlock Jr., certain strips of celluloid don’t merely help to pass the time of day, but fill it full of reasons to care either way.