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JulyDiaz

The General

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Amy & Paul plow full steam ahead through Buster Keaton's silent opus The General! They realize this was the Fast And Furious of 1926, examine the rivalry between Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, and dig into Buster's incredibly depressing childhood. Plus: An interview with Jeff Tremaine, the director of the Jackass films, on why he's never messed around with trains.

Does The Shawshank Redemption deserve to be the #1 film on IMDB? Call the Unspooled voicemail line at 747-666-5824 with your take. Follow us on Twitter @Unspooled, and don’t forget to rate, review & subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts.

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Paul, please see some of Buster Keaton's shorter films not eligible for the AFI list. Sherlock Jr. and Seven Chances are both way better. I've seen The General a couple times and I don't feel it's his best work at all. The General was the first Buster Keaton film I saw and I thought I just didn't get it. But from a laughs per minute aspect, he has so many better films.

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Sherlock, Jr is so good, that was the first Buster Keaton movie I saw too, and the well for lack of a better term, water stunt is almost insane. That's also a stunt that broke his neck and Keaton didn't realize it for 9 years. I prefer it to The General as well, but I get WHY The General is on the list.

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Ha! I was thinking as I was watching this last night, "Man this is as thrilling of an action movie as Fast and Furious!"

 

I had heard of this movie but never knew what it was actually about (The Confederacy looks super great? Yikes) but knew that this was the train movie where he legitimately did a bunch of train stunts where he could have died if things didn't work out the way they wanted to, and in that sense this was actually really captivating. Sure this isn't the kind of action we see now, but knowing that he was actually required to perfectly move those beams on the track at the exact right time or else that very real train was going to kill him had me tuned the fuck in.

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Earlier this year, I went through a thing where I watched a whole bunch of short silent films and I did focus on a whole bunch of Keaton's. Some of them are just so fun... there was one, The Scarecrow, I think, where I was just like, "that was the most entertaining 15 minutes I've ever watched." Nothing is funnier than watching Buster run through the streets with a mob chasing him. The way he runs just kills me. The stunts aren't just impressive, but they're often hilarious too. Paul, yes, you need to go to Wikipedia and watch as many as possible. (Pro-tip: they're all on wikipedia directly so easy to find.)

 

That said, The General, was the first 'feature' length film I've seen of Keaton's. It can be tough to sit through long silent films to be honest, but I didn't run into that trouble with The General. But basically, once I realized it wasn't a comedy, I was into it. You expect that because it stars Buster Keaton, human cartoon, but get past that, and I think it's quite notable. (I made this joke on Letterboxd and twitter, but I think this is the best Mission: Impossible film by far.)

 

A few things didn't work - the bear trap scene looked fake and ridiculous, the girl's story was weird (join the army or else! ok).

 

So while it may not be the 'best' Keaton movie, or maybe it is but it isn't the best representative of his films, it's still shot beautifully, with good storytelling and amazing stunts.

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the girl's story was weird (join the army or else! ok).

 

I didn't really have a problem with that simply because that was a thing. If you didn't enlist, it meant you were a coward. Different war, but isn't that what Four Feathers is about?

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I didn't really have a problem with that simply because that was a thing. If you didn't enlist, it meant you were a coward. Different war, but isn't that what Four Feathers is about?

 

Yea, still bugged me though. Maybe it was more how she was written. But was it really a thing? Or is it just a movie screenwriter thing?

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I'm basically going to echo everyone else and say, I thought the General was fine, but it really didn't move me in any way. I've said this before, but prior to Unspooled, I was doing my own personal journey through the AFI 100, and while I haven't seen every silent film on the list, for me, The General ranks below Sunrise and above Intolerance (3 HOURS, guys!)

 

I would also add my voice to the chorus of people who cannot abide Old Hollywood's hard-on for the South.* Like Amy said, The General was made only 60 years after the war. I mean, WW II was 73 years ago and I can't imagine anyone greenlighting a romantic-adventure-comedy featuring a Nazi where the Allies are portrayed as the bad guys. I guess Keaton felt like the South should be the heroes because that's around the time when all of those "historical" Confederate statues were going up. I'm not saying that Keaton himself was racist, but maybe he was riding on the crest of a racist wave.

 

(Eventually, we'll be getting to The Searchers where a Union cavalry man is the butt of all the jokes. They make fun of how stupid he is and how cowardly the Union was, but it's like, bro, you lost to them so I guess that makes you dumber still, huh?)

 

The only pass I might give, and I haven't see it in a while, is to Gone With the Wind. I think that's an important movie because, while it does glorify the South, it also gives a unique perspective of what life would have been like at the time for the landed gentry. I guess I feel like it has more to offer than just: "The South rules, the Union drools."

 

*I live in the South.

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What bugged me was they really couldn't settle on if she was smart or dumb. Like when he asks her to throw the wood into the fire and then she just stops to start sweeping the engine? And then he chastises her, throws the broom over the side, and tells her to pick up more wood. So what does she do? She picks up a twig and then he chokes her, then kisses her.

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Yea, still bugged me though. Maybe it was more how she was written. But was it really a thing? Or is it just a movie screenwriter thing?

 

I mean, getting shot and killed for cowardice is definitely a thing. Were people judged by civilians for not fighting? I don't really know, but if you were young and healthy, I can imagine you probably were. In her case, both her father and her brother jump at the chance to enlist for "The Cause" and here's this guy who - for all she knows - is like, "No, it's cool. I'm not going to fight to protect my country. They can burn it to the ground for all I care."

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I mean, WW II was 73 years ago and I can't imagine anyone greenlighting a romantic-adventure-comedy featuring a Nazi where the Allies are portrayed as the bad guys.

Yesterday at work I had to edit a poster that came from Dinesh D'Souza's production company that paints a certain current president in a heroic light so honestly I wouldn't say never on something like that considering the times we live in...

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What bugged me was they really couldn't settle on if she was smart or dumb. Like when he asks her to throw the wood into the fire and then she just stops to start sweeping the engine? And then he chastises her, throws the broom over the side, and tells her to pick up more wood. So what does she do? She picks up a twig and then he chokes her, then kisses her.

 

I felt like Keaton should have broke the fourth wall there and a title card reading "Women always be sweepin'" should have popped up.

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Yesterday at work I had to edit a poster that came from Dinesh D'Souza's production company that paints a certain current president in a heroic light so honestly I wouldn't say never on something like that considering the times we live in...

 

But, like, an honest to God motion picture and not just masturbatory propaganda? I mean, maaaaaaaaybe...but I feel like it would definitely get more heat than The General probably got.

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The fact that he did in fact change the story from the North's perspective to the South's is incredibly interesting and troubling. As I was watching it I was convinced that this must be about something that truly happened or based on a book, but it's more damaging to me that while yes it was based on a book, it was based on a book about the North. I wonder if Hollywood then was just paying attention to the same kinds of things that Hollywood now pays attention to. Like maybe the mass amounts of media being pushed in that suddenly paints The Confederacy as "not the bad guys" is because they knew that's what would get people in the seats? Like the same reason why Hollywood in modern times tried to convince us that female superheros weren't profitable? Or the way they try to convince us that Scarlett Johansson can be an Asian woman or a trans man and no one will notice?

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But, like, an honest to God motion picture and not just masturbatory propaganda? I mean, maaaaaaaaybe...but I feel like it would definitely get more heat than The General probably got.

It would definitely get more heat, but I guess the fact that people living in this the year 2018 still wave around the nazi flag like it's their god damn point of pride shows to me that somehow it would still get green lit, and then probably the studio would back peddle and act like they had no idea.

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I mean, weren't the creators of Game Of Thrones making some sort of show about 'what if the Confederacy won'?

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I mean, weren't the creators of Game Of Thrones making some sort of show about 'what if the Confederacy won'?

Yup, which reminded me they were inspired by the Hulu show that was an alternate reality where the Nazi's won.

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I mean, weren't the creators of Game Of Thrones making some sort of show about 'what if the Confederacy won'?

 

I’ve never heard that. But were they trying to say “What if the Confederacy won? Wouldn’t it would have been great?”

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I’ve never heard that. But we’re they trying to say “What if the Confederacy won? Wouldn’t it would have been great?”

It was announced a year and a half ago

 

It got hella heat online because we were days away from the inauguration when this was announced, and at a point where we were seeing black people killed at least once a week by cops, so a lot of the criticism I saw was, "We don't have to imagine... we're currently living it."

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I mean, weren't the creators of Game Of Thrones making some sort of show about 'what if the Confederacy won'?

They were and they tried to explain it wouldn't be like what literally everyone thought it would be like. But, fortunately, the public shaming convinced HBO to stop.

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It was announced a year and a half ago

 

It got hella heat online because we were days away from the inauguration when this was announced, and at a point where we were seeing black people killed at least once a week by cops, so a lot of the criticism I saw was, "We don't have to imagine... we're currently living it."

 

I mean, I get that. But that’s not quite the point I was making.

 

My point was taking a full, card carrying Nazi and writing a movie where he’s the heroic romantic lead. A movie where at the end he’s like, “Yup, I sincerely still believe in all this garbage.”

 

You’re talking about alternate histories that, however misguided, were most likely not going to make the case that the South/Nazis *should* have won.

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I mean, I get that. But that’s not quite the point I was making.

 

My point was taking a full, card carrying Nazi and writing a movie where he’s the heroic romantic lead. A movie where at the end he’s like, “Yup, I sincerely still believe in all this garbage.”

 

You’re talking about alternate histories that, however misguided, were most likely not going to make the case that the South/Nazis *should* have won.

I know your point? I had moved on? To talk about the show that Almost brought up? That you said you had not heard of?

 

But, to your last sentence, obviously they're not painting them as a "wow look at how great everything is" in terms of the South/Nazi's winning, but I think the point in bringing up the fact that "Confederate's" criticisms were about our current climates are valid. The reason why "The Man in the High Castle" worked was because none of us could actually imagine a world in which Nazism would be accepted in this country (obviously was before Charlottesville), but "Confederate" is brought up in a time where people still can't let go of the fact that the South lost. So the road to hell is paved with good intentions but the brutality of black people involved in such a production is absolutely unneeded and was rightfully cut.

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I know your point? I had moved on? To talk about the show that Almost brought up? That you said you had not heard of?

 

I'm sorry.

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It's interesting we went this way in this thread. And why our Unspooled discussions are better than what pop up on twitter or facebook haha. Thanks for the forum shout-out, Amy!

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I'm sorry.

Lol it's cool! We're probably having way too many conversations at once.

 

We'll dance it out.

 

pjt.gif

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