Wednesday, December 08, 2004

TV: So Funny It Hurt

The most painful half-hour of television I’ve seen in a while. This TCM documentary focuses on Buster Keaton’s stint as a contract employee at MGM. The studio was so regimented in the way it made movies that Keaton was denied creative input on his films. By the end of his five-year run, he was essentially unemployable, and was reduced to selling his old gags for use in Red Skelton movies. We see some of the bits performed by both actors back-to-back.

The documentary, which is included on a new DVD of later Keaton efforts, is hosted by Keaton’s friend, the character actor James Karen. He’s had a fine and varied career, but I’ll always think of him as the Pathmark guy.

I was convinced that the actor playing the German soldier in a scene from the 1930 WWI comedy DOUGHBOYS, which Leonard Maltin calls “one of Buster’s worst films,” was Donald Pleasence. That’s not possible, because Pleasence was 11 at the time. Still, the resemblance is startling.

Book: The Enemy, by Lee Child (2004)

Many authors delve into a character’s past as a way of keeping a series fresh. Few have done it as effectively as Child does here. In this book, set in early 1990, Jack Reacher is still a military policeman. It’s fascinating to watch him butt heads with those in authority and slowly become disillusioned with the service.

Reacher is assigned to look into the death of a two-star general at a sleazy motel. The book is more of a straightforward mystery than some of the other titles in the series, but Child’s gifts for pacing and sharp dialogue are on full display.

Noticed: The Christopher Guest Effect

I can take the new Sierra Mist ad featuring Fred Willard and Michael McKean, members of Guest’s regular company of players. But the villains in BLADE: TRINITY include Parker Posey and John Michael Higgins. Does this mean we’ll see Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 3?

Miscellaneous: Links

If I wanted to reintroduce my grandfather’s classic silent comedies to “families, kids and regular people,” I don’t know that I’d begin by releasing a book of 3-D nude photos he’d taken of various women. But then, I’m not Harold Lloyd’s granddaughter. And from National Lampoon, here are the 10 least successful holiday specials. None of them would hold a candle to the STAR WARS extravaganza that George Lucas has tried to hush up. Happy Life Day, everyone!