Why optimism is more rational than pessimism

Tyler Cowen has a post discussing this interesting question:

Is optimism or pessimism correct?

I mean for the West, not for emerging economies.  Obviously we need to know future trajectories, and that is hard to do.  But try this simple question: since 2000 or so, have the predictions of the optimists or the pessimists come closer to being correct and insightful?

At a dinner party two nights ago, the unanimous opinion, even from the optimists, was that the pessimists had been doing better in the predicting game.  Of course, that does not mean the pessimists will be correct going forward.  The optimists might try these counters:

For simplicity, let’s just consider the US for the moment.  Here’s how I would group periods, your mileage might differ:

Good:  1900-17

Bad:  1917-22

Good:  1922-29

Bad:  1929-45

Good: 1945-50

Bad:  1950-53

Good:  1953-65

Bad:  1965-84

Good:  1984-2001

Bad:  2001-14

Good  2014 –

That’s 61 good years and 56 bad years.  But I’m actually not at all sure this is right.  I’m ignoring huge areas of life—health care, civil rights, the internet, the environment, etc. etc., and mostly focusing on war and the economy.  But I think it’s fair to say that most people perceive something like this—alternating periods of good and bad.  Perhaps of roughly equal length.  So why be an optimist?

If you look closely you’d notice that the trajectory is clearly upwards.  Problems keep reappearing, but often in orders of magnitude less severe forms.  Thus Vietnam was an order of magnitude less bloody (for the US) than WWII.  And Iraq/Afghanistan was an order of magnitude less bloody than Vietnam.

In the Great Recession, we made many of the same mistakes as during the Great Depression, but an order of magnitude less severe.

One exception was the AIDS epidemic, which was comparable in severity to the 1919 flu outbreak.

We don’t learn as much as I’d like from our mistakes, but we surely learn something.

Previously I said that my list ignored many areas of life, such as civil rights, health, the internet and the environment.  But obviously things have gotten better in those areas over time.  Not just in the past 100 years, but also in the past 10 or 20 years. (I mean better in an overall sense, there are setbacks in specific subcategories.)

What about Trump?  Presidents don’t have much impact on these trends, although I suppose the risk of nuclear war is now slightly higher, given that our President is now almost universally viewed as being mentally unstable.

I believe it’s almost impossible to predict the future, and I do have some concern about “existential risks”.  But I don’t know enough to have a good sense of how big those risks are.  Thus I rely on our past history.  If you closely examine the period since 1900, and that doesn’t make your optimistic about the future (for humans, not necessarily animals), at least in a conventional sense, then there is something wrong with your brain.

PS.  By ‘conventional sense’, I mean according to the usual metrics.  I’m willing to cut more slack for philosophical radicals who wonder if all this “progress” actually makes us any happier.  I’m agnostic on that question.

PPS.  I’m also optimistic about the entire world.  Places like China and India are clearly improving, and places like Syria and North Korea have nowhere to go but up.

PPPS.  How has the film industry being doing recently?  The NYT gives its top 25 films of the 21st century (including 2000). That prompted me to make my own list:

Top 25 of the Century

First Tier:

Mulholland Drive

Nobody Knows


Lord of the Rings

In the Mood for Love

Three Times*

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives

Spirited Away*

Inland Empire

Second Tier:



Winter Sleep

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Three Monkeys

The Wailing

Mountains May Depart

Happy Hour

Third Tier:

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes


Yi Yi*

Japanese Story


Memories of Murder



The three starred films also made the NYT list.  How does this compare to the previous 17 years?  Not too well.  Wong Kar Wai had 5 films that could have made the list, and Hou Hsiao-Hsien had at least 5–maybe more.  The film industry is in long-term decline, which happens to all art forms after they express their most potent ideas.  Painting peaked in the 1500s and 1600s.  Pop music in the 1960s and 1970s.  So on film I’m a pessimist.



37 Responses to “Why optimism is more rational than pessimism”

  1. Gravatar of HL HL
    11. June 2017 at 07:06

    Mad respect for including two Kar Wai Wong films and two Joon-ho Bong films (especially Memories of Murder). Serious brownie points on Asian cinema.

  2. Gravatar of Becky Hargrove Becky Hargrove
    11. June 2017 at 07:17

    Sorry, but I think pessimism is more rational than optimism right now. Indeed,a lot of people who have good (political) reason to be optimistic, don’t particularly care if Trump isn’t a rational president. Many are happy because they are finally getting the authoritarian options they’ve been wanting for some time. In particular, it will become easier in the near future to put people in jail who – while many of them don’t really belong there – scarcely anyone has the patience or resources to consider more productive options for these folks. Such as people in jail for not having money for their health care expenses.

  3. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    11. June 2017 at 08:18

    ‘…given that our President is now almost universally viewed as being mentally unstable.’

    Compared to whom, LBJ, Nixon, Woodrow Wilson?

  4. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    11. June 2017 at 08:25

    On the other side of the coin, without question the most mentally stable individuals to be President in my lifetime are the two Bushes. You’d be a lot more comfortable buying a used car from them than from Bill Clinton.

    Not to mention trusting them with your daughter.

  5. Gravatar of dirk dirk
    11. June 2017 at 09:42

    As a big David Lynch fan, do you have an opinion about the new Twin Peaks?

  6. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    11. June 2017 at 09:46

    I’m more optimistic after reading this amazing piece by a young journalist from Spokane (maybe Gonzaga’s success is catching) who actually understands basic micro;


    The Washington apple industry is no different. In the past 10 years, the number of independent growers has dropped from 4,000 to 1,450, a 63 percent decrease even though the overall acreage is about the same.

    ….Part of what makes the increased productivity possible is new technology and orchard-planting systems. However, the cost of implementing those systems can be prohibitive for small operations.

    Once those systems are in place and orchardists become more efficient, the gap widens between large and small.

    ….Karina Gallardo, a professor at Washington State University who studies the economics of tree fruit, said several factors are leading to consolidation.

    The first, she said, is the rising costs of starting an orchard or breaking into the business. There’s also the time element: It can take a long time for farmers to get paid for their crop.

    She’s also seen an increase in the cost of storing, packing, shipping and marketing fruit. And at the end of the tree-to-table process, it is difficult for midsize farmers to negotiate with consolidated retailing.

    Robison also attributes the consolidation to increasing government regulations.

    “It’s just mind-boggling the regulations that come up. When a big company comes across a new regulation, if they have to, they can hire somebody who can (navigate) it,” Robison said. “But as small farmers, we just have to deal with it all.”

    Mark Powers, the president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, said increased oversight usually means increased costs.

    “All of that drives costs,” he said. “If you’re a small grower, it’s very difficult to pay for the expertise, basically the full-time attention that is required to be in compliance to all of these requirements.”

    ….Trees have to be ordered three years in advance. And once planted, they take about five years to reach full yield, Gleasman said.

    “You just hope that dart hits the target, that you’re getting something profitable,” she said.

    In addition to planting new varieties, farmers are also planting narrower rows to accommodate shorter, denser orchards. In the past there would be 300 to 400 apple trees per acre.

    Now, with changes in technology and horticulture, farmers can get 1,500 to 2,000 trees per acre, Fryhover said. And those trees are shorter, with fruit hanging just 8 feet off the ground.

    Already, many orchards are harvesting fruit using motorized platforms, removing the need for tall and dangerous ladders.

    The next big thing? Automated harvest.

  7. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    11. June 2017 at 12:57

    Why is no one talking about the movies? Correct thread now: I’m a bit surprised by this NYT list. Okay, it might take guts to put “mainstream” movies like Hurt Locker and Inside Out on such a list. But then they overdo it with movies like Million Dollar Baby, Moonlight, and The 40-Year-Old Virgin for example. Your list does make much more sense.

  8. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    11. June 2017 at 14:28

    One exception was the AIDS epidemic, which was comparable in severity to the 1919 flu outbreak.

    The Spanish Flu infected about 500 million people and killed about 50 to 100 million, that was up to five percent of the world’s population back then, and all this just in 2-3 years.
    The HIV epidemic was bad but not in the same ballpark.

    So you actually proved your theory about orders of magnitude in less severe forms. Or think about Ebola. It could have been a total disaster but this threat is basically gone already, thanks to a very fast vaccine. The same is true for polio and smallpox and a lot of other infectious diseases.

    Thinking of the Black Death, then the Spanish Flu, then HIV, and today bird flu/swine flu/Ebola, your theory seems to be true.

  9. Gravatar of Major.Freedom Major.Freedom
    11. June 2017 at 14:38

    Optimist/pessimist **ABOUT WHAT EXACTLY**?

  10. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    11. June 2017 at 16:51

    Thanks HL.

    Dirk, My first reaction is why isn’t Showtime broadcasting this in high def? When it comes out on Blue Ray I’ll form a more definitive opinion. Right now it seems better than anything else on TV, but nowhere near as good as the original series.

    But that’s just on the first viewing. Lynch’s work gets better with repeated viewings.

    Christian, You said:

    “But then they overdo it with movies like Million Dollar Baby, Moonlight, and The 40-Year-Old Virgin for example.”

    Scratching my head trying to figure out what you see as similar about those films.

    And you didn’t read my post carefully, I was discussing the US, not the world.

  11. Gravatar of D.O. D.O.
    11. June 2017 at 17:20

    To judge optimism/pessimism we need a baseline. If the baseline “things exactly like they are on 6/11/2017”, then optimists have advantage. But if the baseline is “things progress as fast as they were during previous 100 years”, then pessimists have the advantage. My over/under is “things keep improving, but slowly”.

  12. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    11. June 2017 at 19:01

    Medical and technical improvements have been made by the bushel-load since the 1960s. I am agape every time I look at my smartphone and ponder that it has a million times the accessible information in it than my old revered Encyclopedia Britannica.

    If you happen to suffer from certain medical maladies, your outlook is much better than 50 years ago.

    Yet Tyler Cowen cites links showing young men in the U.S. make 31% less, in real terms, than in 1969.

    Housing prices have exploded in the very cities where people want to live for the job opportunities. (This is due to property zoning and foreign capital inflows, borne of trade deficits).

    Lower wages and higher housing costs–driving real living standards down. For young people in America, the outlook is not anywhere as bright as 50 years ago. Many will never afford even a condo.


    The PC-ism is so rampant today, to the extent one might argue there is less freedom of expression than 50 years ago. Private online groups tell each dirty and purposely offensive jokes–and get evicted from Harvard?

    The Harvard men’s soccer season ended for some private ionline rarting system of femakle soccer players (affecting all the players, and opposing teams as well. Who wants to win a forfeit?).

    Larry Summers merely ponders if men excel at STEM–and gets booted off of campus?

    And on the right-wing, any hint that U.S. global security complex is a parasitic waste of money is driven down.

    So for young people in America, they can look forward to lower living standards and a lifetime of PC-ism.

    But great music videos on their tablets!

    They can even make their own videos with their smartphones and load them up on Youtube. Woo-woo!

  13. Gravatar of Jaap Jaap
    12. June 2017 at 06:29

    We happen to be bingeing on Downton Abbey right now.
    Yea, life is different. And much improved, though Carson might disagree.
    People died in stupid trench-wars sacrificing whole age cohorts of men, car-accidents (seatbelt?), childbirth (my wife suffered from pre-eclampsia, but she was never is any real danger), ships sinking, the flu.
    Nowadays there are still people who die of such causes but in lesser numbers, and most of those far from the richer countries.

  14. Gravatar of David Condon David Condon
    12. June 2017 at 10:52

    According to Better by Atul Gawande, the Iraq War was just as bloody as Vietnam. There were fewer deaths due to faster medical care due to changes in military practices, but the number of serious injuries were just as numerous.

  15. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    12. June 2017 at 11:16

    David, I don’t agree. Here’s Wikipedia on Iraq:

    “As of June 29, 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Defense casualty website, there were 4,424 total deaths (including both killed in action and non-hostile) and 31,952 wounded in action (WIA) as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom. As a part of Operation New Dawn, which was initiated on September 1, 2010, there were 73 total deaths (including KIA and non-hostile) and 295 WIA.[51] See the references for a breakdown of the wounded, injured, ill, those returned to duty (RTD), those requiring medical air transport, non-hostile-related medical air transports, non-hostile injuries, diseases, or other medical reasons.[51][52][53][54][55][56][57]”

    Vietnam had 58,000 deaths and 153,000 wounded.

    Not even close.

  16. Gravatar of David Condon David Condon
    12. June 2017 at 12:22

    I double checked. He was comparing the beginning of the Iraq War with the beginning of the Vietnam War.

    Relevant quote:
    “Although more US soldiers have been wounded in combat in the current war than in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Spanish-American War combined, and more than in the first four years of military involvement in Vietnam, we have substantially fewer deaths. Just 10 percent of American wounded soldiers have died.”

    So because the Iraq War was still ongoing at the time, he didn’t compare the entirety of the two wars. Vietnam, of course, escalated whereas Iraq gradually improved.

  17. Gravatar of Randomize Randomize
    12. June 2017 at 12:42

    While the movie industry is down, it’s a golden age for the television series.

  18. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    12. June 2017 at 13:20

    Wow, I was hoping you’d address both the ****ty NYT films list and the perplexing Tyler Cowen optimism/pessimism thing. I think people mindlessly conflate “serious” and “pessimistic” all the time, you even see it in things like sports and the arts.

    I am totally guilty of not paying attention to current cinema, so thanks for the list. The only 3 on your list I’ve seen are Yi-Yi, In the Mood and most of the LOTR trilogy. The first two are certainly deserving. I don’t at all understand why LOTR would be there, but then as I recall you only see things once and they’re not so bad, superficially – great costume design, actors, NZ locations etc.

    Where’s 24 Hour Party People, Grindhouse, Kill Bill? Both you and the NYT are whiffing on these. (Probably you have to be something of an idiot to fully appreciate the Tarantino/Rodgriguez aesthetic, oh well).

  19. Gravatar of Dzhaughn Dzhaughn
    12. June 2017 at 14:28

    I’d hypothesize that painting peaked in the 1400s. The whole Perspective thing did to painting what Color did to the movies. 🙂

  20. Gravatar of Michael Tubbs Michael Tubbs
    12. June 2017 at 14:33


    I want to first say that I wish you trickled in these movies posts a little more frequently, but I understand if the majority of your viewers might prefer to find their movie reviews elsewhere.

    I do think your a little too pessimistic about the future of film. I am not concerned about the deteriorating quality of cinema as much as the quality of the average person’s tastes.

    For instance: I was 15 when both ‘There Will Be Blood’ and ‘No Country for Old Men’ were released. I would say less than 10% of people my age have seen these movies despite being wide releases from fairly mainstream directors. My dad was ~my age (a tad older) when ‘The Godfather’ came out. My father is no film buff, but like quality widespread releases were appreciated by the masses. That’s no longer the case.

    There is a divergence in viewing populations. Sadly most people my age cannot sit through a mainstream quality movie unless it’s directed by Nolan. There is a strong group of young people with appreciation for older films that are also seeing most all good independent releases. Which is why I think cinema is moving away from the Lawrence of Arabia era of mainstream quality block busters to lots of smaller budget independent movies and action hero junk.

    I don’t think good cinema is gone, just harder to find. People my age don’t have attention spans for good slow burn movies. This is probably also why we have seen a rise in TV quality over the passed decade.

    After I said all this maybe I actually am agreeing with you. I can’t tell.


  21. Gravatar of egl egl
    12. June 2017 at 15:53

    “So on film I’m a pessimist.” The real question is whether you are an optimist or pessimist about whatever comes next. Creativity and consumer interest will go (or maybe has already gone) somewhere else. Please don’t tell me it is reality tv or photosharing—I couldn’t stand the thought.

  22. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    12. June 2017 at 17:04

    anon, I left a comment over at MR saying I should have included Kill Bill.

    I liked Grindhouse–never saw 24 Hour Party People

    LOTR is one of the great films of all time.

    Dzhaughn, I see your point about painting, but you also need to consider talent. An art like painting or film tends to decline over time, holding talent constant. But artistic talent in the 1500s and 1600s was considerably greater than in the 1400s.

    Some believe that film began declining with the advent of sound, but I’m not quite that much of a purist.

  23. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    12. June 2017 at 17:14

    Michael, I think that’s about right. All art forms become more “difficult” for the average person. (And I’m including myself, as I struggle with much of modern art, music, poetry, etc.) Film I can handle, but I see why many are bored by films on my list—I would have been at age 18.

  24. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    12. June 2017 at 17:15

    egl, I sort of feel that’s up to the next generation. Does it really matter if I don’t “get” their interest in hip hop or computer games, etc.

  25. Gravatar of Dave Dave
    12. June 2017 at 20:35

    Allow a ‘philosophical radical’ to point out that if you want above all else to pass on your faith to your children, then trends in the West are discouraging.

    Even in your utilitarian terms, I suspect you are not confident that, say, family life in America is getting better.

    I would interested to read more of your thoughts on policy reforms that would lead to more hedons in the home. (I recall that you’ve already tangentially blogged about some marriage tax penalties.)

  26. Gravatar of Dave Dave
    12. June 2017 at 21:11

    Even in your utilitarian terms, I suspect you are not confident that, say, family life in America is getting better. I would interested to read more of your thoughts on policy reforms that would lead to more hedons in the home. (I recall that you’ve already tangentially blogged about some marriage tax penalties.)

  27. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    13. June 2017 at 05:22

    Dave, You said:

    “Allow a ‘philosophical radical’ to point out that if you want above all else to pass on your faith to your children, then trends in the West are discouraging.”

    I most certainly don’t want to pass on my faith to my children. My daughter is much more capable of deciding on her faith than I am.

    You said:

    “Even in your utilitarian terms, I suspect you are not confident that, say, family life in America is getting better.”

    I have no idea how happy people are, how could I possibly know? I don’t even know how happy I am.

    As far as policy reforms, how about something that doesn’t force me to spend a week working on my taxes—say the Swedish system, where they simply send you the bill (with no marriage penalty.

    It seems like most of my frustrations in life are directly or indirectly attributable to government regulations. Even when they involve private companies, they involve transactions that only occur due to perverse government regulations—as with health insurance.

  28. Gravatar of pyroseed13 pyroseed13
    13. June 2017 at 07:02

    Muholland Drive is amazing and one my favorites, but Inland Empire is a bit of a mess. I would be curious to hear your thoughts Scott on the new Twin Peaks.

  29. Gravatar of One of the dudes One of the dudes
    13. June 2017 at 09:41

    Very true (and pretty commonsensical) about art forms declining after they explored the (limited number of) potent ideas.

    What is the next art form that hasn’t yet? Does it require a radical new technology like film, or social evolution (like rock music)? Could there be another catalyst?

    Is there a more complete list of art forms along with their peak years?

    Sculpture: 1400-1500s
    Painting: 1500-1600s
    Music: 1600-1700s (classical)
    Literature: 1800s?
    Movies: late 1900s
    Rock/Pop: late 1900s

  30. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    13. June 2017 at 09:47

    “LOTR is one of the great films of all time.”

    No. This is indefensible. I’ve kind of kidded you before about films, e.g. liking 2001 more than Barry Lyndon, but this time I’m really serious.

    LOTR is full of bad, cartoon violence, with lots of bad CGI and everything moving too fast. Take the fight scene in Moria, the awful cave troll – you can’t possibly defend that. Or the stupid fight scene between Gandalf and Saruman (no fight at all in Tolkien). Or take the fight between Eowyn, Merry and the Witch-King, only 4 blows in Tolkien but the usual ridiculous, endless, repetitive, unimaginative crap in the film. Or the orcs scurrying down the walls in Moria – more (truly dire) cartoon stuff.

    LOTR is full of bad plot devices. Take the scene where Moxie and Pepsi (I can only reference these silly-ass film portrayals with their Bored of the Rings handles) “trick” Treebeard, or at least the gnarly shrubby thing that’s supposed to be Treebeard, into taking on Saruman. A bad Saturday-morning cartoon plot device! I’ll bet Scooby-Doo used that one a dozen times! You can’t defend that sort of thing.

    At times I guess the film retains enough of the Tolkien to be at least watchable, and maybe some parts are better than I remember, and like I said before costume design and actors are good, but “great?” That is easily my least favorite point ever made on this blog!

    (By the way, why am I carrying on alone here? Where’s Major Freedom when you need him?).

    I actually think they should have hired Robert Rodriguez to do the films. We would have gotten 10 times better fight scenes (compare the Sin City films), and Rodriguez would have used the CGI budget not to make the film worse, as Jackson did, but to make it better. Maybe to let us see the “light” in the faces or forms of the High Elves. (I like Blanchett a lot, but when Galadriel looks like a housewife, it’s hard to see why Gimli and Eomer are willing to trade blows). Or to make Lothlorien appear to have “no stain,” instead of just another NZ wild place. Who knows? (Okay, this last point is only half-serious).

  31. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    13. June 2017 at 10:37

    pyroseed. I don’t have an opinion yet on the new Twin Peaks. It seems a mixture of boring and sublime, but it wasn’t until the second viewing that I appreciated the greatness of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.

    I’d at least like to view it in high def, not the horrible quality image Showtime is sending me.

    I notice he’s repeating ideas, like showing a scary young man, and then having him dressed down by an even scarier older guy. That framing technique was used in the first Twin Peaks, as well as in other films like Sexy Beast. It’s very effective.

    Like the first Twin Peaks, I think it’s funnier than people realize. Lucky 7 Insurance?

    Dude, That list seems right. Since I’m an annoying boomer, I’ll say 1964-73 for pop/rock, but what do I know?

    anon, De gustibus . . .

    I pay little attention to fight scenes in movies.

    I was hooked 2 minutes into the opening of the first LOTR, and I never lost interest. Later I saw the extended version of the first two—which were even better.

    I see very few modern action film, so I can’t compare the CGI. Generally I wish films did not use CGI.

    2001 and Barry Lyndon are both great films, but 2001 is clearly greater. Not even close. It’s top five when critics are polled on the greatest film of all time.

  32. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    13. June 2017 at 10:42

    Dude, Filmmaking actually had an extended peak, as the technology changed and kept opening up new possibilities. Maybe 1924-2002. City Lights and The General and Citizen Kane and Vertigo are just as good as anything made since 1960.

  33. Gravatar of ge ge
    13. June 2017 at 13:59

    Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. What a great and atmospheric ghost story. Even if the dialog is all in the Isaan dialect of Thai.

  34. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    13. June 2017 at 14:36

    ge, Yes, and unfortunately my Isaan dialect is a bit rusty. 🙂

  35. Gravatar of anon\portly anon\portly
    14. June 2017 at 09:39

    “I pay little attention to fight scenes in movies…. I was hooked 2 minutes into the opening of the first LOTR, and I never lost interest. Later I saw the extended version of the first two—which were even better.”

    Thanks for the gracious response, obviously I’m out there on the LOTR movies, a lot of people who are probably more acute in their cinematic appreciation seem to like them. To me they – pointlessly – negate much of what really makes the novel(s) great.

    “2001 and Barry Lyndon are both great films, but 2001 is clearly greater. Not even close. It’s top five when critics are polled on the greatest film of all time.”

    I don’t get this point. Like Tyler C., I like your list better (it doesn’t have TWBB #1, right off) and really I just assume your list will be better. Why should I care about a critics poll? Are these insightful critics or uninsightful critics?

    Now obviously critics polls feature many great films, but this sort of thing is essentially *bureaucratic*, not about art. It’s subject to similar sorts of flaws that all bureaucracies are subject to. Do these critics sit in a room, watch a bunch of films, and then come out with their selections, uninfluenced by group-think and log-rolling and peer pressure and personal insecurities and politics of various kinds and deference to authority and so on and so on and so on? Uh, no, that would be crazy to think that!

    The critics are often just plain wrong, or as a group they often go astray. Think of a group of small fish being herded by dolphins or something.

    Obviously great minds (which doesn’t include me) can disagree on questions of artistic merit, so ultimately there is no “right” consensus. If over time as the critical consensus evolves Barry Lyndon comes to be seen as the greater film, why should you care or modify your opinion?

    I recommend the entry on Howard Hawks in David Thomson’s _Biographical Dictionary of Film_. Basically he argues for the idea that his 10 favorite films are all Hawks films. You don’t know if he’s 100% serious, of course, but it’s wonderfully argued and to me about 100 x more insightful than any critics poll.

  36. Gravatar of anon\portly anon\portly
    14. June 2017 at 09:50

    By the way, now that I’ve seen the MR post on your film list and read the comments, I think there are some interesting issues in making explicit the (rather obvious I thought) point that Ray Lopez has not been banned.

    If he returns and leaves a lot of comments, are you going to compensate your other readers for the additional time lost scrolling?

    On the other hand, maybe you don’t view that as a cost, figuring that after all, if people are deterred from reading the comments, then maybe they’ll leave fewer stupid comments of their own.

    Maybe in turn our optimal strategy is to leave even more stupid comments, thereby punishing your “comment-thwarting” behavior. It’s a puzzler….

  37. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    15. June 2017 at 07:10

    anon, I didn’t mean to suggest that 2001 was best because of the critics poll, I favored it at age 12, when most critics did not agree.

    Ray is a clown, who brings a smile to my face.

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