Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Films of Buster Keaton: Features Ranked

Previously, I ranked the 19 shorts that Keaton made between 1920-1923, so I figured I had to rank his 12 features that he made from 1923-1929. To me, they are pretty easy to split into three categories – the top 4 being absolute masterpieces – among the best comedies ever made, the next four are also great, would be triumphs for most lesser directors, but are a notch below Keaton’s very best, and the bottom four are interesting, fun, lightweight entertainments – enjoyable to be sure, but would probably have been forgotten if not for the fact they were directed by a genius.

This will be my last ranking for this series – I have 11 shorts left to see, but they aren’t as easily broken down like his 1920-23 shorts, or his features, so I don’t see much point in ranking them. Enough of that – here is how I would rank Keaton’s films.

12. Battling Butler (1926) – Keaton’s most plot heavy film – and it suffers because of it, as the plot is both inane and needlessly complex, and eats up too much screen time explaining. Great fight sequence at the end, and amusing bits throughout; make it interesting, but not altogether satisfying.

11. College (1927) – A box office disappointment at the time, and one that hasn’t really gone through any serious critical re-evaluation – it’s amusing to see Keaton attempt, and fail, at different sports but it never really comes together.

10. Three Ages (1923) – Keaton’s first feature, where he hedged his bets and essentially made three connected shorts. They work better as a whole than they would have individually – but still suffers a little for being disjointed.

9. Go West (1925) – This one has grown on me a little since I first saw it as part of this series – still one of his weaker efforts, but I loved the love story between Keaton and Brown Eyes.

8. Spite Marriage (1929) – His final feature – which I think is somewhat underrated – hilarious at times, even if it never quite matches his best.

7. The Navigator (1924) – The best moments are as good as anything he has ever done, and the love story is more developed than most, but some of the sequences drag a little bit – especially the finale, which is usually where he wows us.

6. Seven Chances (1925) – The first forty minutes are quite amusing, as Keaton tries everything to find a wife. The last 20 minutes are downright genius, as it’s an extended chase sequence that he handles brilliantly.

5. Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) – Slightly more emotionally complex than many of Keaton’s films – and an amazing cyclone finale make this one of Keaton’s best films.

4. The Cameraman (1928) – The love story is wonderful, the dual action climaxes are great, and even if lacks some of the more anarchy of many of Keaton’s films – as MGM made him use a script! – and it’s still brilliant.

3. Our Hospitality (1923) – Keaton’s second film, and first masterpiece, is one of his best narratives – and also one of the most beautiful films of his career. It’s also hilarious.

2. The General (1927) – Undoubtedly Keaton’s most famous, and logistically complex, film – and it’s as great as you’ve heard it is. A masterpiece.

1. Sherlock Jr. (1924) – Always has been, and always will be, my favorite Keaton – technically brilliant, and an expert examination of our relationship to the movies. A true masterpiece – worthy of my adding it to my list of the 10 greatest films of all time.

No comments:

Post a Comment