Films of the 4th quarter of 2020

Once again, “CC” means I saw it on the Criterion channel. I really like the documentaries that accompany many of their films. I watched a bit of “quality television”, but just can’t get into it.

New Films:

The Wild Goose Lake (China) 3.7 The highlight of this film is the action sequences, which are brilliantly staged. Diao Yinan (who also directed Black Coal, Thin Ice) gives you as sense of the disorientating confusion that exists when violence breaks out and you don’t know where it’s coming from or who’s on what side. It’s increasingly clear that the 2010s has brought a new style of Chinese cinema, led by Jia Zhangke but also including Bi Gan. I need to see this again to get a better sense of how good it is. You really need a TV with strong contrast, as it’s almost all dark night scenes. An OLED TV is now a must for serious film buffs.

My Octopus Teacher (South Africa) 3.7 Imagine a nature documentary filmed by Steven Spielberg. While the slick sentimentality will draw in viewers, the best two reasons to watch are the superb 4k underwater cinematography and the fascinating nature of the octopus itself.

I’m Thinking of Ending This (US) 3.5 This Charlie Kaufman film is somewhat frustrating. It contains lots of really good stuff, but it sort of spirals out of control at the end. Perhaps he’s a bit too ambitious—-film can only do so much. Even so, I’d recommend this film, which at its best is still head and shoulders above almost anything else coming out of Hollywood.

Mank (US) 3.2 I expect this to win some awards, but it’s strictly middlebrow entertainment. Ironically, the problem is the screenplay. It’s not bad, but you are continually aware that you are listening to dialogue that a Hollywood screenwriter thinks is more sophisticated than it actually is, and that’s annoying. Some lovely B&W cinematography.

Monsoon (UK) 2.8 The film is well directed, but without a story it needs to be brilliantly directed. And it isn’t. It takes place in Vietnam.

Borat 2 (US) 2.4 This film is hard to rate. There are a few parts that are pretty funny and I laughed out loud, while other segments make you cringe. The worst part is that much of the film is kind of predictable and boring. No one will ever watch this twice.

Ava (US) 1.7 I learned that “#1 on Netflix” doesn’t mean much. At least it had John Malkovich.

Older Films:

North By Northwest (US, 1959) 4.0 Not Hitchcock’s best film, but probably his most skillfully directed film. Some of his other films are deeper (especially Vertigo), but this has the greatest number of impressive set pieces. I’ve probably seen this more often than any other film. New York and Chicago are almost entirely composed of well-dressed affluent white people. Barely 10 years later Hollywood started making films like The French Connection and Mean Streets. By the year 2070, film viewers won’t be able to believe how fast things changed between 1959 and 1969.

Andrei Rublov, (Russia, 1966, CC) 4.0 It seems like every time I re-watch a Tarkovsky film I think that THIS is his best film. That says a lot. There’ll never be another film like this one for much the same reason there’ll never be another cathedral like Chartres. It can’t be done today. Don’t be foolish; don’t watch this on a laptop.

Short Films by the Quay Brothers (UK, various times, CC) 4.0 I never get tired of re-watching the short surreal films of the Quay brothers. In addition to the justly famous Street of Crocodiles, Stille Nacht IV was a revelation—4 minutes of bliss. Painters like Dali and Magritte are more famous, but the Quay brothers are the greatest artists working in the surreal style.

Fanny and Alexander (Sweden, 1982, CC) 3.9 This is actually a single film, but I saw the TV version broken into 4 episodes. Even at 3.9 I may have underrated this Bergman film, but movies with a large cast of characters often go a bit over my head. The final episode, however, was an absolute masterpiece of filmmaking.

Black Narcissus (UK, 1947, CC) 3.9 Maybe the best color film in the first half of the 20th century? The more I re-watch Powell/Pressburger films, the more they remind me of Hitchcock. Psycho and Peeping Tom both came out in 1960, for instance. This one reminds me a bit of The Birds. The cinematographer (Jack Cardiff) deserves a lot of credit here. The only flaw is that Powell made the crazy nun a bit too crazy (against her wishes).

The New World (US, 2005, CC) 3.9 I was absolutely stunned by how good this was, and can’t believe I missed it the first time around. The first hour is a marvel, as is the ending. No one makes more beautiful films, and there’s real skill in Malick’s handling of the actors, the music, etc. Like Dances With Wolves, it romanticizes the Native Americans, but in other respects the two films could not be more different, with this one being infinitely better. I need to re-watch Tree of Life; perhaps I have underrated Malick.

And just what is “the new world” that the title refers to? Virginia? London? Romantic love?

The Coward (India, 1965, CC) 3.9 Of all the Sanyajit Ray films that I have seen, this might have the broadest appeal to Western viewers. Apart from silent comedies, this might be the best film I’ve ever seen that’s less than 70 minutes long. More like the film equivalent of a short story, rather than a novel.

Only Angels Have Wings (US, 1939, CC) 3.9 In a year that produced Rules of the Game, The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka and many other classic films, this underrated Howard Hawks film is one of the very best. Between 1938 and 1941 Hawks directed Bringing Up Baby, Only Angels Have Wings, His Girl Friday and Ball of Fire. The first three all feature Cary Grant.

Ordet (Denmark, 1955, CC) 3.9 A great example of a film that is a technical masterpiece, without being in the least “showy”.

Red Desert (Italy, 1964, CC) 3.8 Antonioni’s most characteristic film. It’s about architecture, repressed emotion, Monica Vitto’s face, industrial moonscapes, Richard Harris’s forehead, Rothko-type color patterns, etc.

Empire of the Senses (Japan/France, 1976, CC) 3.8 One of the great love stories of the 20th century, which some may miss due to the pornographic nature of the film. (Just as the pedophilia blinds people to another great love story—Lolita.) The two leads carry the film, especially the woman who plays Sada (her actual name!). Criterion’s 17-minute interview with Fuji is interesting, as are the other accompanying documentaries.

Floating Clouds (Japan, 1955, CC) 3.8 This tragic story stars the great Hideko Takamine. Directed by Naruse. It’s interesting that so many Japanese films feature people completely isolated from the broader society, given Japan’s reputation as a conformist society.

The Naked Island. (Japan, 1960, CC) 3.8 The first film I’ve seen by this director. Beautiful and heartbreaking. A nice reminder of what normal human life is all about, for us 21st century post-humans. You need a good TV for this one, or you’ll be bored. The film has no dialogue. Heck, you’ll probably still be bored with a good TV.

My Favorite Wife (US, 1940, CC) 3.7 I’d never even heard of this screwball comedy, but it’s a great deal of fun. The leads (Cary Grant and Irene Dunn) are perfect. Yet despite its high rating, it’s only the 4th best Hollywood screwball comedy of 1940, trailing The Philadelphia Story, The Shop Around the Corner, and His Girl Friday. What a year!

Brazil (UK, 1985, CC) 3.7 I have a few reservations about this film, but Terry Gilliam deserves credit for one of the more visually inventive films ever made. At times it seems a bit too much, too spread out in too many directions. The film has lots of dazzling scenes, but it doesn’t quite all come together in a coherent way.

Taxi Driver (US, 1976) 3.7 Many people would rate this a bit higher, but on repeat viewing its clear that (like Woody Allen) Scorcese’s reputation rests more on the content of his films (and the acting) than on his talent as a filmmaker. After 45 years, even a weak Kubrick film like Clockwork Orange is more interesting to watch than a strong Scorcese film like Taxi Driver. The day after I saw the film, Tyler Cowen linked to this comment by Justin Smith:

“This much is all true: I believe that “quality television” is in fact of extremely low quality, that “YA literature” is not literature, that “OA literature” as it were looks more and more like YA with each passing year, that superhero movies are of course not cinema and that no self-respecting adult should ever watch them, except perhaps as an expression of love to some li’l tyke in their lives. If we were living in a culture dominated by grown-ups, Martin Scorsese would be considered the purveyor of middle-brow forgettable fare rather than the gold standard of sophistication, and at least the childless among us would not even have to be aware of Spider-Man’s existence.”

Ouch. Maybe Scorsese’s been copied so much that he now seems middlebrow.

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (UK, 1943, CC) 3.7 A classic film by Powell and Pressburger, which is carried by the acting to Roger Livesey and also the wonderful technicolor. The film gently mocks Livesey’s belief in good old British “fair play” when fighting the Nazis. But from the perspective of 2020, Livesey was right and the more “wise” characters were all wrong.

Day of Wrath (Denmark, 1943, CC) 3.7 I wonder how people interpreted this film in 1943. With whom did they sympathize? How about today? Do we still view witches as evil?

No End (Poland, 1985, CC) 3.7 Three years before Dekalog, Kieslowski was already a very talented filmmaker. It makes one nostalgic for the times when there was great moral clarity about who were the good guys in Europe. Politics in the 21st century is so depressing.

Homicide (US, 1991, CC) 3.7 Extremely satisfying David Mamet film, with many of his usual actors. As always it’s the dialogue, and the way that people like Joe Mantegna deliver the lines.

Right Now, Wrong Then (Korea, 2016) 3.7 Light as a feather, but strangely enjoyable to watch. I cannot explain why. Perhaps one answer is that the film is somehow a more real take on life than almost any other film. How life is actually lived, and how it could have just as easily gone a different way. But then perhaps that different way wouldn’t have mattered in the end.

24 Frames (2017, Iran, CC) 3.6 Explores the uncanny valley between the real and the artificial. Indeed this crosses all sorts of boundaries—from film to photography, film to painting, “movies” to museum video art. It’s often true that one’s appreciation of an art film depends on one’s patience, or the ability to create one’s own film by thinking, and that’s especially true here.

After roughly the first 7 frames it begins to drag a bit, but frames 15 and 24 are excellent. Best to watch when you are in a patient or meditative mood.

Young and Innocent (UK, 1937, CC) 3.6 Not as good as The 39 Steps or The Lady Vanishes, but still an enjoyable 90 minutes.

The Pornographers (Japan, 1966, CC) 3.6 I may have rated this too low, as I have a blind spot for films about stupid and annoying people, even as satire. I just don’t enjoy them. At the same time, it’s clear that you are watching the work of a major talent. If you like Fellini then check this out.

The Prestige (US, 2006) 3.5 Nolan’s a very skilled filmmaker. I just wish that he’d realize that sometimes less is not a bore.

I Was Born, But . . . (Japan, 1932, CC) 3.5 Sort of like a Japanese version of the Little Rascals. Ozu has a good feel for childhood.

The Smiling Lieutenant (US, 1931, CC) 3.5 I’m not much of a fan of musicals, but Lubitsch is a witty director and Claudette Colbert is especially appealing. Pre-code.

12 Monkeys (US, 1995) 3.5 A good film to watch during the Covid pandemic. Terry Gilliam really packs the frame with detail. BTW, in 2035 they had perfected time travel but still had trouble developing vaccines??

Bed and Board (France, 1970, CC) 3.5 I first saw this when I was young, but today I find it hard to watch this film without thinking about Woody Allen. He must have been greatly influenced by Truffaut. (I prefer Truffaut to Allen; he has a lighter touch.)

The Small Back Room (UK, 1949, CC) 3.5 This Powell/Pressburger film is not as well known as some of their other work, but is certainly worth watching. Criterion channel has an excellent documentary, which is the complete film itself with a voiceover of a guy discussing the techniques that were used. Watch it a day after watching the film, and you might enjoy the documentary even more. As with Hitchcock’s Spellbound, the attempt to film psychological states doesn’t age well.

Criss Cross (US, 1949, CC) 3.5 A good Siodmak film noir with occasional flashes of brilliance, especially toward the end. The other reason to watch this is Burt Lancaster. He occasionally has a sort of dreamy look in his eyes, which seems to put him on an entirely separate plane of reality. You’ll see hints of his fabulous late work in Local Hero and Atlantic City—a very interesting actor. Not generally rated as highly as The Killers, but I thought it was a more interesting film.

The Killers (US, 1946, CC) 3.5 This Siodmak film noir was based on the famous Hemingway story. I also saw a Russian version from 1956, directed by a very young Andrei Tarkovsky (his first film). The Russian version was just 20 minutes long, and closely followed the Hemingway story. I thought it was a bit better than the opening 20 minutes of the Hollywood version. That Russian in blackface however . . .

The Killers (US, 1964, CC) 3.3 This version only seems to come alive when Lee Marvin is on the screen. Fortunately, Marvin gives such a superb performance that he saves the film. One reason it rates lower than the 1946 version is that Ava Gardner is replaced by Angie Dickenson. Ugh! The first made-for-TV movie ever produced, and it wasn’t even shown on TV (too violent.) Also Ronald Reagan’s final role before he switched into some other career, and one of the few times he played a villain.

Phantom Lady (US, 1944, CC) 3.3 I’d never heard of this noir, but it was surprisingly enjoyable. It’s interesting to see the sort of apartment that was viewed as the height of sophistication back in 1943, although the villain was disappointing.

Naked Kiss (US, 1964, CC) 3.3 This Sam Fuller film is not very good, but it’s quite interesting. The film is almost turbocharged with 60s liberalism—not in the sense of left wing, rather in the sense of reform. The director is basically pleading with viewers to accept liberal values on a wide range of issues, and just a few years later even conservatives were sold on most of the ideas.

The film could not have been made even 2 or 3 years earlier—too radical—and 5 years later it was hopelessly out of date. Not sure if there’s any other decade where things changed that fast.

Gregory’s Girl (Scotland, 1980, CC) 3.3 Bill Forsyth films are always charming, and this is no exception.

Under the Hawthorne Tree (China, 2010) 3.3 Sentimentality is often defined as unearned sentiment. But while Zhang Yimou films are clearly sentimental, the sentiment doesn’t seem unearned.

The Haunting (US, 1963, CC) 3.2 The haunted house is the star.

Princess From the Moon (Japan, 1987, CC) 3.2 Could be called “Close Encounters of the Heien Kind”. A flying saucer visits Japan in the year 790. It’s actually not a very good film, but it’s full of eye candy (especially toward the end.) I enjoyed it.

Lola Montes (France, 1955, CC) 3.2 I’m glad I waited to see the sumptuous restored version, although this sort of film is not my cup of tea. Lots of spectacular scenes, but I was never particularly interested in the drama.

Soulmate (China, 2016, CC) 3.2 Not exactly my cup of tea, but definitely worth watching if you like chick flicks. I’m surprised this drama didn’t get more attention in the West.

She Done Him Wrong (US, 1933) 3.2 A look back at the Gay 90s from the perspective of 1933. I always enjoy seeing how earlier periods of history viewed still earlier periods. Mae West is of course the main attraction, while Cary Grant isn’t yet Cary Grant.

Women of the Night (Japan, 1948, CC) 3.1 This Mizoguchi film didn’t work for me. It was clearly influenced by post-war Italian neorealism, but much more formulaic. At times, the film skirted close to outright political propaganda.

I Wish I Knew (China, 2010) 3.0 Jia Zhangke directed this documentary and it has its moments. But while this film got great reviews, I found it a bit dull and unfocused. I wish I knew what Jia was trying to do here.

The Oil-Hell Murder (Japan, 1992, CC) 3.0 A very odd title for a film; I wonder whether something was lost in translation. Overall this is a typical Japanese historical drama, much stronger on visuals than screenplay.

Babatte’s Feast (Denmark, 1987, CC) 3.0 A nice film, but a bit too predictable and bland for my taste.

Bell, Book and Candle, (US, 1958, CC) 3.0 A 1958 film starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak. But not that film. Putting this side by side with Vertigo is a good argument for the auteur theory of films. Has some nostalgic interest, and Kim Novak is appealing in the first third of the film.

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (US, 1971, CC) 2.9 A low budget movie with a certain odd appeal at times. Boomers like me may enjoy the trip down memory lane, as will fans of classic B-horror films. I had almost forgotten what life was like in 1971, before all the cell phones and computers. I forgot how much more of life back then revolved around physical objects, not blips on a computer screen. Oddly, back then life in rural areas didn’t seem all that different from life in the city. Why has modern tech made rural areas seem relatively more backward—the opposite of what I would have expected?

Femme Fatale (US, 2002) 2.9 Lots of empty calories. DePalma forgot that a film needs to be something more than a series of stylish scenes strung together.

Speaking Parts (Canada, 1989, CC) 2.8 As with other Atom Egoyan films this is interesting to watch, and plays around with audio/visual technology. But the film doesn’t really come to life, and thus overall it’s a disappointment. It’s also more dated than his earlier films.

360 (International, 2011) 2.8 Has a few good scenes and some good acting. But little else.

Electric Shadows (China, 2004, CC) 2.7 Nice idea for a film, but the execution is rather simplistic.

Now You See Me 2 (US, 2016) 2.3 While the first one was a bit too much, this one completely jumped the shark.

Odd Obsession (Japan, 1959, CC) 2.0 Not sure why Criterion Channel picked up this mediocre Japanese film.



29 Responses to “Films of the 4th quarter of 2020”

  1. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    2. January 2021 at 17:30


    still no comment under such a great blog entry, and then me being the first to comment, really a disappointment, but I couldn’t wait any longer. So, sorry for that.

    I really appreciate your love for film noir, really a great genre, probably the best ever. I watched almost every well-known film noir in my youth and now none for years. I don’t know why, maybe it comes back with age, or maybe I’ve seen too many.

    From The Killers (1946) I remembered the opening scene, certainly one of the best film noir scenes ever, for 1946 it’s really brilliant.

    Unfortunately the film can’t keep this level. I have forgotten all the rest. I didn’t know the story was by Hemingway, but that explains why the level isn’t held. I’ve never read a Hemingway novel that could hold the level. I don’t think I’ve ever finished one. Of course, it may be just me.

    The same happens to me with Nolan, without question a skilled director, but I’ve never been able to finish a film of his. I fall asleep every time before. This was the case with his latest film Tenet, which I actually really liked at once. The movie and me falling asleep also gave me one of the best cinematic experiences I’ve ever had so far. So I fell asleep in around the middle of the movie, and when I woke up, I felt the arrow of time just like in the movie. What movie can say that it directly changes your perceived reality? Can a film achieve more? It was surreal. Anyway, it was beautiful, but unfortunately it didn’t last, after 30 Minutes it was all over.

    There is so much to learn from your blog post. A Tarkovski version of The Killers? How cool is that? I watched it immediately.

    The Naked Kiss is “interesting” indeed, I liked it a lot when I first saw it, and since never again, so I don’t know how good it would hold up. But your description fits perfectly: one could only make this film in that period, not before and not now.

    I didn’t know this great cathedral before either, underlining what an ignoramus I am.

    Regarding the color film, I am not sure. Gone with the Wind is not so bad. Isn’t the Wizard of Oz also partly in color? And Rope is from 1948, I think I prefer Rope. I haven’t seen Black Narcissus though.

    The Prestige is kind of underrated in my opinion, compared to other Nolan movies that are rated higher for no apparent reason. I like it when I first saw it, and also never again, so again I don’t know how it would hold up. But David Bowie as Tesla alone was worth watching at the time.

    Extremely disappointing for me was the alleged twist, which nearly every experienced movie watcher recognizes in the very first scene, and which is basically all the rest of the movie. I then thought for parts during the movie, well that was intentional on Nolan’s part, he will make something out of it and surprise everyone, but there was not much more. The film is good, I liked some scenes, but it could have been so much better.

  2. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    2. January 2021 at 18:14

    These film reviews are great. Scott puts in more than 100 times more time into watching good films than reading about the science of the pandemic so naturally knows near nothing about the science of the pandemic. Tyler Cowen is a carbon copy – just replace reading history with watching films.

    What kills me is that both pretend to understand what they know so little about.

  3. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    2. January 2021 at 19:50

    Sorry, I had a typo. I meant to write that Scott puts in more than 1,000 times into watching good films than reading about the science of the pandemic.

  4. Gravatar of rayward rayward
    3. January 2021 at 06:47

    Besides films with nothing but white people, the actors in the American films from the 1930s through much of the 1950s had British accents. And then there’s the “Harvard accent”. Senator Gurney from Florida was on the Watergate Committee. He spoke with a very distinctive Harvard accent. He actually attended Harvard Law School, but the accent was completely contrived. My late father in law was from South Carolina, living most of his life in the upstate. Early in the evening his accent was very much upstate, Greenville and Spartanburg (classically Southern). With each additional cocktail his accent would move south, eventually reaching Charleston (pronounced Chall-ston) and finally ending in the Sea Islands with Gullah. I’m from the South so I have a natural Southern accent, but not as refined as that in South Carolina. To make up for that failing, I mastered the art of walking the way refined folks walk. To make my point, I would imitate the way the other (lower) classes walk. Walking and talking. It’s amazing what it signals down here in the South. Since Harvard accents have passed with the times, I’m not sure how Northerners distinguish themselves. Is it by walking and talking like Donald Trump? Down here he would be called white trash, but people down here can be judgmental as well as hypocritical.

  5. Gravatar of ee ee
    3. January 2021 at 07:25

    Impressive list: I’ve only heard of about 5% of these. I wonder what we’d talk about at a party. Is the max score a 4? I keep hoping I’ll watch a single one of these but then I forget about it until your next post. The main entertainment is your blurbs anyway.

  6. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    3. January 2021 at 07:44

    Sumner has an encyclopedic knowledge of films, does he like shorts? Here is one that I’ve never seen: (IMDB)
    Gravity Is My Enemy (1977) 26min | Documentary, Short, Biography | October 1977 (USA)

  7. Gravatar of ricardo ricardo
    3. January 2021 at 08:47

    I watched North by Northwest again recently with my (middle-school) sons, and was surprised by how slow it seemed. I think that, because I wanted them to like it, I was internalising their own expectations re pacing. They much preferred Rear Window.

    Black Narcissus is tremendous. One of my most memorable cinema experiences. That kind of colour intensity seems largely to have disappeared after mid-20th-century (I’m thinking Japanese cinema, Douglas Sirk) and I’m not sure why.

    Have you seen When Evening Falls on Bucharest? If you’re an Antonioni/Vitti fan you might like it.

  8. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    3. January 2021 at 09:22

    Ricardo, Thanks for the tip.

  9. Gravatar of Robert Gressis Robert Gressis
    3. January 2021 at 10:28

    “in 2035 they had perfected time travel but still had trouble developing vaccines??”

    I don’t know; replace “developing” with “distributing” and it seems quite realistic!

  10. Gravatar of Rob Moore Rob Moore
    3. January 2021 at 10:32

    The New World is really a stunning film. I saw it in the theater when it was released, and was completely transported. I’ve rarely been so moved. I often wonder why it’s relatively overlooked amongst his other work.

  11. Gravatar of Angry Krugman Angry Krugman
    3. January 2021 at 10:53


    Can you expand upon what you mean about Scorsese’s talent (or lack thereof) as a “filmmaker”? And given the volume of his output do you think it changed between Taxi Driver and, say, Goodfellas?

  12. Gravatar of Hazel Meade Hazel Meade
    3. January 2021 at 12:00

    Just a comment on some of the TV in the past year. The last year was a bit of a down year relative to previous years. The Brave New World adaptation was the high point for us. It departs substantially from the book, but in some ways that is an improvement as it shifts the focus more contemporary issues. Also the plot is modified in ways that make it more interesting. It’s been expanded out into a longer, more complex and dramatic story that the original novel.

    If you watched The Haunting film, I would give last years The Haunting of Hill House miniseries a watch, as they are based on the same book.

    A couple of other shows worthy of note were:
    The Good Lord Bird – about John Brown and his attack on the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in the leadup to the civil war. Yet another in a series of recent shows told from an African-American perspective.

    Raised By Wolves – An alternate history sci-fi about a group of children being raised by androids on an alien planet.

    I’ve also heard that The Queen’s Gambit is excellent, although I’m just not that into chess, so I have not seen it.

  13. Gravatar of Robert Simmons Robert Simmons
    3. January 2021 at 12:34

    Does Justin Smith think if something is entertaining it can’t be good? That’s what it sounds like.

  14. Gravatar of Dzhaughn Dzhaughn
    3. January 2021 at 12:47

    Normally, when I love a movie, I want to watch it for every detail. (Persona, Mulholland Drive, Bresson’s Pickpocket, for examples.)

    Oddly, I loved Tree of Life when I saw it in the theater. But I didn’t want to watch it again. I watched it again this year. And it was fantastic. And I still feel I shouldn’t watch it again.

    Days of Heaven is great, too. Malick is the master of the Off Screen Narrator. Much better than in The Creeping Terror.

    The atmosphere of She Done Him Wrong is priceless, esp. the quartet in the bar, and various women toting open pails of beer.

  15. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    3. January 2021 at 15:25

    Angry, He’s a very good filmmaker, I just don’t see him as being strikingly creative or original in any one area.

    Hazel, Thanks for the tips. I started watching The Queen’s Gambit, but gave up after two episodes.

    Robert Simmons, Yeah, he sounds like a bit of a snob.

    Dzhaughn, I need to watch Tree of Life again.

  16. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    3. January 2021 at 17:07


    great list and once again I am so jealous I can’t seem to find a legal source to watch all these great movies in Singapore. Maybe Criterion will work with a VPN simulating US location, Netflix detects that and won’t.

    I was almost disturbed by The New World when I saw it. It was so totally not what I expected that it took me a while to warm up to it but then the impression lasted. Same thing happened to me recently when I watched “The Sisters brothers”, a Western with US actors (Joaquim Phoenix is in it)… but made by the French (Jacques Audiard).

  17. Gravatar of BJ Starr BJ Starr
    3. January 2021 at 17:24

    “in 2035 they had perfected time travel but still had trouble developing vaccines??”

    Not quite perfected! They kept inserting Cole into all the wrong times!

  18. Gravatar of Raver Raver
    3. January 2021 at 17:25

    @Christian “The Killers” is a Hemingway short story. It ends right where the quality in the movie drops off.

  19. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    3. January 2021 at 18:06

    mbka, I had to get an Amazon “Fire” stick to make Criterion work.

    BJ, Yes, but any form of time travel is pretty impressive!

  20. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    3. January 2021 at 18:33


    “mbka, I had to get an Amazon “Fire” stick to make Criterion work.”

    Strange, I thought as long as you’re in the US, everything will just work. Criterion only streams to US and Canada, elsewhere you get the dreaded “not supported in your region” screen. I have a PC dedicated to TV use so I hope I can make this work via VPN…

    Side note I find it ironic that people harp about too much globalization when in reality you can’t even get digital content across borders, and Amazon won’t ship tools or many electronics to SG because manufacturers all got their parochial local distribution rules.

  21. Gravatar of A A
    3. January 2021 at 20:39

    Agreed on Terence Malick. He’s like Mark Knopfler on guitar, offering a unique tone and sensibility.

    I’ll second Hazel Meade’s Haunting on Hill House recommendation, but supplant it with a recommendation for the Haunting of Bly Manor. They present the experience of being a ghost in an evocative, and somewhat horrific, manner.

  22. Gravatar of bob bob
    3. January 2021 at 21:19

    Sumner is trying to humanize himself with movie lists, so that you feel he is just “one of you”. He’s not.

    Sumner supports the great Federal Reserve Tyranny, and the rise of collectivism CCP tyranny. His buddy, Ben Bernanke couldn’t account for 1/2 trillion when questioned (google Grayson vs Bernanke). After watching that, ask yourself if such a retard should ever be in that position. He talks like an ape.

    Rand Paul has tried many times to establish a transparency act, and audit the Federal Reserve, but Sumner’s criminals keep paying for votes that terminate those bills.

    This is a giant scam, designed to destroy America & prop up globalists.

    Sumner is their stooge. He’s being paid to write propaganda. We have to stop him on January 6th.

  23. Gravatar of Robin Lacey Robin Lacey
    3. January 2021 at 23:20

    Along the lines of “I was born, but”, i recently watched “Summer at grandpa’s” (English translation) by Hou Hsiao Hsein, not one of his best known films but for me probably the best film I’ve seen about childhood, highly recommended if you haven’t seen it.

  24. Gravatar of TGGP TGGP
    4. January 2021 at 07:56

    “you are continually aware that you are listening to dialogue that a Hollywood screenwriter thinks is more sophisticated than it actually is”
    The irony is that Jack Fincher wasn’t a “Hollywood screenwriter”, but a journalist whose script was only ever used because his son is a director with enough clout to produce it.

    Andrei Rublev was the first Tarkovsky I liked, after seeing his two scifi films. And I watched it on a laptop.

    I anti-recommend those Haunting miniseries on Netflix. It was fundamentally a bad idea to adapt such source material into a family drama miniseries (which compelled a certain sort of ending for the first miniseries). I like Mike Flanagan’s movies though.

    I think Malick’s best use of voiceover narration came early on, when there was more ironic distance between the voice of the character and the filmmaker.

    mbka: What is “SG”? Singapore?

  25. Gravatar of Hazel Meade Hazel Meade
    4. January 2021 at 08:37

    Also should mention ‘Normal People’ – which might be more up your alley. It’s a series of short episodes chronicling a very complicated romantic relationship between two people that grew up in the same small Irish town.

  26. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. January 2021 at 13:47

    Robin, Thanks for the tip. That’s about the only one of his films I haven’t seen.

    TGGP, I’ll reserve judgement until I rewatch Malick’s films. I do recall liking The Thin Red Line and to a lesser extent Badlands.

    And you don’t like Stalker??? What’s wrong with you! 🙂

    Thanks A and Hazel.

  27. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    4. January 2021 at 20:30


    yes, SG stands for Singapore.

  28. Gravatar of Olof Lindgren Olof Lindgren
    11. January 2021 at 10:03

    In 12 Monkeys you may have missed that the time travel techonology is somewhat poorly developed as depicted in 2035 and that it seems to improve considerably as time goes on.

    One can also note that we’ve been quite lucky that Covid-19 was neither as easily transmitted nor as deadly as it might have been (as indicated by previous pandemics). Our response to it could well have been seen as tepid…

    Finally, it’s not yet clear that we’re actually winning the fight against Covid… although our ability to create vaccines has improved greatly in recent years, and there is some ground for hope.

  29. Gravatar of CP CP
    12. February 2021 at 12:37

    I tried to find this list again recently and thought it was odd that it was not categorized under movies?

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