Films of 2023:Q3

This past quarter I went on a Hal Hartley binge—interesting director. I also read Chateaubriand’s autobiography (1300 pages, up to 1815), which I loved. Saw the Succession TV series, which has all the strengths and weaknesses of other “quality” TV series. Works best as a black comedy—can be cringeworthy when the writers start taking themselves seriously.

2023:Q3 films

Newer Films:

Lynch/Oz  (US)  3.9  So far, this is my favorite film of the 2020s.  Six essays exploring links between The Wizard of Oz and the films of David Lynch (and to some extent cinema more broadly.)  Five of the six are outstanding—and deeply enjoyable.  This increased my already sky high view of both Oz and Lynch.  See it on the big screen.

Close to Vermeer  (Dutch)   3.5  As a documentary, this is merely good.  But the images of Vermeer’s painting are the best I’ve ever seen on film—perhaps even better than in real life.  I wish they’d spent more time lingering over each masterpiece.

Barbie  (US)  3.3  Pretty if you like pink.  Amusing at times.  A good film, but I’m not the intended viewer—the humor is dumbed down for the teenage audience. I kept looking at my watch.  (BTW, Amazon charges $25 for a rental.  A Chinese station shows it for free.)

MI: Dead Reckoning  (US)  3.0   The actors have gotten old, the ideas are old, and I’m too old for this sort of film.  (Tom Cruise has lost his charisma—his face seems bloated from plastic surgery, or botox, or old age.)  Everything was derivative.  The handcuffed couple was done better in The 39 Steps.  The car chase was done better in Bullet.  A rogue AI was done better in 2001.  A runaway train was done better in The General.  Mysterious Venice at night was done better in Don’t Look Now.  A terrorized submarine crew was done better in Das Boot.  Defusing a bomb was done better in Goldfinger (and even better in The Small Locked Back Room.)  It’s a film by committee.

This was my first time in a 4DX theatre.  Imagine the worst thunderstorm you ever flew through on an airplane, and then stretch that out for 3 hours.  The seats were continually jerking this way and that, and wind and water spray added to the effect. I can only imagine what sort of experience will be added to viewers of XXX movies in the year 2123.  Sensory immersion seems sort of like 3-D films—a good idea that somehow doesn’t work out in reality.

Older Films:

Taste of Cherry  (Iran, 1997, CC)  3.9   My all-time favorite Iranian film (and there’s a lot of great competition.)  The 1990s was the golden age for the sort of film that initially seems devoid of a clear narrative, but in some hard to discern way end up being far more engrossing than standard Hollywood fare.  These films typically came out of non-Western countries such as Iran, China, Taiwan, Turkey and Mexico.

Onibaba  (Japan, 1964, CC)  3.9  The riches of mid-century Japanese cinema seem almost inexhaustible.  No matter how many films you’ve seen, there’s always another masterpiece to be discovered.  William Friedkin was asked to name his all time favorite films and this one was first on his list.  Yes, Friedkin and I probably overrate Onibaba, but it’s such a pleasure to be reminded of the frisson I used to experience at the cinema.

Letter Never Sent  (Russia , 1960, CC)  3.9  I liked this even more than the director’s more famous “Cranes are Flying”.  Great B&W cinematography.  Made the same year as Psycho, L’Avventura, The Apartment, Peeping Tom, Breathless, La Dolce Vita, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, Late Autumn, The Naked Island, The Bad Sleep Well, Purple Noon.  Every month a new masterpiece.

Pigs and Battleships  (Japan, 1961, CC)  3.8  As with Martin Scorcese, Imamura has a great feel for small-time hoodlums.  But Imamura is more sarcastic, and has a more flamboyant visual style. And there’s no Catholicism lurking in the background.  Life is what it is—only the strong survive.

The Graduate  (US, 1967, CC)  3.8  It’s easy to recall the great dialogue and the excellent soundtrack, but I had forgotten just how good the visuals were.  Criterion had a print that looked as good as the day it premiered, and Mike Nichols created a number of really striking images.  Is this the film that best captures the feel of the 1960s?

Oldboy   (Korea, 2003)  3.8  This is the film that best epitomizes the way Korean movies frequently dial up the intensity level to an eleven.  Rewatching Oldboy after 20 years, I found the style every bit as powerful as the first time, but the surprises were no longer as shocking and the extreme violence was quite unpleasant to watch.

Floating Weeds  (Japan, 1959, CC)  3.7  Ozu remade the 1934 version, entitled The Story of Floating Weeds.

Z  (French/Greek, 1969, CC)  3.7  This film had a big impact on me back in 1969.  After 54 years it’s easy to spot the flaws, but it remains a powerful and highly influential film.  (With a more subtle and thoughtful director it could have been a 4.0 film.)  Essential viewing for anyone who wishes to understand the sociology of fascism.  In 1969, Greece, Spain and Portugal were still ruled by quasi-fascist regimes.  A few years later they were all democracies.  The symbol “Z” has gone from an emblem of hope in 1969 to a symbol of Russian fascism in 2023.  What a sad time we live in.

Dersu Uzala   (Russia/Japan, 1975, CC)  3.7  Kurosawa is viewed as the most “Western” of the great Japanese directors, and perhaps that’s why he was able to make a successful Russian film.  The first half is brilliant—the second half is merely good. Unfortunately, as with many 1970s color films, the print is in need of restoration. 

Black River   (Japan, 1957, CC)  3.7  There’s a lot to appreciate in this Kobayashi film, including the engrossing portrayal of post-war Japanese life near a US military base.  Some excellent B&W cinematography.  Great final scene.

Henry Fool  (US, 1997, CC)  3.7   Excellent independent film from the 1990s.

Meanwhile   (US, 2011, CC)  3.7   A beautiful exercise in minimalism.  Hartley is one of our most intelligent directors

Lola  (France, 1961, CC)  3.6  In Demy’s film the characters seem to float though life in a sort of dream, both pleasant and sad.  Why can’t Anglo-Saxon directors refrain from judging everyone in such a tiresome manner?

Saturday Fiction  (China, 2019, CC)  3.6  I understand why this film got mixed reviews, but I found the positives to be so strong that I didn’t much care about the confusing plot.  As usual, Gong Li is superb (and the other actors are excellent.)  The B&W cinematography is gorgeous.  Because we often get foreign films with a long delay, we miss the “golden ages” until they are over.  The period around 2018-19 brought us Ash is the Purest White, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, An Elephant Sitting Still, Wild Goose Lake, and this film.  What else did I miss?

Suzhou River   (China, 2000, CC)  3.6   Basically a Chinese version of Vertigo.  Interesting to see how grungy Shanghai looked back in 2000.

Ghost World  (US, 2001, CC)  3.6  I gather that this was not popular at the box office but I loved the performance of the lead actress (Thora Birch), which explains my high rating.  Brought back memories of when I was an anti-social adolescent.  Also features a very young Scarlett Johansson. Otherwise, the film is nothing special.

Desperately Seeking Susan  (US, 1985, CC)  3.6  After 38 years, this film is still quite entertaining.  The title is perfect and Madonna is surprisingly good.  Features my favorite comedian in a small role—too small.

Something Wild  (US, 1986, CC)  3.6  It seems like the 1980s was the decade for films about dangerous women.  Great soundtrack.

Germany, Year Zero  (Germany, 1948, CC)  3.6  Great film title.  In German, but actually directed by Rossellini.  Not a great film, but an exceedingly interesting document.

Jewel Robbery   (US, 1932, CC)  3.6  Not quite as sophisticated as Trouble in Paradise, but this 67 minute pre-code gem is brisk, clever and charming.

Judex  (France , 1963, CC)  3.6  This delightful one-of-a-kind film is a mixture of silent cinema, surrealism and The Avengers (which to me means the 1960s TV series.)  I never knew that car headlights once had candles inside.

Fay Grim/Ned Rifle  (US, 2006 and 2014, CC)  3.5  These two films are sequels to Henry Fool, and don’t really make sense as standalone films.  Fay Grim has great energy and creativity, but is all style and no substance.  Ned Kelly is better, mostly due to the wonderful performance of Audrey Plaza.

Flirt  (US, 1995, CC)  Another good Hal Hartley film.  Reminded me a bit of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Three Times.

The 30 Greatest Films   (Youtube)  3.5  Don’t focus on his choices; focus on what he has to say about each film.  Not exactly my list, but a very good one.

I find it impossible to think of the 30 greatest films—there are too many classics.  Better to try to determine the best film in each genre.  Here’s my feeble attempt:

Best family drama:  Tokyo Story

Best sci-fi:  2001: A Space Odyssey

Best war film:  Apocalypse Now

Best animation:  Spirited Away

Best crime epic:  Godfather I/II

Best romantic story:  In the Mood for Love

Best mystery:  Vertigo

Best western:  The Searchers

Best fantasy epic:  Lord of the Rings

Best silent drama:  Sunrise

Best silent comedy:  City Lights

Best black comedy:  Dr. Strangelove

Best physical comedy:  Playtime  (or The General?)

Best romantic comedy:  ??????  (Way too many!)

Best costume drama:  Barry Lyndon

Best historical film:  Andrei Rublev

Best crime film:  Rashoman

Best musical:  Singin’ in the Rain

Best surrealism:  Mulholland Drive

Best action film:  The Seven Samurai

Best noir:  ???????  (way too many!)

Best theatre film:  The Red Shoes

Best children’s film:  The Wizard of Oz

Best fairy tale: La Belle et la Bete

Best existential film:  L’Avventura

Best psychological drama:  Persona

Best biopic:  Citizen Kane (or 8 1/2?)

Best horror film:  The Shining  (or Psycho?)

Best ghost story:  Ugetsu Monogarari  (or Uncle Boonmee?)

Best conversation:  My Dinner With Andre

Best puppet film:  Street of Crocodiles

Best documentary:  The Gate of Heavenly Peace

Best TV series:  Twin Peaks

What am I missing?

One Way Passage  (US, 1932, CC)  3.5   An early sound film that has some of the purity of a great silent films.  Like Jewel Robbery, it stars William Powell and Kay Francis.  This tragic romance also clocks in at 67 minutes—could Hollywood produce that sort of film today?

The Intruder  (France, 2004, CC)  3.5  I can certainly see why people rated this Claire Denis film much higher; it exhibits the technical skill of a 3.9 film.  But just as its main character lacks a heart, at least on first viewing this film seems to lack the sort of unifying thread that would make it more than a series of well-designed scenes.  It’s fine for a film to be elusive, or to be non-liner, or to focus on a character that is unappealing and hard to read.  But all at once?

On the other hand, perhaps on a second viewing it would turn out to be a masterpiece.

Anatomy of a Murder  (US, 1959, CC)  3.5  It’s interesting to think about how this sort of film has changed over time.  Today it would have more complexity, more surprises, more sleaze, less humor, and a less jazzy score.  Modern audiences might find this 2 hour and 40 minute courtroom drama to move at too leisurely a pace.  Great jazz soundtrack.

Stray Dogs  (Iran/Afghanistan, 2004)  3.5  Perhaps a bit too sentimental, but I really enjoyed this film about homeless Afghan children.  The Iranians are masters of films about young kids.

What’s Up, Doc  (US, 1972, CC)  3.4  Very entertaining screwball comedy, despite that fact that the acting is mostly mediocre (apart from Barbara Streisand, who is quite charming.)

Frances Ha  (US, 2013, CC)  3.4 One of those films where you are supposed to laugh because you recognize certain modern cultural trends. For fans of Woody Allen films.

It Always Rains on Sunday  (UK, 1947, CC)  3.4  This enjoyable British noir concludes with an outstanding chase sequence.

The Thief of Baghdad  (UK, 1940, CC)  3.4  This sort of film would have been quite  impressive in 1940.  Today, it’s merely charming.  Michael Powell directed a small part of the film, but it’s basically an Alexander Korda project.

Confidentially Yours  (France, 1983, CC)  3.4  Truffaut’s comic thriller is light as a feather and people expecting a serious noir will be disappointed.  But for the most part it’s pleasant entertainment with lots of appealing B&W images, although at 110 minutes in length it drags a bit toward the end.

Japanese Girls at the Harbor  (Japan, 1933, CC)  3.4 This late silent film is marred by some excessive moralizing.  But as with so many Japanese films, the visual style is quite attractive.  Japanese viewers probably saw this film in a different way from westerners like me.  The actors look Japanese, but are actually supposed to be of mixed race.  Thus even the title is a bit ambiguous.

Surviving Desire   (US, 1992, CC)  3.4   In this film and in Trust you see Hal Hartley beginning to develop his style.

Trust  (US, 1990, CC)   3.3  A relatively early Hal Hartley film.  Many of his early films are black comedies.

Something From Nothing:  The Art of Rap  (US. 2012, CC)  3.3  This documentary is aimed at people who (unlike me) already understand rap music.

Harlan County, USA  (US, 1976, CC)  3.3  This documentary of a coal mining strike is much too long, but it does provide a fascinating look at a period of time when the Appalachian region was like a third world country.  It’s been only 50 years, but 1973 now seems like ancient history.

I Am Waiting  (Japan, 1957, CC)  3.3  Easy to overlook as the acting is nothing special.  But this Japanese noir has a sneaky appeal. 

A Hard Day’s Night  (UK, 1964, CC)  3.2  It’s been almost 60 years since I first saw this film.  It’s charming in places, but it drags on too long despite coming in at less than 90 minutes.  The members of the Beatles try their best, but they are not natural actors.  Lester’s stylistic innovations no longer seem as interesting as they must have appeared back in 1964.

Splendor in the Grass  (US, 1961, CC)  3.2  You can see flashes of the social revolution that would hit the world in a few years. As usual, Hollywood had high school students played by actors in their 20s—Natalie Woods was 23 and Warren Beatty was 24 (and in his first film.)

Simple Men  (US, 1992, CC)  3.2  Hal Hartley films keep recycling certain names (Ned Rifle) and places (Lindenhurst.)

The Book of Life  (US, 1998,  CC)  3.2  I like the way Hartley made a bunch of films that came in right around an hour.  Why aren’t there more feature films of this length?

Something Wild  (US, 1961, CC)  3.2  After 62 years, you can still date these old films almost to the year, without even checking. I’m willing to forgive all the implausibility because it’s fascinating to see the underbelly of NYC back in 1961.  LOL at people who think real wages haven’t risen since the 1960s. 

Kuroneko (Black Cat)   (Japan, 1968, CC)  3.2  Same director as Onibaba, but nowhere near as good.  Some nice B&W images.

Making Mr. Right   (US, 1987, CC)  3.2  Susan Seidelman’s follow-up to Desperately Seeking Susan falls well short of the previous film.

Hopscotch  (US, 1980, CC)  3.2 Pleasant spy film, but mostly a 90 minute wait to find out the punch line.

Tulpan  (Kazakhstan, 2008)  3.2  A charming comedy that is a painless way of learning about the lifestyle of people you might otherwise never meet. 

The Woman in Question  (UK, 1950, CC)  3.1   This British noir is structured like Rashoman, but it’s nowhere near as good.

Fifth Avenue Girl  (US, 1939, CC)  3.0  Walter Connelly always seemed to play an endearing millionaire in these 1930s screwball comedies.  This one is well below average, but still worth watching.

Green for Danger  (UK, 1946, CC)  3.0  One of those cosy British murder mysteries.  Picks up a bit in the second half with a humorous Scotland Yard detective.  Screenplay by the guy that did The Lady Vanishes (although this film is far inferior.)

Blithe Spirit  (UK, 1945, CC)  3.0  Margaret Rutherford is an amusing medium, but otherwise this Noel Coward play (direct by David Lean) is disappointingly bland.

Keep Rolling   (HK, 2020, CC)  3.0   Documentary about the Hong Kong director Ann Hui.

The Unbelievable Truth  (US, 1989, CC)  3.0  Hal Hartley’s first feature film is uneven, but shows promise.

Intimidation  (Japan, 1960, CC)  2.9  So-so film noir.

Love Unto Waste  (Hong Kong, 1986, CC)  2.8  Talent unto waste.   The film wastes the talents of a young Chow Yun-fat and an even younger Tony Leung.  The theme of young people drifting through life was done far more effectively a few years later in the films of Wong Kar-wai, Hou Hsiao-hsien and Edward Yang. 

Hardcore  (US, 1978, CC)  2.6  Not a good film, but it’s interesting to take a peek at America’s anxieties during the late 1970s.  Why do people always suggest that Hollywood is left wing?

The Goddess (US, 1957, CC)   2.5  On rare occasions, melodrama can be effective.  This was not one of those occasions.

Weekend  (France, 1967, CC)  2.2  Only a supreme talent can make a film this bad.  The slapstick has been done far times better by Tati.  Long tracking shots have been done far better by Tarkovsky and Reygadas.  The political satire ranges from lame to pathetic.  At times the film shows great intelligence—but mostly wasted to no effect.



49 Responses to “Films of 2023:Q3”

  1. Gravatar of Riccardo Leggio Riccardo Leggio
    1. October 2023 at 22:04

    Regarding best 30 films sidebar, I really like your idea to pick best films in each of many categories, and I like your choices. But then where to put “Casablanca” or “The Treasure of Sierra Madre,” or especially “Walkabout”?

  2. Gravatar of Ricardo Ricardo
    2. October 2023 at 04:02

    The same people who say they like Shakespeare are the same people who say they like Casablanca.

    Most neither read it nor watch it, but they like it because….well, it’s fashionable.

    Casablanca is boring.

    I spent two minutes reading shakespeare, and nearly fell asleep.

    But the intellectual (or not so intellectual) academic community is so ridicilously dishonest and spurious that you will find no more than handful willing to say the truth (i.e., it sucks.)

    Best Documentary: Roger Scruton’s “Why beauty matters”
    Best Drama (and best of all time) “Shawshank Redemption”

    The old Wizard of Oz was pretty good for its time, but the new wizard of Oz movies are much more entertaining.

  3. Gravatar of Chris H Chris H
    2. October 2023 at 07:12

    Best romantic comedy has to be when Harry Met Sally!

    Curious what were some of the ones on your list that you couldn’t choose among? (Same question for noirs too…)

  4. Gravatar of Josh B Josh B
    2. October 2023 at 09:11

    I am a fan of your movie posts, and I searched your blog for “Holy Motors” but that didn’t return anything. I watched it last night and I am curious if you have seen it.

  5. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    2. October 2023 at 09:44

    Riccardo, All great films. There’s just too many to choose from.

    Ricardo, Such a contrarian!! I’m impressed.

    Chris, It seems to me that the 1930s is the golden age of romcom. Bringing Up Baby, The Shop Around the Corner. The Philadelphia Story, Holiday, The Lady Eve, and 100 other great ones. Hard to pick one.

    For noirs, I tend to forget them. So I’d point to ones I’ve seen multiple times. The Asphalt Jungle, Touch of Evil, The Killing, etc. The French also produced some great ones–especially Melville. Also, the Japanese.

    Josh, I’ve seen a couple of his films, but not that one.

  6. Gravatar of Riccardo Leggio Riccardo Leggio
    2. October 2023 at 09:46

    Well, at least the one ‘c’ Ricardo is right about one thing: I do like Shakespeare 😉

  7. Gravatar of Henri Hein Henri Hein
    2. October 2023 at 10:05

    Scott, do you have an eidetic memory when it comes to movies? I’m impressed with your recall out of some of the 100s of movies you must have watched. You not only compare almost all the movies in your lists with others in the same genre, you often compare particular *scenes* from other movies. I don’t know how you do it. Often when I remember a scene, I have to resort to youtube clips or synopses to figure you which move it was from.

  8. Gravatar of steve steve
    2. October 2023 at 10:58

    What about Behind the Green Door?

  9. Gravatar of foosion foosion
    2. October 2023 at 13:34

    Close to Vermeer: You should have taken my advice and seen the show at the Rijksmuseum 😛

  10. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    2. October 2023 at 14:38

    Great list. You might want to add Best Mockumentary and Best Campy Film to your categories, but I don’t know if you watch movies like Spinal Tap and Strictly Ballroom.

  11. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    2. October 2023 at 18:47

    Riccardo, You sad:

    “I do like Shakespeare”

    🙂 You are such a pretentious phony!!!

    Henri, I have a good visual memory, but I often forget film titles, actor’s names, etc. In many cases it’s not the famous scenes that stick in my mind. For instance, in Apocalypse Now the scene that stays with me is Martin Sheen narrating the voyage on the boat ride up river. I much prefer that to the more famous scenes.

    This is also why “quality TV” is not my thing—it’s a writer’s medium. Film is a director’s medium.

    Steve, I believe they showed that at the University of Chicago, back around 1979.

    foosion, I’ve seen all the paintings (but one). Seeing them in the film is a different experience, in some ways better.

    Last fall I went to Germany and Austria to see 5 Vermeers, and only one was on display. Disgraceful.

    Carl, I did see those two.

  12. Gravatar of David S David S
    2. October 2023 at 23:11

    My wife and I saw Barbie in a theater with a lot of teenagers and we could tell that some of it was over their heads. Consider how few youngsters have seen 2001. High schools should get rid of useless standardized testing and make film classes mandatory.

    Speaking of Kubrick, curious to see Coppola beating Full Metal Jacket, but the riverboat part of the movie is the best part.

    And no mention of Sergio Leone? Such ingratitude.

  13. Gravatar of Cove77 Cove77
    3. October 2023 at 02:58

    Scott, Have you ever seen/reviewed Wang/Auster’s Smoke? Thanks

  14. Gravatar of Rafael Rafael
    3. October 2023 at 04:48

    I’ve watched two films in 4DX. Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar 2, and I have to say Maverick in 4DX was an absolutely incredible experience, it absolutely increases the immersion in the jet scenes. Avatar on the other hand was similar to your experience, not pleasant at all.

    I think the 4DX can work for certain types of movies, generally those where the characters spend time inside a fast moving vehicle (Racing Car, fighter jets, etc.) but falls flat on its face for regular action movies.

  15. Gravatar of Tuesday assorted links – Marginal REVOLUTION Tuesday assorted links - Marginal REVOLUTION
    3. October 2023 at 08:14

    […] Scott Sumner movie reviews.  The very best links you will get here, if you are worthy of them that […]

  16. Gravatar of Hans Reiter Hans Reiter
    3. October 2023 at 08:47

    Best blockbuster?
    Best adopted screenplay?
    Best movie on imax?

  17. Gravatar of Dzhaughn Dzhaughn
    3. October 2023 at 09:06

    A better game than the 30 best films list is to choose a category that makes your favorite film a consensus choice. For example, in what category would “Pickpocket” be the best film? You’ll choose your category wrong sometimes, realizing later there is a better film in that category.

  18. Gravatar of JVM JVM
    3. October 2023 at 09:57

    How does one stream Lynch/Oz in the US? I’ve been googling around and people are talking about VPNing into the UK

  19. Gravatar of yyyyyyyyyyyyyyy yyyyyyyyyyyyyyy
    3. October 2023 at 10:46

    I disagree with your assessment of Oldboy’s as “the film that best epitomizes the way Korean movies frequently dial up the intensity level to an eleven.” I don’t agree for a couple of reasons. First I think movies from Japan/Hong Kong/& more, are similar in this sense so describing it as being uniquely “korean” is not correct in my view. Second I do not think that it “epitomizes the style”. I found this films “intensity” to be more just for shock then having any real merit comparatively to most others (bedevilled [2010] being a good example) In which yes the actions are often quite shocking and extreme but they serve to add emotion to the story at hand. Oldboy’s extremes only seem to serve the purpose of causing sensory reactions. I actually think the style of Oldboy’s is more reminiscent of Takashi Miike, but maybe thats just me…

  20. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    3. October 2023 at 11:12

    David, Which of his two masterpieces is the best spaghetti western?

    Kubrick wins more categories than anyone else, but not war films. It did one before his peak and one after his peak.

    Cove77, I may have seen it. I don’t recall.

    Hans, Which would you pick?

    Dzhaughn, I suppose I did that to some extent.

    Lawrence of Arabia—Best historical epic? Chungking Express—Best French-style new wave? Rear Window—Best Voyeurism?
    Someone mentioned Walkabout–what category? Grand Budapest Hotel? What category?

    JVM, I’m not sure. But this film really needs to be seen on the big screen.

    YYYYYYY, Good point about Miike. The Korean film “The Isle” might also work. I’ve never seen Bedevilled.

  21. Gravatar of Benji Benji
    3. October 2023 at 12:30

    Not my question, but I was convinced The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly was the best spaghetti western until I watched Once Upon a Time in the West. It’s paced like a Bela Tarr film and obsessed with the poetry of faces. Peak of the genre!

    Did you mean to link to The 30 Greatest Films youtube video?

  22. Gravatar of James James
    3. October 2023 at 12:50

    Horror. Exorcist, Jaws, Carrie, Alien. before Shinning

    Biopic. Mishima

    SciFi. Back to Future,

  23. Gravatar of BJM BJM
    3. October 2023 at 12:53

    Steven Wright, I assume?

  24. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    3. October 2023 at 13:01

    Benji, Thanks, I added the link.

    James, Hmmmm . . .

    BJM, Yes, Steven Wright.

  25. Gravatar of TGGP TGGP
    3. October 2023 at 13:02

    Why do people always suggest that Hollywood is left wing?

    Presumably due to the campaign contributions of people in the industry, party membership, precinct-level vote counts, self-identification etc.

    I still have yet to see Ned Rifle to complete the trilogy. It seemed like a film that barely existed, even relative to his earlier indie films.

    I can’t find “A Small Locked Room” on IMDB.

  26. Gravatar of Pundit Pundit
    3. October 2023 at 13:31

    You are missing films by Satyajit Ray – the Apu Trilogy especially, but many more.

  27. Gravatar of ReverendWicksCherrycoke ReverendWicksCherrycoke
    3. October 2023 at 13:48

    “32 Short Films about Glenn Gould” isn’t in the same aesthetic league as “Citizen Kane” or “8 1/2” but I can’t think of another film that left a stronger impression of an actual life lived.

  28. Gravatar of Mike Mike
    3. October 2023 at 14:39

    I dont think you have reviewed To Live but that’s a great black comedy. Maybe only the best Chinese one though.

  29. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    3. October 2023 at 14:51

    Several thoughts:

    Is Twin Peaks really the best TV show ever? I actually recently began re-watching it for the first time since Season 3 came out and the second half of Season 2 is just achingly bad, in my opinion. It could have been the best TV show of all time, but they rushed Lynch and it is apparent. Still amazing, however.

    I agree with the comment that you should have gone to the Rijksmuseum exhibition – not to rub it in, but it was the best exhibition I’ve ever been to. Simply incredible.

    Grand Budapest Hotel is clearly the best Grand Hotel film, which should be a sub-genre of its own.

    Can we say Chinatown is the best noir film or is it neo-noir? Or is it cancelled because of Polanski? If not Chinatown, I’ll take the easy way out and say The Big Sleep.

    And, randomly, have you seen how much VFS stock has dropped since I said it was nonsense that it was valued so high? And yet my broker STILL won’t let me short it, despite advertising a 100% fee for it. There are no efficient markets here.

  30. Gravatar of David S David S
    3. October 2023 at 15:27

    The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly–but perhaps I have no credibility answering this because I’ve never seen Once Upon a Time in the West.

    The Civil War as a framing device for the plot makes the film stand out as an epic. It’s also a “buddy” movie in a very bleak and effective way.

  31. Gravatar of WB WB
    3. October 2023 at 15:32

    Great list. A few other categories…

    Best Prison Film: A Prophet

    Best Legal Drama: Michael Clayton

    Best Courtroom Drama: The Verdict

    Best Road Movie: Until the End of the World (the 287-minute version)

    Best Film Noir: The Third Man

    Best Neo Noir: Blue Velvet

    Best Heist Film: Rififi

    Best War Film: The Ascent

    Best Coming of Age Film: Young Torless

    Best Romantic Comedy: The Apartment

    Best Comedy: Some Like It Hot

    Best Spy Film: The Lives of Others

    Best Political Thriller: JFK

    Best Political Satire: The Death of Stalin

    Best Dystopian Film: Children of Men

    Best Neorealist Film: Los Olvidados

    Best Action Film: The Wages of Fear

    Best Private Eye Film: The Conversation

  32. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    3. October 2023 at 17:47

    TGGP, Yes, but their films are certainly not left wing.

    I meant “The Small Back Room” Sorry about the typo.

    Pundit, Yes, Ray is a wonderful director. One of the all time greats.

    Reverend Wicks, Good choice.

    Mike, The Gong Li film? I recall it as more of a tragedy–but it’s been almost 30 years.

    Tacticus, You asked:

    “Or is it cancelled because of Polanski?”

    Of course not!

    Amsterdam is just too far from California. And it would have been crowded. When I saw many of those paintings I was almost alone.

    Twin Peaks was best when Lynch directed. And I recall that they forced him to do more than he wished to. But yes, it’s the best.

    I’m now rewatching Season 3.

    David, Yeah, if you’ve seen only one of the two, then no credibility.

    WB, Lots of good choices, especially these:

    Best Road Movie: Until the End of the World (the 287-minute version)

    Best Film Noir: The Third Man

    Best Neo Noir: Blue Velvet

    Best Heist Film: Rififi

    Best Comedy: Some Like It Hot

    Best Action Film: The Wages of Fear

    Best Private Eye Film: The Conversation

    Some of the others I haven’t seen.

  33. Gravatar of Mike Mike
    3. October 2023 at 20:15

    I guess black comedy is my personal interpretation, but I do believe the leading actor is intentionally inserting humor into the role, he’s not trying to be 100% serious. It is the Chinese Reverse Forrest Gump, instead of watching a person get swept through the events of the 1940s though 70s in a lucky way, it’s in an unlucky way. They even came out in the same year.

  34. Gravatar of robin robin
    3. October 2023 at 22:10

    Always enjoy these lists!

    “These films typically came out of non-Western countries such as Iran, China, Taiwan, Turkey and Mexico.”

    Could you give some examples from Mexico? I’m a big fan of films from all the other countries but can’t think of any example from Mexico, despite the fact that I live in Mexico City!

    Obviously a big blind spot I have, would love to hear some suggestions.

  35. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    3. October 2023 at 23:14

    Mike, You may be right; it’s been a long time since I saw it.

    Robin, You could check out Japon.

  36. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    4. October 2023 at 00:04

    The categories are sure fun. But some of the films assigned to them then surprised me.

    For example, is Apocalypse Now a “war” film? I guess it is, but it seems somehow odd to call it that. And are Psycho and The Shining really horror films? (I’m genuinely unsure). You send us to Louis CK explaining that SK defies categories and then put one of his films into a standard category.

    Is Citizen Kane really a biopic? I thought it was loosely based on Hearst, not really about Hearst, but I guess that’s wrong.

    The only one I really feel sure is wrongly assigned is Barry Lyndon. “Drama?” It’s more of a comedy, surely? Maybe there should be a “best picaresque” category.

    Missing best zombie film, best concert film, best satire (WB has political satire), best thriller (WB has political thriller), best espionage film, best screwball comedy. Best sword & sandal film? Best biblical epic? Best martial arts film? Best nature film or animal film? (Some of these categories may not make much sense because there’s no great film in them).

    Also since Lynch is so prominent, how about best [category Eraserhead belongs to, whatever the heck that is]?

  37. Gravatar of John Hawkins John Hawkins
    4. October 2023 at 06:46

    Re Sci-Fi: I would have had to choose Blade Runner over 2001, if not only for the obviously gorgeous set designs but also the performances (Rutger Hauer and Harrison Ford vs. “Keir Dullea, Gone Tomorrow”).

    2001 is a more pure sci-fi in the sense of a film like Solaris (what we find out there is going to be stranger than what we can imagine), but I’ve generally loved Sci-Fi that looks at humanity from a different angle and re-affirms consistent throughlines in our nature.

  38. Gravatar of TGGP TGGP
    4. October 2023 at 08:10

    My understanding is that both Lynch & Frost withdrew from the later episodes of Twin Peaks season 2, up until the finale basically.

    I wouldn’t say that the films of Hollywood are “certainly” not left-wing. I can recall Steve Sailer pointing to Christopher Nolan as evidence that the actual directors are more right-wing than people believe, but as Matt Yglesias has pointed out the lesson of his most recent film is that Republicans are bad (ignoring the evidence that Oppenheimer really was a member of the Communist party and lied about it). Fincher is a director of comparable stature, and his most recent film distorted reality to make the right-wing Herman Mankiewicz into a supporter of Upton Sinclair’s doomed socialist campaign for governor. Adam McKay mostly makes political films nowadays, and his politics are very explicitly on the left. David O. Russell doesn’t have the stature he used to have, but is also a Best Director/Picture nominee and distorted reality to make the mayor of Newark practically innocent and spared severe punishment for that reason in American Hustle, while his most recent on “the Business Plot” is a conspiracy theory even the Democratic Party of FDR’s day (which it was supposed to be subverting) didn’t take seriously. Against that you cite a Paul Schrader film, while Schrader’s only nomination is a Best Original Screenplay one for First Reformed (in which the audience is supposed to agree that global warming/pollution is one of the most pressing concerns around), and he’s had such difficulties getting films financed that he had ones like Dying of the Light taken away from him. He’s not representative of Hollywood, and I wouldn’t say he’s rightwing either.

  39. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    4. October 2023 at 08:52

    Another category suggestion: Best Absurd Comedy.

  40. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. October 2023 at 10:05

    anon/portly. Good points. Perhaps we should infer that true greatness is never easy to pigeonhole. Is Hamlet a detective story? A family drama? Is The Divine Comedy a travel book?

    A lot of the best screwball comedies are also the best romcoms. After the 1930s, the genre was mostly played out.

    John, Given that it the best film ever made, how can 2001 not be the best sci-fi film? (I do agree that Blade Runner is also great.)

    TGGP, Sure, lots of overtly political films are left wing, but Hardcore reminded me of how much the cultural backdrop in many films is essentially conservative, which is what the audience wants. Small towns are wholesome and the big city is full of evil people.

    Carl, Yes, and who would win that category? “And Now For Something Completely Different”?

  41. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    4. October 2023 at 11:20

    I’m partial to Monty Python myself as well.

  42. Gravatar of Alan Goldhammer Alan Goldhammer
    4. October 2023 at 12:11

    I saw The Graduate when it came out and I was an undergrad at UC Santa Barbara. The funniest part of the movie for the audience the night I went for the first time was when Benjamin went in the wrong direction through the Gaviota tunnel which is north of Santa Barbara. the tunnel is ONLY in the northbound direction and the car as per the movie script is traveling south. Peals of laughter erupted.

  43. Gravatar of Philo Philo
    4. October 2023 at 14:17

    Tyler Cowen suggests we may not be worthy of your movie reviews. He’s right, but keep them coming, anyway!

  44. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. October 2023 at 16:42

    Philo, I’m not worthy of his glowing recommendations. So that makes us equal.

  45. Gravatar of John S John S
    5. October 2023 at 03:52

    Re: 2001 and Blade Runner

    Normally I don’t care much about plot holes. Sometimes they’re mandatory. The entire premise of Blade Runner is a giant plot hole — why doesn’t Tyrell just tattoo serial numbers on replicants’ necks? No more need for tricky Voight-Kampf tests. But then we wouldn’t have this lovely film and the interesting questions it poses.

    Maybe Scott or someone else can answer this question about 2001. Why doesn’t HAL just knock aside or abandon Dave’s pod? It’s already shown a willingness to kill directly by knocking the yellow astronaut into space and shutting off the hibernation pods. I know, I know, plot is one of the least important aspects of a great film. But this scene always draws me out of the film since it seems to violate its internal logic so blatantly (obv every other aspect is perfect).

  46. Gravatar of John S John S
    5. October 2023 at 03:59


    Barry Lyndon is a drama with comedic elements (the inverse of The Gold Rush, which Chaplin billed as a “dramatic comedy”). Its main point is the same as Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene: We are all selfish replicators.

    There’s a comedic aspect to this idea, to be sure, but like Dawkins I mostly find it to be sobering.

  47. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. October 2023 at 07:41

    John, Dumb people like me have an easier time not noticing plot holes.

  48. Gravatar of Ken H Ken H
    7. October 2023 at 02:17

    Chinese films 2018-19?
    Dwelling in the Fuchun mountains.
    Not sure if you mentioned that one in the past.

  49. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    8. October 2023 at 10:57

    Ken, Thanks, I’ll look for that one.

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