Films of 2017

Let’s hope my life finally hit rock bottom in 2017. (At age 62, fat chance!) I’m looking forward to wrapping up my two book projects by mid-2018, and then starting to actually live again.  Reading books, buying CDs, figuring out how to watch films on the internet.  (BTW, is Netflix as awful as it looks, or am I missing something?  Their selection of good films seems virtually nil.  Where are the good films on the internet?)

Ross Douthat is a brilliant essayist who has a blind spot when it comes to sex.  His newest piece is titled:

Let’s Ban Porn

I’m trying to visualize how this would be implemented.  Perhaps Jeff Sessions will sit in a room all day, screening X-rated art films from France, Italy and Japan, trying to determine whether they are pornographic.  (I say yes, but in a good way.)  What would Jeffrey make of In the Realm of the Senses? There’s an amusing Atom Egoyan film that gets at the internal contradictions of censorship.  If watching porn really does turn us into bad people, as Douthat seems to think, then under his proposed regime the actual censorship decisions will be made by moral degenerates.

Despite the fact that the proposal is silly on many levels, it would not surprise me at all if Douthat wins in the long run.  The US is going downhill in so many different ways—why should this be any different?  [I’m striking a blow against the New Puritanism by topping my list with a film I was not allowed to see.  I liked the previews, and was really looking forward to it.]

In fairness to Douthat, I do see one silver lining in his proposal.  There was a time, way back in the 1960s, when lots of Americans did go to see foreign films.  Especially foreign art films.  That brief golden age occurred at the point in time when we’d liberalized enough to allow in “erotic” Swedish and France films, but not so much as to allow “porn” (Which I define as erotic art films for the working class. Yes, there’s a lot of class snobbery in the new puritanism.)  Once Americans were given access to their own home grown porn in the 1970s, they stopped going to see films by Godard, Bergman and Antonioni.  Wouldn’t it be funny if Douthat got his way, and Americans were once again forced to watch long boring art films, just to catch a glimpse of skin!

2017 Films

I Love You, Daddy.  (US)  4.0  I’m hoping this will be what Woody Allen films should be, but aren’t.  Something a bit more Kubrick-like.

Stalker (Russia, 1979) 4.0 Not just my favorite Tarkovsky, my all-time favorite European film. Geoff Dyer said it best:

it’s not enough to say that Stalker is a great film – it is the reason cinema was invented.

Twin Peaks Part II (US) 3.9 Not as good as part one, but then that was the best TV show of all time. Reminds me of “In the Mood For Love” in the way the director used the posture of actresses in a very evocative way. Check out the scene where Lynch and the two FBI women are out on the porch having a cigarette. Nothing is said for about 2 minutes, and it plays no role in the plot. But it’s stupendous filmmaking—an example of what makes cinema magical. And let’s not even talk about Naomi Watts, who is brilliant throughout the series.

I searched online and found someone else who liked the scene on the porch as much as I did:

The series is also a critique of the anti-cigarette hysteria on the rise in America.

Thelma (Norway) 3.7 A very enjoyable Norwegian film, very skillfully directed. Doesn’t break any new ground, but I was engrossed throughout the entire 2 hours.

After the Storm (Japan) 3.7 Another gem from Kore-eda, my favorite living Japanese director. This one is probably worth seeing twice, as there’s a lot going on right below the surface.

Sweet Bean (Japan, 2015) 3.6 Directed by Naomi Kawase, another great Japanese director that I had somehow overlooked. Reminds me a little bit of the style of Kore-eda. A beautiful understated film; the polar opposite of what gets produced in Hollywood these days. Now I need to find her earlier films.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (US) 3.6 The best Star Wars film since the first two. They finally found a director who is more than just a corporate clone. It still fell short of what it might have been—Mark Hamill is not a good actor and the depictions of alien planets continue to be quite unimaginative.

Intimacies (Japan, 2012) 3.6 A nearly 4½ hour film by the director of Happy Hour. The first half shows people putting together a theatrical production and is pretty slow going. After intermission we see the play itself, which becomes increasingly engrossing. I have no interest in theatre, but I enjoy seeing filmed plays. This is a director to watch.

Full Metal Jacket (US, 1989) 3.6 This uneven Kubrick film is saved by the intense final battle.

The Square (Swedish) 3.6 A film that is full of ideas, and lots of sharp observation, although it doesn’t have the sustained artistic vision of something by Lars von Trier, Kubrick, Haneke, etc. It’s a tweener, but a pretty engrossing 2 ½ hours. In its defense, the satire of the art world and liberalism more broadly is not always as obvious as it might seem. Strongly recommended for people who (unlike me) like their cinema mixed with social commentary.

Brimstone and Glory (Mexican) 3.6 Documentary about a small town in Mexico that puts on a stupendous fireworks festival each year. Imagine the running of the bulls in Spain, except at night with dazzling fireworks.   Soon after the film was completed, many people in this town died in a fireworks accident.

Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned (Korea) 3.5 A charming Korean crowd pleaser, which I found myself enjoying more than I expected. The director (Tae-hwa Eom) is someone to watch.

Columbus (US) 3.5 I’m tempted to say that this film is not for people who have short attention spans. But then maybe it’s not about attention spans at all, but rather a question of interest—more specifically it’s for people with an interest in architecture. (The character I stole this line from was the most interesting person in the film, but he only had a small role.)

Blade Runner 2049 (US) 3.5 This is an outstanding film in many ways, especially the visual effects. So why do I rate it slightly below the original? I’m not quite sure. Maybe it’s just a question of originality—the first one had a fresh (and sublime) vision, and this one just recycled that vision. Originality seems especially important in sci-fi. Or perhaps it tried to do too much. The last half hour dragged on, and seemed somewhat pointless.

Lolita (US, 1962) 3.5 This uneven Kubrick film is saved by Peter Seller’s inspired performance. (A warm-up for Strangelove.)   It’s probably unfair to compare the film to the book. Kubrick and Nabokov are very different artists, and hence the film should not be anything like the book. And it isn’t.

David Lynch: The Art Life (US) 3.5 A very interesting documentary about David Lynch. He did not direct the film, but there are moments when it feels like he did. Lots of glimpses of his graphic art.

Blade of the Immortal (Japan) 3.4 The 100th film by Takashi Miike. I’ve only seen two, which leaves 98 to go. Not my favorite genre (lots of blood) but it’s nice to see a real craftsman at work.

Youth (China) 3.3 The sort of film Spielberg would make if he had been born in China. Tries to do too much, but it’s fairly engrossing.  If I were Chinese I’d rate this lower–too emotionally manipulative.

March of Fools (Korea, 1975) 3.2 Interesting coming of age film from a director I had not seen before.

La La Land (US) 3.0 With all the talent in Hollywood, do they really have to rely on so many clichés? Her dream is living in Paris? Even Chinese directors use Prague.

Your Name (Japan) 3.0 This animated feature was a smash hit in Japan. It’s good, but I found it to be somewhat derivative.

The Swindlers (Korea) 2.9 This entertaining film is full of twists and double crosses, but in the end it didn’t make much sense (at least to me.)

Woman of Fire (Korea, 1971) 2.8 At times it’s one of those campy “so bad it’s good” films, at other times it’s somewhat engrossing. And sometimes it’s just bad. Might be of some interest to Tarantino fans.

Baby Driver (US) 2.8 Mildly entertaining, but also rather silly. I would have given it 3.0 rating if the film had ended with Dave Edmunds’ 1970s pop classic “Deborah” playing over the credits. (The two stars kept trying to think of a great pop song with “Deborah” in the title.)

Dreams That Money Can Buy (US, 1947) 2.5 Not very good, but interesting in what it tells us about progress in the cinema. While certain types of films (comedy, drama, noir, etc.) have made almost no progress since the 1940s, visionary film-making improved dramatically between 1947 and 1968, when 2001: A Space Odyssey came out (not to mention Tarkovsky). Here’s what Wikipedia says:

Dreams That Money Can Buy is a 1947 experimental feature color film written, produced, and directed by surrealist artist and dada film-theorist Hans Richter.

The film was produced by Kenneth Macpherson and Peggy Guggenheim.

Collaborators included Max ErnstMarcel DuchampMan RayAlexander CalderDarius Milhaud and Fernand Léger. The film won the Award for the Best Original Contribution to the Progress of Cinematography at the 1947 Venice Film Festival.

Saint Terrorist (Japan, 1980) 2.2 Nihilistic punk filmmaking from Japan. Not my cup of tea.



54 Responses to “Films of 2017”

  1. Gravatar of Tine Scath Tine Scath
    12. February 2018 at 14:33

    Best film streaming site is Filmstruck, it’s a collaboration between critereon and turner classic movies and has so many incredible films, plus some great curation (none of the automated recommendations that end up being the same old stuff after a few months) that serves to highlight movies on the basis of director, genre, topic, country, style, etc, etc in a rotating basis. Lots of the Criteron extras too if that’s your thing, though not nearly as much as an actual blu-ray would get you.

  2. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    12. February 2018 at 14:36

    Thanks Tine, I don’t need the extras, but do like Hi-def. Do the films come in 4k?

  3. Gravatar of Sam Sam
    12. February 2018 at 14:48

    There’s also a service called Kanopy ( that one of your academic affiliations may get you free access to (if the university library has an agreement with them).

  4. Gravatar of Tine Scath Tine Scath
    12. February 2018 at 15:03

    It really varies movie to movie. I don’t think there’s any in 4k because we’re mostly talking older (not that I’d know, got nothing that can play 4k) and indie/arthouse movies here that never got that sort of release, but the newer films are definitely HD, as are the older Critereon films that’ve had a blu-ray release they can work off of.

  5. Gravatar of ChacoKevy ChacoKevy
    12. February 2018 at 15:29

    re: star wars – would you describe yourself as a fan of the franchise? More than anything else that seems to be a driver of whether one liked the movie (you) or not (me). I’d guess you don’t get caught up in the hysteria like my fellow nerds.

  6. Gravatar of Rajat Rajat
    12. February 2018 at 15:35

    Just wondering if you saw ‘Get Out’? I realise it’s probably not what you look for in a film, but as someone who doesn’t normally watch ‘horror’, I found the build-up quite effective.

  7. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    12. February 2018 at 15:55

    Thanks Sam.

    Thanks Tine.

    Chacokevy, I would describe myself as a fan, but maybe not an ordinary fan. I don’t recall the plots of earlier Star Wars films, and in general I don’t care much about plot in any film. So I could care less whether a film is faithful to anyone’s visions of what the plot should be like. That would be equally true if they made a film of my favorite novel.

    Rajat, I heard that was good, but missed it. I miss a lot of films these days.

  8. Gravatar of Jason Smith Jason Smith
    12. February 2018 at 16:34

    For films, one option for obscure stuff is Fandor. Now also available as a channel from Amazon.

  9. Gravatar of Rick G Rick G
    12. February 2018 at 16:54

    You can just dismiss all of Netflix on the grounds that it doesn’t have enough good films, or you can say that Last Jedi is a good films, but you can’t do both.

  10. Gravatar of Market Fiscalist Market Fiscalist
    12. February 2018 at 17:31

    There are some decent movies on Netflix. Here is a link to Rotten Tomatoes that lists their highest rated ones:;2;4;5;6;8;9;10;11;13;18;14&sortBy=tomato

  11. Gravatar of Jmcsf Jmcsf
    12. February 2018 at 18:03

    The Florida Project is great. I would definitely check out Dunkirk and Get Out. Also, Netflix is really TV focused…watch Stranger Things what else do you need!?!

  12. Gravatar of TheMoneyIllusion » Films of 2017 – Courtier en Bourse TheMoneyIllusion » Films of 2017 – Courtier en Bourse
    12. February 2018 at 18:44

    […] les réponses à cette entrée en appuyant sur Flux RSS Vous pouvez laisser une réponse ou Rétrolien depuis votre […]

  13. Gravatar of Massimo Heitor Massimo Heitor
    12. February 2018 at 18:49

    I trust Sumner’s taste on movies. I will definitely try many from this list that I haven’t seen yet.

  14. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    12. February 2018 at 21:23

    Thanks Jason.

    Rick and Market, I don’t doubt that there are lots of good films on Netflix, maybe a few hundred. But to a film buff like me that’s nothing. I want a site that has several hundred good Japanese films, and several hundred good French films, and 100 good Taiwanese films, and 100 good Iranian films, and all 50 Hitchcock films, and 10 Atom Egoyan films, etc., etc.

    Jmcsf, Yes, all three of those got good reviews—I just didn’t have much time this year.

    As for TV, it’s not my cup of tea. I tried Breaking Bad, but gave up on it.

  15. Gravatar of Nathan Wilson Nathan Wilson
    13. February 2018 at 02:42

    FWIW Amazon Prime Video has roughly 4x the number of movies that Netflix does. I can’t speak to whether that 4x includes the ones you’re looking for though.

  16. Gravatar of Student Student
    13. February 2018 at 05:47

    Scott, good comments on Douthat and porn.

    Most people, aside from the hormone raging teen/young adults and those getting rich off of it, understand that pornography (particularly the vulgar artless internet variety) is neither moral nor good for a person.

    After that acknowledgement, I must say, Douthat (and many conservative Catholics) are off their rails. As well, they demonstrate ignorance of or have lost sight of the wisdom of some great Saints on these matters.

    Take for example, the great Catholic theologian Saints Augustine and Aquinas. They have said much about morality, freedom, civil law, and issues like pornography and have come down to declare that civil law is not meant to enforce all morality, that is impossible, and things like porn are better left to divine law and should not be prohibited by the state. People like Douthat ought to do their homework on the matter if they are going to bring their Catholicism into it.

    Take Aquinas… he sets up a hierarchy of four laws: eternal law, divine law, natural law, and human law.

    Eternal law and natural law are built into the scheme of things. Eternal law is the direction of Divine Wisdom in the progress of the universe; natural law is the way things ought to work if all worked for the good.

    Divine law and human law are sets of statutes. Divine law is the set of statutes we have to follow for salvation, the goal of which is our eternal happiness. Human law is the set of statutes that makes society a tolerable place to live, a place in which each individual and each family can enjoy what happiness they can find. While human law is based on natural law and is unjust if it opposes divine law, it is not identical with either natural or divine law.

    Human law, according to Aquinas (I find his reasoning compelling) is concerned with the temporal tranquility of the State, and with exterior acts. That’s it. This means human law doesn’t try to control everything, and nor should it. It can’t control personal virtue. It can’t prescribe every action that people should be allowed to do, or forbid every action that they should not do. And it can’t deal at all with interior acts.

    Aquinas is happy to leave to divine law anything not covered by human law. And as we’ve seen in history, he’s right; a State that tried to legislate every area of human activity and thought would not be one worth living in.

    Douthat and others ought to follow Aquinas and recognise that there are certain things the state should not control. Permission is not the same as approval.  Aquinas says the mandate of human law is to prohibit ‘whatever destroys social intercourse’. Thus, murder and theft should clearly be prohibited, and paying one’s debts should be required.

    What about prostitution, adultery, contraception, marriage contracts outside of natural law requirements? What about lying? What about blasphemy? Each statute is an occasion for prudential judgement. Does the statute increase the likelihood of temporal peace and order? Can it be enforced in this particular society?

    Aquinas points out that the coercive and educative power of human law cannot ‘exact perfect virtue from man, for such virtue belongs to few and cannot be found in so great a number of people as human law has to direct.’ Human law, in other words, should allow some evils to exist for the sake of the greater good.

    Given that Aquinas was building on Augustine, let’s take a quick look at what he had to say. “If you do away with harlots, the world will be convulsed with lust.’” If these social practices were to be suppressed, the public reaction might be such as to threaten the peace of society.

    Lastly, a quick look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which contains much of the wisdom of both Augustine and Aquinas)….

    1930 Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy. If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church’s role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims.

    1931 Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that “everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as ‘another self,’ above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity.” No legislation could by itself do away with the fears, prejudices, and attitudes of pride and selfishness which obstruct the establishment of truly fraternal societies. Such behavior will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a “neighbor,” a brother.

    Having the state ban porn would be a horrible idea for the reasons Augustine and Aquinas, and the CCC teach. Conservative Catholics ought to reflect a bit more on the wisdom of their forefathers before that get quite so high on their horses.

  17. Gravatar of AlanInAZ AlanInAZ
    13. February 2018 at 06:22

    “I want a site that has several hundred good Japanese films, and several hundred good French films,….”

    French Films

    Spanish Films

    A full list of hidden genre codes

  18. Gravatar of Market Fiscalist Market Fiscalist
    13. February 2018 at 06:42

    You said “I don’t doubt that there are lots of good films on Netflix, maybe a few hundred” – well you appeared to doubt it when you said in the post “Their selection of good films seems virtually nil” 🙂

  19. Gravatar of UofCnerd UofCnerd
    13. February 2018 at 06:59

    The last Jedi was horrible, period, fan or no fan. Bombs dropping in space? Leia floating in space? Mom jokes? Alex Guinness would be rolling in his grave. Harrison Ford can only be so lucky that he died in the previous one.

  20. Gravatar of Riccardo Riccardo
    13. February 2018 at 07:18

    Two things struck me in your post enough for me to want to leave a comment: your question / insight about Netflix and your liking the Star Wars movie. But Rick G already said what I wanted to say but much better than I could. Still I’ll add how weird it is that someone as sophisticated as you, and who likes so many boring (sometimes great) art films could also like Last Jedi (but – aha! – maybe that’s the common link: boredom). But seriously, your list again affirms that there’s no accounting for taste (which BTW is why the Netflix recommendation engine stinks – it’s solving a hard problem using lots of data but the sum of which is still superficial to understanding what we really like). Love your blog, even as I mostly don’t share your taste in movies 🙂

  21. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    13. February 2018 at 10:50

    Scott, I stumbled across an old Swedish film (Bergman) from 1960 on YouTube (where you can see it in it’s entirety for free) called “Virgin Spring” (“Jungfrukällan” in Swedish). You might like it if you haven’t seen it before. It’s set in the Middle Ages and based on a Swedish ballad from the 12th century.

  22. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    13. February 2018 at 11:01

  23. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    13. February 2018 at 11:11

    … the plot was later adapted into a Wes Craven horror film in the early 1970s. One that Craven originally envisioned to be “porn” in that it would contain explicit sex scenes (he backed away from that in the final version). I’ve seen both films and I think Bergman’s version is better (though it was originally censored in the US for showing too much skin).

  24. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    13. February 2018 at 11:16

    … and in terms of interesting plot twists, the original Medieval ballad is superior to either film!

  25. Gravatar of Randomized Randomized
    13. February 2018 at 14:57

    Netflix does have both Planet Earth series. That alone is worth your money.

  26. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    13. February 2018 at 22:23


    “is Netflix as awful as it looks”

    Ha. There’s always worse: Netflix outside the US. In many countries, Netflix has barely 10% of the film selection that the US gets (yet same subscription fees apply). Distribution rights rackets, I suppose.

    The thing that gets me is that Netflix is worst at what the internet should be best at: satisfaction of the long tail (connecting obscure demand with obscure supply). There isn’t any old / foreign / etc movie there unless it’s mainstream. Mind you they don’t put recent blockbusters either. That would hurt the box office I suppose. The illegal streaming sites are having a good laugh at all that, for those who accept to go through the hassle.

    In all fairness, some Netflix TV shows have been great. Still, I often spend weeks on end before I find anything worth watching.

    Porn: no worries for the censors. In the very near future, some AI will sort out anything remotely objectionable. Body parts will come first, racial stuff next, until somewhere in a decade or so they’ll be able to take out anything from a movie that contains micro-aggressions, such as jokes.

  27. Gravatar of Scott Sumner Scott Sumner
    14. February 2018 at 08:52

    Thanks Nathan.

    Student, You said:

    “nor good for a person.”

    Is reality TV “good for a person”. Does Douthat also think that should be banned? How about professional wrestling? How about bloody horror films? His proposal is silly on so many different levels that one hardly knows where to begin.

    AlaninAZ, Maybe I don’t know how to use Netflix, because when I open that link I do not get a list of French films, I get a handful of French films but mostly English language films.

    However I don’t think it’s just me. I read an article stating that Netflix has a very small collection of older films, there are individual years where they don’t have a single Hollywood film.

    Market, If you walked into the NYC public library, and they had a few hundred good books, how would you describe that collection? What would be the probability of finding a specific book you were looking for?

    Virtually nil?

    UofCNerd. Bombs in space? Wait, you only just discovered that Star Wars films are absurdly unrealistic? We are 8 films into the series!

    Thanks Tom.

    Randomized, Yes, Planet Earth is great. (Both the planet itself, and the film.)

    mbka, Yes, the long tail should be their specialty.

  28. Gravatar of Wednesday assorted links – Marginal REVOLUTION Wednesday assorted links - Marginal REVOLUTION
    14. February 2018 at 08:58

    […] 6. The superb Scott Sumner on cinema in 2017. […]

  29. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    14. February 2018 at 10:04

    Although contra Sumner, I think Sumner is a much better writer than Douthat, I don’t think one should chide him overmuch for suggesting the banning of porn. Obviously Douthat thinks that the widespread availability of porn has caused a large amount of human misery, and wishes it weren’t so. Furthermore as a Catholic Douthat no doubt thinks differently about the nature of good and evil than (say) Sumner does.

    If Douthat’s vision of good and evil is more reflective of good and evil than (say) Sumner’s, then it may be that Sumner’s views are silly (and of course vice-versa).

    Obviously we ban certain kinds of pornography, and on what basis? That the subjects are exploited? Who is to say that all pornographic subjects aren’t exploited? I dunno….

    I am not saying that Douthat’s proposal is a good one, I am just saying that I can see a way of viewing his proposal sympathetically. We don’t allow everything, we will never agree where the lines should be drawn, nor will we ever get it right.

  30. Gravatar of AlanInAZ AlanInAZ
    14. February 2018 at 10:11

    The link I provided does list many french language films that may be mistaken as english language because the title is translated into english. The language of the films is french or whatever language you select from the browsing codes listed in the article I linked to at Business Insider. I do agree that they are mostly recent releases and variable quality.

  31. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    14. February 2018 at 10:47

    First of all, in the second paragraph of my previous comment, that was supposed to be “more reflective of REALITY,” not good and evil.

    “But to a film buff like me that’s nothing. I want a site that has several hundred good Japanese films, and several hundred good French films, and 100 good Taiwanese films, and 100 good Iranian films, and all 50 Hitchcock films, and 10 Atom Egoyan films, etc., etc.”

    Hmmm, does this describe a film “buff” or a film “addict?” First of all, are there really this many “good” films from these countries? I suppose so, but I think it suggests an approach to film that is sub-optimal.

    I can see the appeal of having the entire history of cinema available on the internet, as then you don’t have to go to the trouble and expense of watching films on DVD or Blu-ray. And at some point maybe they’ll all be there for free, similarly to how so much music is de facto free already.

    Personally, I don’t imagine ever wanting to watch hundreds and hundreds of films that I haven’t already seen. Too much dross out there. For me it’s usually much more satisfying to watch something I’ve seen already, and already know it’s worth the time. Great films get better on repeat viewings. Sometimes they get better and better. If you haven’t seen, say, “Once Upon a Time in the West” or “Three Colors: Blue” at least 20 times, you’re missing out, pal! It’s like you haven’t seen them at all.

    Howard Hughes had the right idea, just not the right film. (I remember reading that he had watched “Ice Station Zebra” 75 times, a story of excess only exceeded – to my knowledge – by Hemingway’s “a fifth every day” habit and Elvis’s “one stick of butter” grilled cheese sandwich recipe).

    I think most people recognize this somewhat – how many times do people re-watch “Die Hard” or “Princess Bride” or “The Fugitive?” These things are on TV all the time for a reason – it’s more fun to watch them again than to watch a new Hollywood film, which if it gets decent reviews has p = 1 chance of being inferior and if it gets glowing reviews has p = .98 chance of being inferior.

    I’d rather have 100 great films on DVD than watch a lot of crappy new things, even if this does mean that I might miss a jewel or two. And really if I wasn’t so lazy, and maybe I won’t always be, I can go back through Sumner’s past recommendations and check a few out from the library. (I’ve been meaning to do this).

    I admit that I have a hard time working up the energy to do/confront new things. (Yes, I’m definitely lazy). But at the same time I’m far from exhausting my lifetime capacity of viewings of Ozu, Bresson, Tarantino-Rodriguez, Hawks, etc etc etc.

  32. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    14. February 2018 at 11:07

    “That brief golden age occurred at the point in time when we’d liberalized enough to allow in “erotic” Swedish and France films, but not so much as to allow “porn” (Which I define as erotic art films for the working class. Yes, there’s a lot of class snobbery in the new puritanism.) Once Americans were given access to their own home grown porn in the 1970s, they stopped going to see films by Godard, Bergman and Antonioni.”

    Is this so true? Yes, “I Am Curious (Orange)” had the masses flocking to Swedish experimental cinema. But not that many of the big art-house hits even had any nudity, at least not as I recall. I would have said a decided minority of Godard, Bergman and Antonioni films, and especially a decided minority of Rohmer, Herzog, Kurosawa and Fellini films, were all that titillating.

    I guess I had always thought that the foreign-film boom was just another manifestation of the 60’s cultural “explosion,” not so much a means to a tawdry or maybe not so tawdry end. This is kind of disappointing to learn, if true. Note that in the 70’s Antonioni and Godard weren’t making the kinds of films they’d been making earlier – it’s a lot easier to name 20 great and/or still popular foreign films from 60-65 than from 70-75. In fact I thought that the Germans (Wenders, Herzog, Fassbinder, von Trotta, Schlondorff) kind of filled a void left by the relative paucity of interesting films from France and Italy….

  33. Gravatar of SG SG
    14. February 2018 at 11:10

    Scott, you are severely underrating La La Land, which is the most beautifully cynical piece of Hollywood criticism/apologia since Sunset Boulevard. Two utterly selfish, pathetic creatures of the modern entertainment industrial complex come together and inspire each other to give themselves completely, not to each other, but to the most morally corrupt industry on earth. The best part of the movie is when Emma Stone’s character sees her daughter for about two seconds on screen and and then gleefully hands her back to the nanny. Its obsession with self-reference is so thorough it’s like a black hole. No idea can exist except it relates back to Hollywood in some way (it’s a movie made by Hollywood, about Hollywood, and the climactic scene in which Emma Stone dazzles her casting director centers on her character’s love of her aunt’s….. love of Hollywood). The cliches are certainly intentional.

    Anyway, it is a masterpiece and I want to watch it again.

  34. Gravatar of Alan Goldhammer Alan Goldhammer
    14. February 2018 at 11:40

    Scott, you are correct about Netflix being somewhat spotty. However, some of the original content is quite good. I’m watching Babylon Berlin which is very noirish set in the 1929-33 time period. Looks like it was a joint production with German TV. I mainly watch Netflix and Amazon Prime on my 32 inch Sony through my attached theater computer. It’s just regular HD streams but just fine for my aging eyes.

    I’ll agree with SG’s comments about La La Land; I thought it excellent.

  35. Gravatar of collin collin
    14. February 2018 at 12:01

    Once Americans were given access to their own home grown porn in the 1970s, they stopped going to see films by Godard, Bergman and Antonioni.

    It is true the oh la la of 1960 European movies helped them sell to US audiences but the big break was the changes made with Bonnie & Clyde along with the rating system. After B&C American filmmakers took into account a lot more of the European 1960 New Wave influences with Scoerse & Spielberg leading the way. And the rating system allowed film-makers to do some oh la la in their movies. (Including the Golden Age of B-movies made by people who worked with Corman at one time during their career.)

    And maybe the film quality of Europe diminished in the 1970s as well and the films of Godard, Antonioni, Truffaut and Fellini were not as good as their 1960s work. I love Truffaut but his 1970s movies, especially after 1971, are as good as the 1960s. Bergmann still made great ones in the 1970s. TBH, I rarely like Godard movies because I find it is over-stuffed with good ideas and he over-directs his movies.

  36. Gravatar of Hazel Meade Hazel Meade
    14. February 2018 at 12:59

    I’ve seen ‘I love you, Daddy’. There’s a screener circulating that can be bootlegged, which is the only way to see it.

    It is great, IMO. Works on multiple levels: as a commentary on sexual mores in Hollywood (ironically), as a film about parenting, and as a coming of age story. Malkovich is great. there is a particularly awesome scene (you’ll know it when you get to it), in which he doesn’t utter a word of dialogue – just a series of facial expressions as another character speaks, and those facial expressions speak volumes.
    It’s my favorite film of the year, next to Blade Runner, 2049.

  37. Gravatar of Hazel Meade Hazel Meade
    14. February 2018 at 13:05

    As far as Netflix is concerned, yes, their film selection is horrible. But you should start watching television. In the last 10 years, there has been a kind of TV renaissance – there are lots of great shows with top-rated actors and directors. (Try True Detective (Season 1 only) starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. I suspect you will enjoy the style and mood aspects of it.)

  38. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    14. February 2018 at 13:17

    Alan in AZ, Sorry, my mistake. But they all seem to look like recent films.

    anon/portly, You said:

    “Furthermore as a Catholic Douthat no doubt thinks differently about the nature of good and evil”

    So he thinks porn is evil but not slasher horror movies? In that case I’d agree, he does have a different view of good an evil. Or does he want to ban all bad movies? (I’d guess he does disapprove of slasher films, just wondering where he wants to draw the line.)

    And keep in mind that the minute we ban porn, porn will become a feature of art films. People think ,”I know it when I see it, but they don’t realize that this is only because it’s legal. Make it illegal, and you won’t “know it when you see it.”

    It’s not clear what being Catholic has to do with any of this, I’d assume that Christianity would disapprove of virtually all TV, wouldn’t it? What would Jesus think of Keeping Up with the Kardasians? Yes, our culture is obsessed with sex, but I’m not sure we should blame religion. Isn’t Christianity just as opposed to materialism as it is to adultery?

    You said:

    “Who is to say that all pornographic subjects aren’t exploited?”

    Who is to say that all auto repairmen are not exploited? Umm, maybe auto repairmen?

    You said:

    “First of all, are there really this many “good” films from these countries?”

    Yup, but I agree that really good films are also worth seeing multiple times.

    I also agree that European films declined somewhat in the 1970s, but that’s not why Americans stopped seeing them. Sex was definitely a draw in the 1960s. They may seem tame by today’s standards, but you have no idea what things were like in 1965.

    SG, You said:

    “the most morally corrupt industry on earth”

    Really, the industry seems OK to me. What about lawyers, used car salesmen, investment advisors, realtors, etc. Aren’t these industries 100 times more morally corrupt?

    Collin, Good points.

  39. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    14. February 2018 at 13:20

    Hazel, Thanks for the tip. I heard TV was getting better, and watched a bit of Breaking Bad and House of Cards, but wasn’t impressed. Maybe I should try some other series.

  40. Gravatar of Hazel Meade Hazel Meade
    14. February 2018 at 13:35

    House of Cards isn’t my favorite either.
    Aside from True Detective, I’d also recommend HBO’s Rome series, the new Fargo (inspired by the Coen Brother’s film), and Westworld. But True Detective is the one I think matches your taste in film the best.

  41. Gravatar of SG SG
    14. February 2018 at 14:11


    It’s (ironically) the moralizing of Hollywood that makes it so corrupt to me. Have you watched any awards shows lately? Say what you will about lawyers or used car salesmen, but at least they’ll never preach to you.

    And I strongly suggest you skip Breaking Bad and watch Better Call Saul if you’re looking for quality television.

  42. Gravatar of Hazel Meade Hazel Meade
    14. February 2018 at 17:35

    Oh I forgot to mention Black Sails!
    You would think that a prequel to Treasure Island would be cheesy, but it manages not to be. But the main reason to watch Black Sails is that the whole thing can be read as an exploration of libertarian political philosophy. The pirates are all divided into different camps holding different positions on the meaning of liberty and whether it can only be found in a pure anarchy, or within the bounds of civilization. And other subjects like egoism and leadership are also explored.

  43. Gravatar of Brad Brad
    14. February 2018 at 18:11

    The problem with “Dreams Money Can Buy” was that it came at the end of the surrealist movement when they had run out of good ideas, and the medium was becoming less cooperative to their vision. There is a lot of spillover between early surrealist/Dadaist film and early silent art film – particularly the works of Germaine Dulac and Jean Epstein – which can be called visionary.

    Of course the most innovative surrealist film on a stylistic level was Un Chien Andelou, which is still being mined for comedy. But not “visionary cinema.”

  44. Gravatar of Student Student
    15. February 2018 at 04:23

    Scott, I was agreeing with you and I think authentic Catholic teaching also agrees with you despite what many supposedly conservative Catholics say.

    Also, for the record… I don’t like TV shows… but The Good Doctor is a watchable show if not a little cheesy at times. It’s about an autistic guy who is a resident at a hospital and also has some pretty good sub themes.

  45. Gravatar of Jeff Jeff
    15. February 2018 at 06:10

    @Sam – I had never heard of Kanopy – it’s amazing.

    Thanks for the tip!

  46. Gravatar of AlanInAZ AlanInAZ
    15. February 2018 at 09:03

    Some recommendations for TV series not mentioned in other posts.

    Rectify – 4 seasons on Netflix
    Peaky Blinders – British – post WW1 period underworld drama
    Borgen – Danish political drama – Netflix DVD only
    Spiral (Engrenages) – French police drama – no longer on Netflix, might return – currently on Hulu

    Many, many others are good, better than movies for character development and a sustained narrative.

  47. Gravatar of Market Fiscalist Market Fiscalist
    15. February 2018 at 11:09

    re: ‘If you walked into the NYC public library, and they had a few hundred good books, how would you describe that collection? What would be the probability of finding a specific book you were looking for?’

    I would say the chances were close to zero. I would also say the chances of any randomly chosen individual person playing in the NBA is so small its virtually zero, but it would be weird to say “there are virtually no NBA players living in the USA”.

  48. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    15. February 2018 at 11:52

    SG, Agree about awards shows–just unwatchable. So I don’t. It’s ironic that the entertainment industry is so bad at awards shows.

    Hazel, No disrespect, but when I hear a work of art explores libertarian ideas I want to get as far away as possible. I generally don’t like art that explores any kind of political ideas, except perhaps skepticism of all ideologies (i.e., Joseph Conrad.)

    Brad, I agree about Un Chien Andelou.

    Everyone, Thanks for the suggestions.

  49. Gravatar of StatsGuy StatsGuy
    15. February 2018 at 17:27

    I can suspend any amount of disbelief as long as a story is _internally_ consistent – but this movie… meh. It was just boring and moralistic.

    Glad you liked Blade Runner – much better film.

    Suggestions from 2017 (English language), if you get time:

    Dunkirk – skip it, bad, over-hyped
    Big Sick – well done
    Get Out – surprisingly better than expected

  50. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    15. February 2018 at 20:30

    I’ve watched Our Little Sister at least a dozen times, and on your recommendation, I tried to watch “After the Storm” but couldn’t get through it. I find Abe’s random facial contortions really distracting and the relationship between the characters just didn’t seem to ring true. Koreeda’s scripts are always great, but Kirin Kiki seemed to be the only one who could deliver her lines with any credibility.

    (Might be a different experience watching with sub-titles.)

  51. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    17. February 2018 at 09:51

    “So he thinks porn is evil but not slasher horror movies? In that case I’d agree, he does have a different view of good an evil. Or does he want to ban all bad movies? (I’d guess he does disapprove of slasher films, just wondering where he wants to draw the line.)”

    I’m sure I don’t know how Douthat would answer this question, but Douthat is discussing not only what he perceives as the harm from porn but what he thinks others perceive and/or experience as the harm from porn, and how this ties in to current social issues. If in society a discussion ensues for which the harm from slasher films is relevant, maybe Douthat will weigh in, maybe he won’t.

    Maybe this sentence helps:

    “And indeed, I think the part of the #MeToo movement that’s interested in discussing sexual unhappiness and not just sexual harassment clearly wants to talk about pornography, even if it doesn’t quite realize that yet.”

    Anyway, the comparison between slasher films and porn misses Douthat’s point, really, which is not that porn is an odious form of entertainment but that porn fundamentally alters the course of people’s lives for the worse – it messes people up, sexually. So Douthat isn’t saying “let’s ban all odious forms of entertainment,” he’s saying “let’s ban porn” for reasons intrinsic to porn but not intrinsic to other odious forms of entertainment.

    Side note: why was the category “slasher films” chosen as an exemplar of evil entertainment? I would have chosen “reality television.” Or maybe just “television.” I remember when I was a kid parents being upset at children viewing the TV series “Dark Shadows.” Nowadays I think parents would be relieved if their kids were watching “Dark Shadows” if it meant they weren’t watching things like “Floribama Shore.” Better your kid have nightmares than be exposed to something like that.

  52. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    17. February 2018 at 10:00

    “What would Jesus think of Keeping Up with the Kardasians?”

    Whoops, my point about “reality television” in my last comment was silly, I hadn’t read carefully, sorry.

    Anyway, having made my last comment, I just wanted to emphasize that I don’t *agree* with Douthat, just that I see where he’s coming from. I don’t at all understand why he’s saying “let’s ban porn” instead of saying something more like “let’s set about educating and convincing people that the harms that I and others perceive to be emanating from the over-consumption of porn are real and significant.”

  53. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    17. February 2018 at 10:41

    “It’s not clear what being Catholic has to do with any of this, I’d assume that Christianity would disapprove of virtually all TV, wouldn’t it?”

    It’s not completely clear to me either, but I thought Douthat was a real Catholic, i.e. not just a nominal Catholic but someone who takes his faith seriously. I admit to not knowing or understanding Catholic teaching on sex and sexuality very well, and it could just be a lazy and unwarranted assumption on my part, but I believe this is a factor in Douthat’s view.

    Again, I think you have to view Douthat as believing that porn is fundamentally different, in its essence or effects or something, from other types of film or entertainment.

    Maybe this is a dumb point, I admit. I once read something which made the point that even in “fiction” films, there are documentary aspects. For example, when you watch “Vertigo” you are partly watching a documentary about Frisco in the late 1950’s, that kind of thing. And in particular you are seeing actual people, the actors, at a certain point in time.

    Obviously in mainstream films and in “soft-core” porn the actors simulate having sex. In “hard-core” porn (and the occasional art film nowadays) the actors actually have sex. (If I have the soft/hard distinction wrong, someone let me know). I don’t know if this distinction is all that important, but I think you can make an argument that the erotic content of films has “documentary” aspects that the violent content does not. In (a great film like) “24 Hour Party People” there are no real pigeons eating real rat poison, and Paddy Considine doesn’t really attack Steve Coogan, but the girls on the Happy Mondays’ bus are really naked.

    Okay, maybe this isn’t a “good” argument, I admit. But….

    “Who is to say that all auto repairmen are not exploited? Umm, maybe auto repairmen?”

    I get it, if you put your 10-year old kid to work fixing cars or appearing in porn, that’s exploitation. But a 20-year old person fixing cars or appearing in porn, that’s not exploitation.

    Hmmm, well what about prostitution? Obviously if you put your 10-year kid to work as a prostitute, that’s exploitation. What about a 20-year old working as a prostitute? I think some would say yes, some would say no.

    Just because some 20-year olds (or 30-year olds, etc) would say “I’m not being exploited, this is my choice,” vis-à-vis working as a prostitute or working as a porn actor doesn’t mean that everyone would agree. I don’t think it’s a simple question.

    Anyway, before anyone hammers this point, I’m not even sure I have a good point. But then maybe I never do…. Hey, that doesn’t stop other people, why should it stop me?

  54. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    17. February 2018 at 16:26

    Thanks Statsguy.

    dtoh, That’s a good one too, but “Nobody Knows” is my favorite.

    anon/portly, Yes, I also understand where Douthat is “coming from”. My point is there is zero empirical evidence supporting the claim that porn is worse for people than any other form of entertainment, including reality TV. If Douthat wants to fund some studies that try to prove his point, that’s fine. Otherwise his suggestion is just silly. Just as silly as me proposing that we ban Fox News because is “messes people up”.

    I recall when people thought that watching violent TV made people violent. Then someone pointed out that Japanese TV and films are far more violent than in America, and yet they have an extremely low crime rate. So much for that theory. I’m really skeptical of the theory that porn harms the people who view it.

    There are people who claim it’s bad to have movies where people are smoking. What if kids see the smoking as glamorous, and pick up the habit?

    BTW, Personally, I’d suffer no big loss if they banned all of TV other than NBA basketball, but I obviously don’t favor that policy because I don’t want to impose my taste on others.

    As far as your second comment, your claim that not everyone would agree with me—that’s true.

Leave a Reply