Films of 2024: Q2

I did a trip to Tyler Cowen’s #1 travel destination (southern Utah plus the North Rim.) In my view, the best travel destination is the one you do at the perfect time in your life. Read Conrad’s story “Youth”.

In recent months I reread a few novels by Nabakov (Pale Fire and Ada), and got more out of them than when I was younger. Over the past few summers, I’ve reread Conrad, Stevenson and Hawthorne. (I’m a sucker for 19th century Anglo-American novelists.) My project for this summer is to read (or reread) Melville. I’ve now finished Typee, Omoo and Mardi. Typee was Melville’s only financial success, which is odd given that Omoo has a similar style and is extremely entertaining.

I’m not surprised that Mardi sold poorly, as it is difficult to read. It begins as a continuation of Omoo, then a couple hundred pages in begins to resemble Gulliver’s Travels. Half way through the book, Melville begins a long allegory on global politics circa 1848 (a pivotal year, and the year he wrote the novel.) Then he switches to some thoughts on philosophy and religion, and even seems to respond to critiques of a novel that hasn’t even been published yet. He complained about people who wished his novel (presumably Mardi) had more unity. (He guessed right about the critics.) At times, he seems to be trying to emulate classics like Don Quixote and The Divine Comedy. He put everything he had into this fascinating, flawed epic.

Two years later he wrote another sprawling, ambitious masterwork; this one a smashing artistic success (and with more unity), but once again a financial failure.

Lincoln read Melville. See if the following (referring to slavery in the American south) reminds you of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural:

“Pray heaven! cried Yoomy, “they may yet find a way to loose their bonds without one drop of blood. But hear me, Oro! were there no other way, and should their masters not relent, all honest hearts must cheer this tribe of Hamo on; though they cut their chains with blades thrice edged, and gory to the haft! ‘Tis right to fight for freedom, whoever be the thrall.”

“These South savannahs may yet prove battle-fields,” said Mohi, gloomily, as we retraced our steps.”

Don’t take this as a recommendation for Mardi. I’m glad I read it, but most won’t like it. Start with Typee and Omoo.

2024:Q2 films

Newer Films:

About Dry Grasses (Turkey, CC) 3.9 This is my favorite film directed by Ceylan, and that’s high praise. At times it feels like a long Russian novel. Engrossing from beginning to end, despite its 3¼ hour length. This one also could have been entitled “Evil Does Not Exist”.

Evil Does Not Exist (Japan) 3.7 This is turning out to be an outstanding year for Japanese films. As is so often the case with films from Asia, it begs to be seen on the big screen. Hard to summarize—imagine if Apichatpong Weerasethakul had directed Local Hero. Warning—his films always start slow, and build to a strong second half.

The Thief Collector (US) 3.6 This documentary on a pair of art thieves is extremely enjoyable, despite a somewhat clumsy execution in places. Surprising revelations keep popping up throughout its 100-minute running time.

Hit Man (US) 3.5 Highly entertaining due to its killer plot. So why not a higher rating? I was disappointed that Linklater did so little with the plot—much of the execution (not all) is fairly bland. Where’s the style? As a comedy, it’s only OK. As film noir, it’s nowhere near as intense as Body Heat. It’s sort of Soderbergh-lite. And yet more people will like this one than any other film on my list, because of the great plot.

Falling Leaves (Finland) 3.4 A characteristic Kaurismaki film. Like Wes Anderson, his films have a certain look and a sly sense of humor. Like Ozu, he makes the same film over and over again.

In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon (US) 3.2 I like the music of Paul Simon, but not quite enough to sit through a 4-hour documentary. I fast forwarded through some of the recent interviews (which were kind of bland), but did enjoy some of the history. A highlight was the inspiring 1987 concert in Zimbabwe, which had the most integrated audience I’ve ever seen. Memories of a world where it was possible to be optimistic.

The Broken Ice (China) 3.2 A few decades ago, I would have been more impressed by this film, which is roughly in the style of Jia Zhangke. Now it seems a bit derivative.

Coup de Chance (France) 3.0 Full of tastefully done scenes filmed by Vittorio Storaro, but somewhat inert and lifeless. For a major director, Woody Allen has surprisingly little feel for the art of cinema—a fact that is usually covered up by his clever dialogue. Working in French he seems out of his comfort zone (or is it the subtitles?) The dialogue seems less sharp, more predictable. Indeed the whole film seems a bit derivative, a blander version of Crimes and Misdemeanors or Match Point.

Challengers (US) 2.6 Drove 30 minutes to the theater. Sat through 15 minutes of commercials and 15 more of loud in-your-face trailers. Then within 60 seconds I knew I had picked the wrong film. Unpleasant characters, phony “Hollywood” dialogue and a really annoying musical soundtrack.

Older Films:

Identification of a Woman (Italy, 1982, CC) 3.8 Critics often point out various flaws in Antonioni films, but I’d rather focus what he does so well. He’s one of those directors that appeal to serious film buffs because the visuals are so brilliantly constructed. (Tarkovsky, Ozu, Kairostami, Hou Hsiao-hsien, and Wes Anderson are some other examples.)

Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint (Germany, 2019, CC) 3.6 When thinking about the most overlooked female artist, Artemesia Gentileschi often comes to mind. This documentary makes a persuasive case for Hilma af Klint. To my eyes, her most appealing works are not the large scale abstractions, rather it’s the small Klee-like gems that stand out. Don’t assume that if you have seen a half dozen of her most famous works that you have any conception of her overall career.

State and Main (US, 2000, CC) 3.6 Not quite top level Mamet, but consistently entertaining and full of great actors. Rebecca Pidgeon is especially outstanding, overshadowing even the great Philip Hoffman.

Where the Sidewalk Ends (US, 1950, CC) 3.6 One ranking I saw (Flickchart) suggested that 1950 featured 9 of the top 24 1950s film noirs. This falls a bit short of the 1950 classics (Sunset Boulevard, In a Lonely Place, Asphalt Jungle, Night and the City, Gun Crazy), but it’s still quite satisfying.

Memories of Underdevelopment (Cuba, 1968, CC) 3.5 Surprisingly complex and ambiguous for a film made in communist Cuba. For me, the most interesting aspect was how it portrayed a self-centered European intellectual living in a tropical third world country. The film can be read in more than one way (a point missed by some critics). I believe the director is more sympathetic to the protagonist than one might assume.

You Were Like a Wild Chrysanthemum (Japan, 1955, CC) 3.5 Chishu Ryu is one of my favorite actors, but he has a fairly small role. Very nice cinematography. Recommended for fans of nostalgia.

Dry Summer (Turkey, 1964, CC) 3.5 I wasn’t sure I wanted to see a 50-year old Turkish film about farmers fighting over water rights. I did. There’s a reason Scorsese put this surprisingly entertaining film on his global cinema list.

Summer of Sam (US, 1999, CC) 3.5 The effective use of the album “Who’s Next” on the soundtrack brought back memories of the 1970s. They weren’t the best band of that era, but The Who were perhaps the most characteristic in terms of how guitar based rock music evolved in the late 1960s and early 1970s—before punk blew it all away. This Spike Lee film nicely captures that turning point. A painless history lesson for those too young to recall the NYC of 1977.

Clouds of Sils Maria (Swiss/French, 2014, CC) 3.5 Very good acting and good enough screenplay (even if some of the themes seem a bit warmed over.)

Once Upon a Time in America (US/Italy, 1984, CC) 3.4 How does one rate this glorious sprawling mess? The good, the bad and the ugly? Leone clearly put his heart into this nearly 4-hour spaghetti Godfather, and there are some marvelous sequences. In the end, however, it doesn’t really work. It lacks the baroque style of his classic westerns (with the music being especially disappointing in this film.) And it’s not quite serious or intelligent enough to bear comparison with Coppola’s masterpieces. And yet, just when you’ve given up, there’s a scene to pull you right back in. Leone’s particularly good at filming the actor’s eyes.

Following (UK, 1998, CC) 3.4 I had thought Momento was Christopher Nolan’s first film, but this engrossing low budget ($6000!!) B&W noir came even earlier. While watching the film, I thought about how it was more entertaining than Oppenheimer, despite vastly lower production quality. It’s like the difference between a little B&W etching by Rembrandt, Goya, or Durer and an overstuffed baroque history painting full of color.

While the technique of film as voyeurism has been used more effectively by directors such as Hitchcock, it’s hard for any even half way competent director to go wrong with this sort of film. The only thing that prevents an even higher rating is a vague sense in the end that I’d seen it all before.

Up (US, 1999, CC) 3.4 A forgettable piece of fluff, but the sort of highly entertaining film that Hollywood is very good at producing.

The Boys From Fengkuei (Taiwan, 1983, CC) 3.4 A transitional film between Hou Hsiao-hsien’s early commercial work and his mature style.

Nocturama (France, 2017, CC) 3.3 A pure exercise in style, with no real attempt to grapple with ideas. That may be a good thing, as when films do try to address political topics they tend to end up at the shallow end of the pool. The rather clinical approach to an intrinsically dramatic situation (terrorists planting bombs) makes for fairly easy viewing, at least for those cineastes that are not bored by this sort of minimalism. Not for those who want a clear-cut “story”.

Casting Blossoms to the Sky (Japan, 2012, CC) 3.4 Obayashi’s crude but emotionally powerful antiwar film tries to do too much. But it does feature some of his stunning cinematography. A bit too long and not for everyone.

Here Comes Mr. Jordan (US, 1941, CC) 3.3 The first of a number of films with a similar theme—someone sent back to Earth from Heaven. It’s nowhere near as good as A Matter of Life and Death, but it’s pleasant entertainment.

Double Suicide (Japan, 1969, CC) 3.3 Interesting plot but a bit too melodramatic for my taste. The artsy black and white cinematography is often striking, but not particularly creative.

5 Centimeters Per Second (Japan, 2007, CC) 3.3 Same director as The Garden of Words (see below). The animation is a bit softer and more painterly, less CGI. The first episode is excellent; then it fades a bit in the next two.

Superior (US, 2021, CC) 3.3 You can see why the film was compared to the work of David Lynch and Brian De Palma, but the comparisons also allow you to see what makes Lynch so special—surrealism is hard to do in a convincing way. This would especially appeal to fans of DePalma’s early films. Criterion Channel also has a 15-minute short film with the same identical twin actresses, done 6 years earlier. Worth checking out after the feature presentation.

The Mother and the Whore (France, 1973, CC) 3.2 Is there any actor that looks more French than Jean-Pierre Leaud? He spends much of the 3:40 run time sitting in cafes aimlessly discussing philosophy and relationships. This film is so French it seems almost like a parody of the French New Wave.

Woman (Japan, 1948, CC) 3.2 Full of the desperation one often sees in postwar film noir (and of course Japan was in much more desperate straits than America.) The first 50 minutes drag somewhat, but the final 15 are pretty intense.

The Garden of Words (Japan, 2013, CC) 3.2 The story is not very interesting, but the animation is stunning. Only 46 minutes.

One Way Street (US, 1950, CC) 3.2 Critics view 1950 as the peak of American noir, a year full of classic films. This is not one of them. There’s a long romantic idyll sandwiched in between standard noir opening and closing scenes, which is an odd mix. But I enjoyed the scenes when the couple escaped to a village on Mexico’s Pacific coast. And the film does star James Mason. Worth seeing if you are a noir fan.

Girls of the Night (Japan, 1961, CC) 3.1 The film’s heart is in the right place, as it shows the cruelty of Japan’s decision to ban prostitution. But there’s too much moralizing, and the story never really comes to life.

Born to be Bad (US, 1950, CC) 3.1 Nicholas Ray is a good director, but (except for Robert Ryan) he is working with some mediocre actors in this film. In Hollywood, evil men tend to be violent while evil women are manipulative. This is the latter.

A Night of Knowing Nothing (India, 2021, CC) 3.0 While the experimental style is not very effective, it does contain a powerful critique of India’s slide toward authoritarian nationalism. Viewing this film makes one very pessimistic about India’s future. But as with China, any nation of 1.4 billion people contains many different realities. India seems to have much more political freedom than China, but much less social freedom.

Running Scared (US, 2006, CC) 3.0 The film starts out strong, with scenes of almost frenetic energy. But in the end you feel the film is less than a sum of its parts, as the scenarios become less and less plausible. It’s the film equivalent of turning the amp up to 11 for two straight hours.

Auto Focus (US, 2002, CC) 2.9 I didn’t find Paul Schrader’s interpretation of Bob Crane’s life to be particularly interesting. I suppose it’s possible that Crane’s life was in fact quite uninteresting. More likely, the life presented here is not the life that Crane actually led. Film is seductive, and I find that I have to fight against the urge to assume that what I am watching is what really happened. There’s nothing more false than a “true story”. Who knows, perhaps Crane had “A Wonderful Life”.

Hogan’s Heroes debuted in 1965, when I was 10. I sometimes wonder how my life would have been different if I had read a few more books instead of watching TV after the school day ended.

Bad Lieutenant (US, 1992, CC) 2.9 The first half was OK, but overall it was too heavy handed and clumsy to be taken seriously as tragedy, and too boring to enjoy as campy entertainment. Another Catholic film that wrestles with themes of sin and redemption? I think I’ll pass.

Full Moon in New York (HK/US, 1989, CC) 2.8 This Stanley Kwan film is very uneven. It seems like Hong Kong directors have difficulty making a convincing film when they are removed from their homeland.

An Autumn’s Tale (HK/US, 1987, CC) 2.5 Chow Yun-fat’s talent is wasted in a romcom that doesn’t have much comedy or romance.

Deal of the Century (US, 1983, CC) 2.3 Friedkin made some good films in the 1970s, but like Coppola he ran out of steam in the 1980s. And comedy doesn’t seem to be his forte.

Farewell China (HK/US, 1990, CC) 3.0/1.5 New York City as a cartoonish dystopia seen through the eyes of Chinese immigrants. Taken at face value it’s a complete mess—say a 1.5 star film. But the film is so bad it ends up being fairly entertaining in a campy sort of way. You definitely need to be in the right frame of mind for this one.



29 Responses to “Films of 2024: Q2”

  1. Gravatar of dirk dirk
    3. July 2024 at 22:54

    With respect to literature, you don’t seem a big fan of the Moderns. Have you read To the Lighthouse?

  2. Gravatar of Sara Sara
    4. July 2024 at 05:20

    Instead of posting a list of movies you watched, which is incredibly narcissistic, why don’t you post something selfless like “Happy Independence Day”, and show a modicum of respect to those who came before you. You’re only here, with the liberties you have, because of their sacrifice.

  3. Gravatar of David R Henderson David R Henderson
    4. July 2024 at 06:48

    Sara, In response to your point, maybe, just maybe, Scott thinks that the right to pursue happiness gives him the right to pursue happiness.

  4. Gravatar of Independence day assorted links – Marginal REVOLUTION Independence day assorted links - Marginal REVOLUTION
    4. July 2024 at 08:15

    […] 6. Scott Sumner movie reviews. […]

  5. Gravatar of Chris Chris
    4. July 2024 at 08:24

    “I sometimes wonder how my life would have been different if I had read a few more books instead of watching TV after the school day ended.”

    I know you’re not being ironic, but I had to chuckle given the earlier report of re-reading Melville.

  6. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. July 2024 at 08:37

    Dirk, That’s on my list, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I wasted too much time when I was younger.

    Regarding the “moderns”, I probably read more post-1900 books than pre-1900 books.

    Sara, Wait, is July 3rd a holiday?

    Chris, To be clear, I had only read three of his novels.

  7. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    4. July 2024 at 10:38

    My mother was a scholar of Melville, amongst other authors. As an act of juvenile rebellion, therefore, I was determined to not enjoy Melville as a child (although I couldn’t help liking ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener’).

    I appreciate his work much more these days, but still haven’t read any of his poetry. Is ‘Clarel’ on your reading list or are you sticking solely to the prose works?

    It was probably already 4 July in Russia when you posted this, leading to Sara’s confusion!

  8. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. July 2024 at 10:44

    Tacticus, I don’t read a lot of poetry, as that’s not my forte. I’ll consider Clarel after I finish reading his prose.

    “It was probably already 4 July in Russia when you posted this, leading to Sara’s confusion!” 😂

  9. Gravatar of Faze Faze
    4. July 2024 at 12:09

    Let me double down on Scott’s non-recommendation of Melville’s “Mardi” and his thumbs up for “Omoo”. Both “Omoo” and “Typee” are a riot, fun and surprising in situation and language. But “Mardi” is pure literary sludge and needs to be avoided at all cost – especially by anyone who loves Melville.

  10. Gravatar of Tom M Tom M
    4. July 2024 at 17:32

    Scott, you’ve seen Local Hero! A super fun film, I’ll watch it again. I also loved About Dry Grasses, like you I felt it was probably my favorite from Ceylan. He’s a great director of actors. It’s one of the best films I’ve seen in the last few years. Evil Does Not Exist is also outstanding, but I would have preferred a little less ambiguity in the final minutes. Murderous deer, who knew. You reminded me to go back and re-watch some Antonioni, thanks for that. (I love his work, but revisiting The Passenger recently, I felt is hadn’t aged well. Give me Monica Vitti over Jack Nicholson any day.) On television, I thought The Gallows Pole was quite good. Only three episodes, worth a look. And who besides me and one or two others in the US is watching Letterkenny and Shoresy? I almost never watch comedy, except for Gary Shandling and Norm McDonald, simply because I don’t find it funny. Letterkenny and Shoresy are quite low brow and so much more interesting than anything else I’ve seen on TV or the cinema.

  11. Gravatar of Lizard Man Lizard Man
    4. July 2024 at 17:51

    “ But as with China, any nation of 1.4 billion people contains many different realities. India seems to have much more political freedom than China, but much less social freedom.”

    I am curious about this statement. I could imagine that Indians have less social freedom because they are poorer than Chinese people, and more reliant on extended kin networks or caste networks for support, and hence pay a much higher price for non-conformity.

  12. Gravatar of TGGP TGGP
    4. July 2024 at 18:25

    Speaking of Woody Allen as a director (rather than writer), the Moviewise channel on Youtube has a video on his transition from directorially lazy films that existed to convey his jokes, to more stylistically ambitious work with Gordon Willis (acknowledging that his most recent films haven’t been as good near the end). Since Moviewise considers Allen’s “early, funny” films to be among the funniest films ever made, it’s not a matter of simple good vs bad movies, but an analytical breakdown of how he shoots scenes differently across films.

    I watched Dry Summer a couple months ago, as part of a trio with other films in the first volume of the World Cinema Project. And I did indeed enjoy Hit Man more, but I’d take Dry Summer over the more lauded Touki Bouki (also from World Cinema Volume 1) and its incessant replaying of that Billie Holiday music clip.

    Clouds of Sils Maria was a decent movie about actors acting. Assayas’ other film featuring Kristen Stewart, Personal Shopper, does a bad job at every genre it contains.

    I agree Nocturama is a relatively easy watch. It’s lack of interest in exploring the politics of the terrorists reminds me of Day Night Day Night, which gives zero exposition and never names any characters.

    > India seems to have much more political freedom than China, but much less social freedom.
    I’d be curious to hear you elaborate on that. I’ve only visited the former rather than the latter, but I don’t think I gained much understanding of the average Indian’s life from that (or having more Indian than Chinese coworkers).

  13. Gravatar of Glenn Mercer Glenn Mercer
    5. July 2024 at 05:12

    I am just writing to say I am thrilled that anyone other than myself has actually watched State and Main. (And liked it!) For me the immortal line is when Baldwin as the pampered movie star orders from room service a “tuna BLT.”

    But yes it is a Mamet so nobody in real life talks like his characters, but it is so enjoyable….

  14. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. July 2024 at 10:03

    Faze, Yes, it is flawed and hard to read, but that’s too harsh. I’m glad I read all 700 pages, as it contains lots of good stuff.

    Tom, You said:

    “Give me Monica Vitti over Jack Nicholson any day.”

    Yup, although they are both good.

    I’ve seen Local Hero at least three times. Check out the excellent film “I Know Where I’m Going”, the film it is based on.

    Thanks for the tips.

    Lizard, You said:

    “and more reliant on extended kin networks or caste networks for support, and hence pay a much higher price for non-conformity.”

    That’s sort of what I had in mind. Compared to China, I hear of many more cases of women in India being raped or killed for dating the wrong person.

    (And don’t take this as me dumping on India. All countries have problems, and the US seems determined to create its own caste system. Lots of good stuff is also happening in India.)

    TGGP, Good comments. On India, see above.

    Glann, Mamet writes the best dialogue. (I missed the tuna joke.)

  15. Gravatar of Aaron Aaron
    5. July 2024 at 13:19

    Any chance in your future reviews that you could post where you watched these? I’m assuming a lot come from Criterion Channel and Mubi. Would make it easier to track down those I find interesting from your list.

    Also, give ‘Challengers’ another try. Guadagnino is the only director working today who REALLY gets the language of film. I was giddy watching it.

  16. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. July 2024 at 13:33

    Aaron, All the ones labeled “CC” were seen on Criterion Channel. That’s the vast majority. Others were at the theatre, or Amazon Prime. A few on Netflix.

    Challengers just isn’t my taste.

  17. Gravatar of Fabio Fabio
    5. July 2024 at 14:32

    Hit Man is a good bet. If it’s bad, at least it has the gorgeous Adria Arjona in its cast

  18. Gravatar of milljas milljas
    5. July 2024 at 15:05

    Do you find there are a lot of 4+ movies from the last 30-40 years?
    I recall a few and could do a search but just curious.
    I know it’s not many given your previous commentary.
    My kids watch Avengers and want to watch the Dark Knight. But I tell them these aren’t really great movies, although they are entertaining.
    Thanks for this. Apologies if 4 is the max in which case I am surprised Hit Man scores that high.

  19. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. July 2024 at 16:34

    Milljas, In general, film has deteriorated a bit in the past 30-40 years, except in Asia. (Artistically, that is—you can argue that Hollywood is getting ever better at giving people what they want (Avengers, etc.))

    I use a 0-4 star scale, but I rarely watch poorly rated films, so I rate most films at 3-4 stars. In my ranking, 3 stars is barely worth watching. 3.5 is a very good film. 3.8 is outstanding and 4.0 is an all time classic—say “In the Mood For Love” to take the best example from the 21st century.

    If I watched Hit Man a second time I might rate it lower, as the clever plot is its best feature. Plot driven films don’t age well.

  20. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    7. July 2024 at 10:12

    “The effective use of the album “Who’s Next” on the soundtrack brought back memories of the 1970s. They weren’t the best band of that era, but The Who were perhaps the most characteristic in terms of how guitar based rock music evolved in the late 1960s and early 1970s—before punk blew it all away. This Spike Lee film nicely captures that turning point. A painless history lesson for those too young to recall the NYC of 1977.”

    That’s a very interesting comment, and no doubt because I’m a nut, it immediately reminded me of this Tyler Cowen post:

    “And to pursue Bryan’s question, who are the five best punk rock bands? The Clash, The Sex Pistols, early XTC, Iggy Pop, and maybe The Ramones. Honorable mention goes to The Minutemen, Wire, MC5, Rancid, The Dead Kennedys, and The New York Dolls. X seems overrated to me, and Patti Smith and Sonic Youth and Velvet Underground I don’t quite count as punk, though I like their work and think it is important. For that matter I wonder if Eugene Chadbourne might count.

    “I don’t agree with Bryan that the fifth best punk rock group is better than the fifth best Baroque composer, but I will say this: Baroque style dominated European music for many decades, whereas most of the best punk was from an unrespected niche genre produced in about a five-year time window.”

    Punk: “blew it all away” and also “an unrespected niche genre.”

    It’s hard to know what was punk and what was not – I think outside of the Ramones you could fit all of the “punk” music produced by Tyler’s fave 5 on two CD’s, comfortably – but by a certain definition you could count (at least some of) the early Who, maybe?

    In the phrase “most characteristic in terms of how guitar based rock music evolved,” perhaps “characteristic” might not be quite as good of a term as “illustrative?”

  21. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. July 2024 at 10:30

    Anon/portly, Yes, illustrative is a better term.

    Perhaps I should have said Punk/New Wave blew it all away. People seemed to lose interest in the over-inflated rock music of the 1970s. Compare bloated songs like “Won’t Get Fooled Again” with the short, intense, edgy songs on “This Year’s Model”.

    (And I like The Who, but their earlier 1960s songs have aged better. Perhaps “My Generation” was proto-punk?)

  22. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    7. July 2024 at 14:19


    A lot of early Who could indeed be described as ‘proto punk’ like My Generation and Substitute and I Can’t Explain

  23. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    7. July 2024 at 17:26

    I was thinking partly of My Generation when I wrote my comment, but for me the Who’s finest punk or proto-punk moment is Summertime Blues, particularly as performed at Monterey in 1967. (It’s on the CC Monterey Pop outtakes disc).

    Is it possible that The Who produced the most bloated 8-10 minute rock song (WGFA) and also the least bloated (A Quick One While He’s Away)?

  24. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. July 2024 at 18:56

    msgkings, Good point.

    anon, You seem to know more about The Who than I do. I never got around to buying the Quick One album. I do think The Who Sell Out is underrated.

    I wonder if Roger Daltrey is the weak link in The Who. He has a strong voice, but seems a bit one dimensional. What’s your view?

  25. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    8. July 2024 at 11:37

    “You seem to know more about The Who than I do.”

    Whoops, probably not. But I was sitting in a movie theater in 1979 watching what I thought was a very dull film (“The Kids Are Alright”) when suddenly the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus version of “A Quick One While He’s Away” came along.

    My reaction was along the lines of “I always liked them, but I had no idea they could be this good.” Anyway, has Scott Summer never realized what that music that Wes Anderson uses to such good effect in Rushmore came from? I think I’ve heard it used in other places, maybe tv commercials?

    “I do think The Who Sell Out is underrated.”

    I checked it out from the library a few years ago after listening to Petra Haden’s version of it, I should listen to it again. Tattoo is great.

    “I wonder if Roger Daltrey is the weak link in The Who. He has a strong voice, but seems a bit one dimensional.”

    The Monterey performance (Substitute, Summertime Blues, A Quick One) has lots of Townshend lead or backing vocals, that improves Daltrey, I think.

  26. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    8. July 2024 at 11:41

    She put a Doobie Brothers tape on
    I had my Roger Daltrey cape on

    (My argument for giving Zappa the Nobel instead of Dylan).

  27. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    8. July 2024 at 13:57

    anon, You and Wes both have better music taste than I do. The December live performance of A Quick One is great—thanks for pointing me to it. (Of course WGFA was also a show stopper in concert.) In general, it seems like their live performances were their real strength as a band.

  28. Gravatar of Bulat Bulat
    9. July 2024 at 07:46

    I think Coup de Chance was also more conceptual: tensions between chance and meaning. The writer sees the chance meeting as meaningful; the villain says the affair means something exactly because it’s not a random chance. The girl sees monotonous marriage as meaningless; her husband derives meaning from monotonous order.
    Anyway, it was more enjoyable than some movies where the director knows all the answers from the start. It was hard to rewatch the ending of Nope – it doesn’t give me anything except more action. Coup de Chance at least develops its themes: randomness ruins the plan, but the mother was right that strange events were not random. The manuscript is found by chance, but that book is also sort of a plan that persevered against chaos.

  29. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    9. July 2024 at 16:50

    “You and Wes both have better music taste than I do.”

    Maybe Wes does, but I think it’s more a case of using different models.

    I’m not exactly sure what the Sumner model is, but clearly there’s an element of “certain 60’s music was of a high quality, then judicially add other things (like Elvis C. or Radiohead) of a high quality as they are encountered.”

    My model has been more like “make friends in high school with a couple of guys who were into alternative or obscure stuff, then be suspicious of anything that’s too popular or mainstream.” Glom onto how other, hopefully more insightful, people think. (Both those guys are to this day into cinema at a level that may exceed Scott Sumner, at least in some areas).

    The model that amazes me is the one for people like Scaruffi, Tyler Cowen or Ted Gioia, where the model is “listen to a wide range of music, adding new and different music constantly, take it all in with discernment.” Those are the people I’d credit with good taste, if anyone has that. How else could you do it?

    Same thing with Scott Sumner and films and books, obviously. I don’t have the patience or discipline to watch or read or listen to very many new things, which is one reason I appreciate these quarterly issuances….

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