There's no question that filmmaking has come a long, long way in 100 years. Thanks to green screens, digital effects and CGI, today's filmmakers can make almost anything they can imagine come to life on screen. Moviegoers have grown used to seeing magical worlds, supernatural powers and impossible feats in movies, we get quite finicky if the quality of the effects doesn't hold up to our high standards.
Sometimes we watch movies from decades ago and giggle at how undeveloped the special effects were. And sometimes we watch old films and marvel at what they were able to do with the technology they had available to them at the time.
That's where Buster Keaton comes in.
Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin were both kings of physical comedy during the heyday of silent film, with Keaton being known for his expressionless physical feats and Chaplin being known for his goofy expressiveness. Both men excelled in their craft, and looking at Buster Keaton's stunts today is still incredibly impressive.
The man was fearless. And so physical. It's like watching "Mission Impossible" Tom Cruise mixed with peak Jackie Chan. But what's most impressive is that he did it all without the benefit of modern film technology. Naturally, there were some 1920s-era film tricks involved in some scenes, but he really did some incredibly difficult and dangerous things—things most people wouldn't even attempt.
Such impressive feats didn't come without a cost, however. Despite his stunt skills, he sustained some significant injuries throughout his film and television career, including broken bones, some severe neck damage and a near-drowning incident.
"He's like a human cartoon," someone commented, and it's true. It's like watching a real-life cartoon. Even today, nearly 100 years later, his physical comedy genius stands out among the best ever. Countless comedians and stunt performers have looked to him as an example and have used his performances as inspiration for their own.
It's not often that we can look back at something someone did a century ago and still hold it up as impressive by today's standards, but Keaton's feats fit that bill. What a treat that we got such a talent captured on film.
Before Edgar Wright and Wes Anderson, before Chuck Jones and Jackie Chan, there was Buster Keaton, one of the founding fathers of visual comedy.
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