The earliest love poem to cinema’s power that I’ve seen, Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. follows a clumsy projectionist (Keaton) with dreams of becoming a famous gumshoe through reality and fantasy alike. In the real world, our tragic hero is, shall we say, a bit of a sad sack. He’s broke, unlucky (for instance, he scrounges up a few bucks that were mistakenly tossed in the theater’s trash, but misses a thick wallet full of bills), and carries around a copy of “How to be a Detective” despite having no instincts or talents whatsoever. His rival for the always-prevalent girl—known only as The Villain—is smoother, better dressed, and one step ahead of him in the tricks department, even framing Keaton’s out-of-luck protagonist for stealing a pocketwatch. Beaten down and at a loss, he returns to his day job in the projectionist booth, dozes off…and voila! The cinema opens up new worlds! Transformed in his dream, the new-and-improved, dashing Keaton outsmarts the entire town, eats his nemesis for breakfast (not literally, of course), and winds up the victor in all senses, be it a battle of the minds or getting the girl. Though I’ve never found Keaton as funny as Chaplin, his physical gifts and gymnast-like moves are something to see, and with Sherlock Jr., he gives us a terrific prelude to what directors like Godard and Bogdanovich would do much, much later with their camera’s and cinematic passions. That the director and lead are the same man here adds a wonderful wrinkle to the proceedings. This is definitely my favorite Keaton, and should be required viewing for film students and lovers everywhere.