Films of 2023:Q4

The highlight of my fourth quarter was books, not films. I hugely enjoyed a long string of Gene Wolfe novels (the 4-part Book of the Long Sun and the 3-part Book of the Short Sun.). In general, I don’t read much sci-fi. For recent writers, I lean toward people like Sebald, Pamuk, Bolano, Marias, Knausgaard, Murakami, Houllebecq, etc. Gene Wolfe is the only sci-fi/fantasy writer that I would put in that class. Soon, I plan to reread his New Sun series. I had always assumed that I would enjoy Bruno Schulz, but only recently got around to reading him. I was right—he has some of the same appeal as people like Walser and Pessoa. I also read an interesting book entitled The MANIAC, which is a fictional portrayal of the life of John von Neumann and the birth of AI.

2023:Q4 films

Newer Films:

Anatomy of a Fall  (France)  3.6  Watching this courtroom drama made me realize how much of my life has been spent watching Anglo-American courtroom dramas, and how little has been spent watching continental style trials.  Why shouldn’t the judges (i.e. jurors) ask questions?  Good movie, but I wouldn’t have any interest is seeing it a second time.

Blackberry   (Canada)  3.4    This “dramedy” works better as comedy than drama, as it’s not quite believable.  But it’s a very entertaining film about culture conflict between alphas and betas in the corporate world.

American Fiction  (US)  3.4   I can’t recall seeing another Hollywood that had politics so close to my own views—anti-bigotry and anti-woke.  Funny in places, but hews a bit too closely to the standard Hollywood formula.  The basic problem with Hollywood drama is that they pander to the audience.  Most Americans lack the patience to watch truly great dramas from Iran and East Asia, because they are too “slow”.  So Hollywood overstuffs their dramas with a mix of comedy and tear-jerking scenes, and has the characters change their personality every few minutes to liven things up.

Taylor Swift:  Era Tour   (US)  3.3   Your rating will depend on how much you like her music.  Interesting to see this a few months after Barbie, which appeals to the same demographic.  She’s a bit too polished and perfect for my taste; I’d rather watch a more spontaneous performer like Janis Joplin, Patty Smith or Bjork.  But there’s no denying her talent as a songwriter/performer.  Her music seems aimed at empowering awkward teenage girls—making them feel better about their lives.  I suppose in utility terms that’s just about the most useful thing that any human being can do.

An aging boomer like me couldn’t help thinking about how the music industry has changed.  In the 1970s, I saw big acts in small intimate spaces.  In 1978, Springsteen played in a movie theater in Chicago seating about 1000 people, and I paid $10 for the ticket.  (Even adjusting for inflation, that’s pretty low—and he’d already produced some popular albums.)  I think the most I ever paid was about $20 to see the Stones (with the Eagles as an opening act.)  But those shows lacked the dazzling special effects you see today.

In the late 1960s, I assumed the future would bring space travel to other planets and flying cars.  Instead we got no progress in space travel, but phenomenal progress in the sound and lighting at musical concerts, and far better restaurants.  You can never predict which areas will see great innovations.

Beyonce  (US)  3.3  Saw this right after the Taylor Swift concert.  The two women are different in all sorts of ways, including race, body type and artistic strengths (songwriting vs. performance), but both share an ability to manage their careers, something that’s probably a lot harder than it looks (given the number of artists that flame out on drugs, etc.)

The Boy and the Heron  (Japan)  3.2  Miyazaki seems to have lost his magic.  Time to retire?

Stonewalling  (China)  3.0  The social commentary is mildly interesting, but stylistically it seems like a pale imitation of the work of people like Hou Hsiao-hsien and Jia Zhangke

Older Films:

Breaking the Waves   (Denmark/Scotland , 1996, CC)  3.9  I find it hard to rate a film like this, as I can’t really say I enjoyed it.  But after suffering for 2 ½ hours, when one emerges into the light in the final ten minutes it feels like you’ve seen one of the greatest films of the past 30 years.  I saw this when it first came out, and understood a lot more on the second viewing.  Like Kubrick, Lars von Trier doesn’t pander to the audience.  He gives you his vision, whether you like it or not. 

Dairy of a Country Priest  (France, 1951, CC)  3.8  Another masterpiece that wrestles with spiritual themes.  In the end, it’s the cinematography, not the ideas, which make this early Bresson film so successful.  It could have worked equally well as a silent film.  

The Repast  (Japan, 1951, CC)  3.8  The first of a series of excellent films that Naruse directed during the 1950s.  I don’t know of any other male director who has as much sympathy for female characters. Those expecting the histrionics of Hollywood dramas will be disappointed, but there’s a subtle beauty here for those willing to look beyond the surface.

Hour of the Wolf  (Sweden, 1968, CC)  3.7  As with almost all horror films, it’s a bit uneven.  But there are enough great scenes that it’s a must for film buffs.

Woman of Tokyo  (Japan, 1933, CC)  3.7  Just as novels are more popular than short stories, long films are more popular than films of less than an hour.  Both of those facts reflect (in part) the poor taste of the general public.  This film packs a world of drama into its less than 47 minute running time.  Why should you watch a short silent Japanese film from 1933?  Because it was directed by Ozu.  (His post-war films would have been almost equally effective as silent films.)

Nine Queens  (Argentina, 2000, CC)  3.6  I saw a bunch of confidence artist films last month, and this was one of the best.  These films work by lying to the audience in the opening sections, in the hope that after the “big reveal” viewers won’t think too much about what they’ve seen during the previous 2 hours.  Like film noir, it’s hard to make a bad con man film.  The plots are generally quite entertaining, and then it comes down to which ones have the best acting, dialogue, settings, etc.   

Rich and Strange   (UK, 1931, CC)  3.6  Probably my favorite of the early (pre-1934) Hitchcock films.  A very amusing commentary on how adults are often just overgrown children.  The final 20 minutes is especially good.

The Inheritance   (Japan, 1962, CC)  3.5  Stylish B&W cinematography in this enjoyable story of greedy people scheming to get an inheritance from a greedy rich guy who is dying of cancer.

Love in the Afternoon  (France, 1972 , CC)  3.5  I didn’t like this quite as much as some of the other Rohmer films—perhaps that’s because his style now seems a bit repetitive.

Murder!  (UK, 1930, CC)  3.5  Hitchcock is discovering the possibilities of cinema in the sound era.  Some of his experiments are too obvious, and don’t hold up well.  He’s most effective here when he’s least showy.   Good plot, although the film would have been more impressive in 1930 than today, as these ideas have been repeated in dozens of other films.

The Skin Game  (UK, 1931, CC)  3.4  Obscure early Hitchcock film, based on a John Galesworthy play.  Even his weaker efforts are well worth seeing.

Blast of Silence   (US, 1961, CC)  3.4  I had no business enjoying this crude B-noir, but somehow found it to be pretty mesmerizing.  It’s amusing to watch scenes in Greenwich Village folk music clubs while thinking about the fact that people in 1961 had no idea what was about to happen.

Hangover Square  (UK, 1945, CC)  3.4   In 1945, audiences were willing to accept a pretty retrograde view of mental illness.  I wonder how big a role TV and film have played in educating the public on the topic?  Despite the silly plot, the stylish visuals in this noir pack a lot of information into just 77 minutes. I saw this the day after watching The Sting, and was reminded that this sort of B&W film is far more interesting to look at than most of the color films that came a few decades later.  In terms of plot, this film is similar to Hitchcock’s The Lodger.  It might have also worked better as a silent film.

The Match Factory Girl  (Finland, 1990, CC)  3.4  Try to make “It’s a Wonderful Life” out of this young woman’s existence!  I prefer Kaurismaki’s more humorous films, but this one has its moments.

New Rose Hotel  (US, 1998, CC)  3.4  Christopher Walken is always worth watching.  Also stars Willem Defoe and Asia Argento.

Chameleon Street  (US, 1989, CC)  3.4  Although this is a low budget production of uneven quality, it is definitely worth seeing.  What impresses me the most about this film is the writer, director and lead actor Wendell Harris Jr., who seems to possess a wide range of talents.  Why didn’t he go on to have a great career?  Despite the 100% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, he couldn’t get financing to do a second film.  Perhaps he was ahead of his time.

A Woman Under the Influence  (US, 1974, CC)  3.4  Critics liked this one more than I did.  I suppose it was quite innovative at the time, but today doesn’t seem particularly distinctive.  I saw it a day after Breaking the Waves, another film about a troubled woman.  That film still seems quite innovative.

Matchstick Men  (US, 2003, CC)  3.3  The sort of entertaining film that Hollywood is good at producing, but not really the sort of film that Ridley Scott does best.  The plot is too preposterous to be believed, or even to suspend one’s disbelief for the whole 2 hours. A poor man’s The Usual Suspects.

The Last Run   (US/Spain, 1971, CC)  3.3   George C. Scott plays an aging criminal who tries for one last caper—with somewhat predictable results.  I like its leisurely pace, unlike so many modern crime films. 

The Sting  (US, 1973, CC)  3.2  This Paul Newman/Robert Redford film was state of the art Hollywood entertainment back in 1973, as people were impressed by the plot twists and the handsome period sets.  Today, it seems a bit dated.  There’s only so much you can do without a great director—and there aren’t many great directors. Still, it’s worth watching if you’ve never seen it.  From certain camera angles, the young Robert Redford looked uncannily like Brad Pitt. 

Three on a Match  (US, 1932, CC)  3.1  Mildly entertaining pre-code drama.  The main reason to watch is to see Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart very early in their careers.  David is hardly recognizable, but Bogart is already Bogart.

Roadblock   (US, 1951, CC)  3.0  So-so low budget noir.  A noir has to be pretty bad in order to be not worth watching.

The Devil, Probably   (France, 1977, CC)  3.0  It’s not easy to make a good movie about apathetic, disenchanted youth, and Bresson doesn’t really succeed.  While his other films have a timeless quality, this one is very much a product of the late 1970s.  But I was 22 years old in 1977, the same age as the characters in this film, and nostalgia kept me watching what I could immediately see was going to be a disappointing film.  The late 1970s and early 1980s were the decadent end of the late 1960s youth movement—recall that Jonestown was 1978.  But it was also arguably the freest period in human history.  Soon afterward, AIDS crushed the sexual revolution and then technology put us all into a giant Panopticon.  And fifty years from now, even 2023 will seem like a period of incredible freedom.

Imagine a world where evangelical Christians vote Democratic and the Southern Baptist leadership is pro-choice on abortion.  Yes, that world actually existed in the late 1970s.

Safe in Hell  (US, 1931, CC)  3.0  Steamy pre-code drama.  It’s fairly ordinary, but features an appealing actress.

Sneakers  (US, 1992, CC)  2.9  This thriller stars Robert Redford and is every bit as bland as Redford’s face.

Paprika   (Japan, 2006, CC)  2.8  I saw this when it first came out, but it disappointed on second viewing.  Started very well with 10 minutes of strong visuals, and then completely ran out of ideas. 

Daughter of the Dragon  (US, 1931, CC)  2.5  One of the first Hollywood films to star two Asian actors.  The Chinese man is played by a Japanese actor, perhaps the most wooden performance I’ve ever seen.  But the Chinese woman is played by Anna May Wong, who adds a bit of charisma to the film.  Otherwise, it’s forgettable nonsense.



54 Responses to “Films of 2023:Q4”

  1. Gravatar of Junio Junio
    4. January 2024 at 18:42

    Do you plan on watching the new Willy Wonka movie? I haven’t yet, but it seems okay from what I have seen. The movie I liked a lot was the recent Hunger Games. I highly recommend it.

  2. Gravatar of dirk dirk
    4. January 2024 at 20:21

    Interesting review, as always. But which actor is the GOAT?

  3. Gravatar of Tom Tom
    5. January 2024 at 01:16

    Wolfe is great. His other works are worth reading. Sadly I can’t think of another science fiction writer who is his equal.
    Have you tried Iain M Banks? (And Iain Banks, his non SF name, Walking on Glass, The Bridge and Espedair Street are good— better than his later, longer works IMHO)

    I wish I could find an Australian streaming service that had even a fraction of the films that you recommend!

  4. Gravatar of Sara Sara
    5. January 2024 at 04:43

    “Why shouldn’t the judges (i.e. jurors) ask questions?”

    Judges can ask questions. If the judge notices an inconsistency, and the lawyer doesn’t, then they will either directly intervene (uncommon) or they will ask the lawyers to approach the bench (happens all the time).

    They choose the latter instead of the former, because it’s unprofessional to interrupt people who are making a presentation. This is just common sense for those with a modicum of professionalism.

    Do students shout out questions in the middle of your monetary economics presentation? Of course, not. They raise their hand, which is an invitation to accept their question.

    Also, Jurors and Judges are not the same.

    FYI, i.e., translates to ‘that is’. Therefore, when you write the sentence: “Why shouldn’t the judges (i.e. jurors) ask questions?” Then, that sentence translates to “Why shouldn’t the judges: that is, the jurors ask questions?” Either you believe judges and jurors are the same, or you don’t know what i.e., means. Either way, it’s not good.

  5. Gravatar of Sam Sam
    5. January 2024 at 06:24

    I bought and read The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll on your recommendation, and the whole time was reminded of a similar reflectiveness present in the Book of the New Sun series. How would you say the long sun and short sun compare?

  6. Gravatar of Robert Simmons Robert Simmons
    5. January 2024 at 06:27

    I really liked Sneakers a lot when it came out. Maybe I shouldn’t revisit it, lol.

  7. Gravatar of Friday assorted links – Marginal REVOLUTION Friday assorted links - Marginal REVOLUTION
    5. January 2024 at 08:22

    […] Scott Sumner movie and book reviews, he also has perfect taste in […]

  8. Gravatar of David R Henderson David R Henderson
    5. January 2024 at 08:43

    I remember going to see A Woman Under the Influence at the Nuart theater in West Los Angeles during my second year in graduate school at UCLA. The Nuart charged low admission fees that were easy on my budget. My fellow Canadian friend, roommate, and graduate student Harry Watson and I were really into the movie.
    Then I heard a woman behind me laughing. It was upsetting and seemed inappropriate. So I turned to ask her to be quieter. When I did so, I realized that she wasn’t laughing at all. She was sobbing. The movie was that powerful.

  9. Gravatar of WB WB
    5. January 2024 at 09:22

    I’d never heard of “Blast of Silence” until TCM played it recently. I enjoyed it a great deal, too.

    At first, with the hard-boiled narration by Lionel Stander (of “Hart to Hart” fame), I was ready to flip away. But the depictions of low-life criminals like Big Frankie were so vivid and believable, and the location shots were all so perfectly bleak and shabby. Even the narration grew on me after a while. This an oddity and a gem.

  10. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. January 2024 at 09:23

    Dirk, I don’t think there is one. My personal favorites are Jimmy Stewart and Tony Leung. But I don’t believe there is any straightforward way to judge acting. Even the “best director” is highly subjective, albeit a bit less so.

    Tom, You don’t have Criterion Channel? And yes, his shorter novels are also excellent.

    Sam, Good observation. On first reading, they are just as good as the New Sun series. But the New Sun books are viewed as his masterpiece, so perhaps when I reread I’ll have a different view.

    I like the Short Sun better than the Long Sun, but you have to read the Long Sun first to truly understand the Short Sun. In a sense, it’s one long story.

    David, I wonder how I would have reacted in the 1970s. I recall The Deer Hunter having a powerful effect on me in the 1970s—perhaps age dulls the senses.

  11. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. January 2024 at 09:24

    WB, I like these 50s noirs as a sort of history lesson, reminding me how much poorer America was at that time. (Yes, this one was in the 1960s, but most of them are early 50s)

  12. Gravatar of Philo Philo
    5. January 2024 at 10:02

    “. . . technology put us all into a giant Panopticon.” I know that nowadays my life, my activities, are on display; the saving grace is: Nobody is interested!

    I enjoy your movie reviews; watching movies, though, strains my attention span.

  13. Gravatar of Hoosier Hoosier
    5. January 2024 at 10:35

    Does Taylor Swift lip synch? Do most artists? My younger brother, who’s more on top of this stuff than i am, claims most singers now are not actually singing during their live concerts. I have no idea but always gave artists the benefit of the doubt and assumed I was hearing actual live music being performed when I go to a show. Maybe I’m naive

  14. Gravatar of Tom M Tom M
    5. January 2024 at 10:50

    I’m not interested in seeing any of your recent releases save Anatomy of a Fall, which I haven’t gotten to yet. Yes, all things Ozu, Naruse, Kobayashi and Bresson! I’m also a big Abel Ferrara fan and will watch New Rose Hotel. Probably my favorite Ferrara film is The Funeral. Like The Long Good Friday, it chronicles the sudden downfall of a crime family. Stars Christopher Walken and a stellar Chris Penn. The early Hitchcocks are always super fun, and I will watch your recommendations. Watched Hong San-soo’s The Novelist’s Film and loved it. He keeps making the same film over and over again, and they’re all worthwhile. So many good films. Scott, I’m curious, what is your preferred streaming platform for older films?

  15. Gravatar of TGGP TGGP
    5. January 2024 at 10:52

    I wonder how big a role TV and film have played in educating the public on the topic?

    Should we even use the term “educating” when it comes to works of fiction? Of course the field of psychiatry has long been congenial to pseudoscience, so the same could apply to schools.

  16. Gravatar of tedkal tedkal
    5. January 2024 at 11:11

    Scott we need your review of May December. I think you’ll love it.

  17. Gravatar of David F David F
    5. January 2024 at 11:23

    I give Three on a Match more credit. It’s a potboiler, for sure, but I thought Ann Dvorak’s performance as the downwardly mobile friend was touching. Perhaps one of the earliest depictions of an addict, as well?

    At any rate, both she and Joan Blondell were more interesting to me than Davis and Bogart, probably because they’re less familiar and thus fresher.

  18. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. January 2024 at 11:40

    Tom, All the films that say “CC” are from Criterion Channel. I also watch Amazon prime for some newer films.

    I will watch for The Novelist’s Film. I liked Hong San-soo’s earlier films.

    Did I miss something with The Devil, Probably? I liked Bresson’s other films.

    Hoosier, I would think she does. It makes for a better concert experience.

    TGGP, You asked:

    “Should we even use the term “educating” when it comes to works of fiction?”

    Yes, it was fiction that educated people on the evils of homophobia.

    tedkal, It’s on my list, but hasn’t reached Orange County.

    David, You make a good point.

  19. Gravatar of Henri Hein Henri Hein
    5. January 2024 at 11:44

    I saw Breaking the Waves when it came out. I wasn’t sure what to think of it at the time, but one thing I will say for it is that it stuck with me all these years. I personally would have preferred a more ambiguous ending.

  20. Gravatar of derek derek
    5. January 2024 at 11:51

    I prefer the Long/Short (especially) Sun books, but I am shocked that you did not read New Sun first, which seems like the most famous.

    As far as other genre fiction that reaches an equally high bar, I personally feel that Leguin’s best work (Earthsea books, selected Hainish books) does. In pure fantasy, I got introduced to Steven Erikson’s Malazan series by a comment on your blog long ago and greatly enjoyed it; there is a lot of very interesting stuff happening even though I do not think that Erikson is as artful at pulling it off as Wolfe/Leguin.

  21. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. January 2024 at 12:34

    derek, Reread my post, I did read the New Sun series first.

    I find Wolfe to be far above Leguin.

  22. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. January 2024 at 13:15

    derek, My previous comment probably sounded dismissive. I realize that many experts regard Leguin as a great writer. I probably missed something.

  23. Gravatar of Dzhaughn Dzhaughn
    5. January 2024 at 14:26

    Always a pleasure.

    Haven’t you seen May December?

  24. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    5. January 2024 at 16:30

    Fun comments as always. Perfect timing too; I’ve been thinking lately about checking out Gene Wolfe but had forgotten his name.

    Re: “The Last Run.” I’d never heard of it (and haven’t seen it) but I found this interesting:

  25. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    5. January 2024 at 16:33

    ” I don’t think there is one.” (Re: GOAT actor).

    After thinking about it for awhile – being somewhat skeptical that TC really thinks Tom Cruise is the actor GOAT – I was wondering if TC’s real point was something along those lines, like it’s in some sense a meaningless idea.

    For me the best acting performances don’t involve “acting,” they’re the ones where you can’t imagine the film being the same with someone else in the role.

  26. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    5. January 2024 at 17:06

    “But those shows lacked the dazzling special effects you see today.”

    “…phenomenal progress in the sound and lighting at musical concerts…”

    Don’t forget the progress they’ve made in price discrimination – they can tailor a concert experience now to fit almost any budget.

    “I think the most I ever paid was about $20 to see the Stones (with the Eagles as an opening act.)

    Concert ticket prices nowadays are pretty funny. Where I lived they were putting on these “Catch a Rising Star” shows in a 2800 seat venue with a large balcony. All of these acts in 1978/1979 were $2, except Brian Ferry, who was $1:

    Patti Smith
    Brian Ferry
    Talking Heads
    The Boomtown Rats
    Graham Parker and the Rumours (sic)

  27. Gravatar of ReverendWicksCherrycoke ReverendWicksCherrycoke
    5. January 2024 at 17:23

    The Aretha Franklin concert film “Amazing Grace” is worth a watch, Sydney Pollack shot it in 1972 when she was at the peak of her powers but it sat in a vault until 2018 for technical reasons. Rapt Mick Jagger in the audience, presumably taking notes for Exile on Main Street.

  28. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. January 2024 at 18:26

    Dzhaughn, Not yet. Maybe I missed it when it was here. If it gets Oscar buzz it will come around again.

    anon/portly, Lots of ways of thinking about the GOAT. Best career (Lebron), best peak years (Jordan). The same for actors.

    Graham Parker and the Rumour is the answer to the “Which 70s rock act is the most underrated?” question.

    Reverend, Thanks for the tip.

  29. Gravatar of Tom Tom
    5. January 2024 at 19:55

    I believe that I can watch the Criterion Channel “illegally” if I use a VPN.

    I have never understood why there isn’t a wider variety of films available on streaming services — I would have thought that the cost of having a few hundred megabytes of data sitting there is negligible, and that for less popular films the copyright owners would be happy to be paid per view, and would like non-exclusive licensing. But as that doesn’t happen I suppose I’m missing something!

  30. Gravatar of dirk dirk
    5. January 2024 at 21:50

    Hey Scott, want to take advantage of talking to you about movies while the window is open. I recently rewatched Chinatown and still think it is a great movie. But isn’t the score horrible? The score is famous but is it famous for being horrible? It should be.

    I just picked up the recent Knausgaard novel and read a hundred pages. I love Knausgaard but he can be boring at his worst. Have you read the new one? It’s 800 pages long and I’m trying to decide whether it is worth finishing or not. I loved volumes 1, 2 and the last of My Struggle, and liked Morning Star but find the new one pretty boring. I’m a slow reader so can’t decide whether I should continue with The Wolves of Eternity. Do you have an opinion on it?

  31. Gravatar of David S David S
    5. January 2024 at 23:22

    3.2 stars for the The Sting is fair–it’s dated and it’s iconic for the soundtrack alone. And Robert Shaw, who then managed to make the first blockbuster with Spielberg before he drank himself to death.

  32. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    6. January 2024 at 05:30

    Looking forward to seeing ‘American Fiction’ whenever I get the chance.

    No Saltburn? I saw it in the cinema on a recent trip to America and was the only person laughing. The American audience didn’t seem to get it.

    I couldn’t stand Iain M Banks’ awful prose, personally. I read the first Culture book and then promptly donated it to my local library. I imagine it would make a decent miniseries, however.

  33. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. January 2024 at 09:43

    Tom, I also don’t understand why some films are not available.

    Dirk, I like his recent novel about as much as The Morning Star, and less than My Struggle. It’s not essential.

    Tacticus, I’ve never read Banks, nor have I seen Saltburn.

  34. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    6. January 2024 at 12:14

    I gathered that, was more curious if it didn’t look interesting to you or if you just hadn’t gotten around to it.

    Skip Banks. Waste of time.

  35. Gravatar of Scott Sumner Scott Sumner
    6. January 2024 at 16:54

    Tacticus, I hadn’t even heard of the film. Oddly, I find that the internet makes it far harder to keep up with new films. Before, I relied on paper newspapers that were fairly comprehensive in their coverage of new films.

  36. Gravatar of Cultural Tourist Cultural Tourist
    6. January 2024 at 21:24

    Thanks as always for the reviews and agree with your list of writers. But is there not a single woman who you put at that level?

  37. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. January 2024 at 22:38

    Tourist, I’m not very well read when it comes to recent fiction. Elena Ferrante? I’d guess there are a number of others at that level.

    I was just giving a list of some people I’d read—it wasn’t meant to be a comprehensive list of the top modern writers.

  38. Gravatar of Cultural Tourist Cultural Tourist
    8. January 2024 at 09:14

    Ok, I think your list was great and I wasn’t trying to be severely critical, just asking because it did stand out. In addition to Ferrante, I’d say: Cusk, Munro, Moore (short stories), Smith.

  39. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    8. January 2024 at 09:39

    Tourist, Thanks for the list. I do need to read more female authors. Also more third world authors.

  40. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    8. January 2024 at 17:06

    I highly recommend Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, on that note.

  41. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    8. January 2024 at 18:49


    Probably not but would you consider Salman Rushdie 3rd world? His subjects mostly are. Finally read Midnight’s Children and it is soooo good.

  42. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. January 2024 at 11:19

    msgkings, He’s the sort of author I need to read more.

  43. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    9. January 2024 at 13:08


    If you haven’t yet, start with reading that one

  44. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    10. January 2024 at 18:57

    “Hour of the Wolf (Sweden, 1968, CC) 3.7 As with almost all horror films….”

    I hadn’t realized that this was a horror film, since Burgman’s (you know, Ingmar Burgman) “Whispers of the Wolf” wasn’t scary at all:

  45. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    10. January 2024 at 19:30

    “Graham Parker and the Rumour is the answer to the ‘Which 70s rock act is the most underrated?’ question.”

    I hadn’t thought about them in a long time, but in addition to a ticket stub to a 1979 concert that I don’t really remember, I have one of their albums (“Stick to Me”), which this comment caused me to give a spin….

    The Rumour were interesting: Brinsley Schwarz and Bob Andrews from the band Brinsley Schwarz, plus future Mekon Steve Goulding. Nick Lowe, who was also in Brinsley Schwarz, produced….

  46. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    10. January 2024 at 20:12

    ” Lots of ways of thinking about the GOAT. Best career (Lebron), best peak years (Jordan). The same for actors.”

    Value over replacement?

    It strikes me that in some films the choice of a certain actor makes all the difference while in others it’s not really very important. And of course it’s hard to know for sure how good any film x would have been with actor y instead.

    Rather than thinking in terms of peak/career I guess I’d be thinking more like “can we find even a small number of films where we’re confident this actor made a big impact?”

    Examples for me would be Sellers in Dr. Strangelove, Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, and Bronson in Once Upon a Time in the West. But I’m not sure I have a second example for any of them – of course Bogart is great in some other things but maybe another actor would have been just as good.

    Someone like Eastwood I guess has a leg up because he played the same sort of character in several very good films, sort of making that character his own, or Harrison Ford likewise for someone who loves the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies. Or Buster Keaton?

  47. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    11. January 2024 at 09:00

    anon, Stick to Me is an odd choice—by far the weakest of their first 4 albums.

    I’d put Sellers and Bogart well ahead of Bronson. Sellers was pretty unique, and great in a number of films.

    I’m a big fan of Keaton.

    Using VOR, Lebron is clearly number one for career as a whole.

  48. Gravatar of Matthias Matthias
    12. January 2024 at 21:13

    Scott, you might like Blue Eye Samurai. It’s a short series (so far), not a movie. But we are living in the golden age of ‘TV’, and past the golden age of cinema, anyway.

    (I quote ‘TV’, because the show is on Netflix, not on appointment TV.)

    Blue Eye Samurai is beautifully animated and well written. You can find more detailled reviews online, of course.

    If you are into animated movies at all, the original Ghost in the Shell form the 90s is also worth a look.

  49. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    13. January 2024 at 00:14

    “I’d put Sellers and Bogart well ahead of Bronson. Sellers was pretty unique, and great in a number of films.”

    I wasn’t clear – my point wasn’t that Bronson (or HB or PS) was worthy of any GOAT consideration, just that his (and their) VOR in that one film is very high, and that this sort of consideration would be where I would start, were I tasked with finding the GOAT.

    I’d certainly put Bogart way ahead too – a second favorite Bronson film, I have not. I left a comment on the original TC post that concluded:

    “Consider Bogart and the Maltese Falcon, or Bogart and Casablanca – who wants to imagine those films with anyone else?”

  50. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    13. January 2024 at 00:34

    “Using VOR, Lebron is clearly number one for career as a whole.”

    An understandable view, and probably my own, but “clearly?” Is it so obvious that ultimately Jordan or Duncan were less valuable – that if you put Jordan or Duncan on some random team it wouldn’t be better off, on average, than with LeBron?

  51. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    13. January 2024 at 09:31

    Matthias, I’ve seen Ghost in the Shell, which was OK. The sequel was actually a bit better. In general, I’m not a big fan of anime, with the obvious exception of Miyazaki’s great films.

    As you know, I much prefer film to TV, even “quality TV”.

    Anon/portly, Well, LeBron took some “random teams” to the finals. Lebron greatly elevated the people around him.

    I agree with your observations on films.

  52. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    15. January 2024 at 02:34

    SS: “The Boy and the Heron (Japan) 3.2 Miyazaki seems to have lost his magic. Time to retire?” – projection? I got laid after watching “Spirited Away” (2001) with my Asian gf at the time (she’s not my current partner). But she thought that film sucked. If “Boy and Heron”, which apparently is Japan’s most expensive film, is as good as “Spirited Away”, which until 2020 was Japan’s highest ever grossing film, then I say it’s a winner. BTW see the comments of the prior post, for a reference, repeated below, to a 1983 paper by Litterman et al that proves, citing future Nobelian C. Sims, money is neutral. The killer sentence: “Taken literally, our results imply that monetary policy has not discernably affected the real rate, although it has causally influenced nominal interest rates” from “MONEY, REAL INTEREST RATES, AND OUTPUT: A REINTERPRETATION OF POSTWAR U.S. DATA, Robert B. Litterman Laurence Weiss Working Paper No. 1077, NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH, February 1983

  53. Gravatar of Bulat Bulat
    15. January 2024 at 04:29

    Nice list! I personally liked Netflix’ Reptile (not a masterpiece, but it’s underrated). There are good interviews with the director (e.g. in Hollywood Reporter) – he’s really thought about the characters! Maybe critics didn’t expect it to be a character study, and not a mystery…

    On video-essays front I think some from Moviewise were good ( – like “How to Immediately Identify a Great Director” or “The Future of the Cinema is in the Past”. Accessible and energetic discussions on how old movies were directed.

  54. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    15. January 2024 at 09:12

    Thanks Bulat.

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