Are there less great films after 1994?

Quentin Tarantino recently suggested that he thinks the current film era is tied for the worst ever, at least as far as American films are concerned. This probably connects to some different views he’s shared (that film should have a unique identity, that directors are supposed to have personalities apparent in the movies, that it’s fine for material to be very R-rated, that practical effects are important.) I like a lot of the recent stuff, but I think one major subtext for these types of discussions is that it seems that in the last 25 years, there’s a lack of agreed upon classics, the movies that will be on multiple best of lists, so I want to explore why that is.

The early 1990s had some all-time classics in quick succession. Hollywood produced Goodfellas, Silence of the LambsUnforgiven, and Schindler’s List. In one year alone, we had Shawshank RedemptionForrest Gump and Pulp Fiction. The last 27 years do not appear to have been as kind. There are some prominent films that are regularly considered among the best ever (TitanicThe Dark KnightThe Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring) but there’s not as many.

In a 2014 Hollywood Reporter list based on opinions of people in the industry, Goodfellas was in 19th place, Silence of the Lambs was in 22nd place, Schindler’s List was in 10th place, Forrest Gump was in 14th place, Pulp Fiction was in 5th place and Shawshank Redemption was in 4th place. No film from the 2000s was in the Top 40.

So what’s going on here? Have films gotten worse? Is the audience more divided so there’s less of a consensus? Am I imagining things? Or is it something else?

I’ve been thinking of some possibilities.

#1- The audience is divided so there are less recent consensus picks. You like action? There’s the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Daniel Craig James Bond, and Mad Max: Fury Road. You want the continuation of the 1990s indie directors? There’s Kill Bill, Boyhood, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Do you prefer films by women? There’s Nomadland, CODA, Power of the Dog, Lady Bird, etc. Do you prefer films by and about African Americans? There’s Judas and the Black Messiah, Get Out, Fences, Moonlight, Till and much more. Do you want historical prestige pictures? There’s The King’s Speech, Gosford Park, There Will be Blood, Lincoln, etc.

#2- There are artistic compromises for various reasons, with suggestions including the focus on superhero films, the advent of streaming services, a desire to get films to play in international markets, focus on CGI and green screens over physical effects, overreliance on wokeness, etc. This is one argument that’s been posed.

#3- Serialization means it’s hard to pick one representative example of a top franchise. What’s the best MCU film? What about the best Lord of the Rings? So this leads to a lack of consensus, even if as many people might consider at least one MCU film to be on the level of Pulp Fiction.

#4- Are critics more diverse? Perhaps the apparent consensus of the past is due to gatekeeping by an establishment that prized stories by New Hollywood directors about straight white men? Maybe the reputations of Shawshank Redemption and Unforgiven would decline in favor of Boyz N the Hood or The Piano if different critics shaped the first impressions.

#5- The golden age of television has taken some of the cache and critical attention of movies. Sylvester Stallone says that the one project he wishes he had done was The Sopranos, so he’s happy to do a streaming show by a top Sopranos writer.

#6- Critics and the culture pay more attention to foreign films, and with a much larger pool of films in the cultural conversation, it’s harder for an American film to really take off.

#7- One wrinkle may be the emphasis on, for lack of a better word, different types of derivative movies. A different way to phrase is that everything’s a remake. We have major franchises that are trucking along and we don’t even know what to call some new installments. Is The Batman a remake of Batman Returns (a previous film in which Batman romanced Catwoman and fought the Penguin?) because it’s not a sequel. Marvel’s been making the MCU fresh by using it to tell stories in different genres (Captain America: Winter Soldier was a 1970s style paranoid thriller complete with Robert Redford in a key role; the Antman films are basically capers.) There’s an emphasis on diversity and telling old stories with different contexts. Crazy Rich Asians was not the first romcom in which a young woman realized her boyfriend’s family was rich. Bros took romcom tropes for a story about a gay activist. So many prestigious films are about the history of movies and/ or in the style of earlier films. Lalaland is about an aspiring actress, and modeled on the Jacques Demi musicals. Many of the results are good, but there’s a difference between telling a good story in the spaghetti western style, and inventing something completely new. It could also result in some vote-splitting when it’s time to figure out a magazine staff’s favorites, as the derivatives compete with the classics.

#8- For whatever reason, recent films just haven’t taken off yet. Sometimes a work that’s been around for a while becomes popular for whatever reason. Shawshank Redemption was on the right cable channel. It’s a Wonderful Life accidentally went public domain. It could very well be that some streaming films weren’t promoted correctly, and will develop a later life.

One common complaint is that it takes a while to recognize that something has staying power, but it’s worth noting there are indications that previous critics liked some then-recent work. The first Sight& Sound Top Ten in 1952 correctly included the four year old Bicycle Thieves (good choice) and the three year old Louisiana Story (a more complicated choice that may have been a way to honor a recently deceased director.) 90s nostalgia is a thing, but it’s not the only factor here. Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump, Goodfellas and Schindler’s List became mainstays of best of lists pretty quickly. Dances With Wolves was initially very popular, but then its reputation faded.

There may be weird stuff that has nothing to do with the quality of the film that affects its reputation. Pulp Fiction might be less popular if Tarantino didn’t use his later films to develop a cult of personality. The Sixth Sense might be better regarded if M. Night Shyamalan’s next film has a really good reputation.

It could very well be a combination of many factors. Maybe American films are just as good as they were in the early 90s, but need to compete with foreign films and prestige TV for exposure.

There may be complex factors that lead to movies of a particular time developing reputations. So it’s hard to figure out whether the new Hollywood films were a little bit better for assorted reasons (film needed to compete with television which led to greater maturity of subject matter, studios were more willing to experiment, a generation of directors was influenced by foreign films, movie theaters moved to the suburbs where more viewers lived, etc) or if a handful of movies released in a ten year period (The Graduate, The Godfather, The Godfather Part 2, Taxi Driver, Bonnie and Clyde, In the Heat of the Night, Easy Rider, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, MASH, A Clockwork Orange, American Graffiti, The Exorcist, Chinatown, Rocky, All the President’s Men, Network) just captured the zeitgeist even if these weren’t better than films released in another ten year stretch. Although that suggests that there are hidden gems in all sorts of earlier eras that have the potential to be recognized as all-time classics with the right promotion.

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2022 Film Diary Part 6

This is a continuation of notes on films I’ve seen this year. For this series, I planned to watch films from a few major movements, but because there was a Harry Potter showing at Regal films I got distracted and only got to French Poetic Realism.

Movie #126: Thor Ragnarok (Disney Plus)
Watching it again, I’m a bit more disappointed in the follow-up Love & Thunder. This story is fun, and does a good job of slamming two epics together with a mix of excellent new characters (Cate Blanchett is one of the best Marvel villains, Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie & Korg are immediate fixtures to the supporting cast, Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster is a unique force) and showcases for Thor, Loki, the Hulk and even Anthony Hopkins having fun as Odin. It was fun to watch this with my dad who had no idea Hulk was in it.
9/10

Movie #127: The Social Network (DVD)
It’s one of my favorite films of the 2010s, and one I keep coming back to. It works as a celebration of youthful ambition, and shows where it can go wrong. It should’ve been nominated for supporting Oscars, and won more.
10/10

Movie #128/ New Movie #86: Children of Paradise (Criterion DVD)
It’s an odd film with a strange history, essentially made under false pretenses in Vichy France and Occupied France, about a love triangle (it’s honestly a bit more complex than that) in the theatrical world of Paris. It’s a really good film in which a mime is a romantic lead in a sophisticated drama (which is the most French thing possible in any context), and it conveys the idea of the pain of missed opportunities years later.
10/10

Movie #129/ New Movie #87: Mission Impossible II (Paramount Plus)
This seems to be the odd man out with the franchise. It tells a mostly self-contained story that borrows heavily from a classic narrative (Notorious) with the unique style of an international star director, combined with a rising star actor who never really took off as the villain. At this point, the tech is a generation old and the late 90s music hasn’t aged well. It was a massive blockbuster hit. The sequences are impressive and it is interesting to see Tom Cruise at the peak of his star power. Thandiwe Newton is lovely. It’s a bit annoying to have the second film in a row where the bad guy turns out to be a member of the impossible mission task force, although I do like the bad guy’s familiarity with Ethan Hunt and how he operates.
7/10

Movie #130/ New Movie #88: The Exterminating Angel (Criterion DVD)
This is a strange film in many ways. Some rich people at an upper-class gathering find themselves unable to leave the music room of a mansion. They recognize that it’s irrational, but try to make do regardless, even if things start getting grimmer. It works quite well as an allegory, as a film to be decoded for its symbolism, although it’s satisfying just to see everyone going nuts as the layers of decorum peel away.
9/10

Movie #131/ New Movie #89: Marius (Criterion DVD)
This early sound French film is weird. It’s not obviously primitive, and functions pretty well as a decent hangout movie as a young couple tries to figure out their lives. It’s classified as a melodrama, and while people make serious sacrifices, it’s enjoyable. The characters are ridiculous but playwright Marcel Pagnol and director Alexander Korda show off what makes them likable. The main leads seem to be people in their mid-30s playing 18 and 23, which is the case, although they are often quite good. There’s an odd decision to hide the central conflict for half of the film, which is difficult with the first of a trilogy and a film that was remade a lot. Most people are going to watch the film knowing what it’s about.
9/10

Movie #132/ New Movie #90: Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key (DVD)
This giallo has one of the least likable leads of any movie ever, and there are some decent twists.
7/10

Movie #133/ New Movie #91: Fanny (Criterion DVD)
This trilogy is interesting since each chapter has a different director. It’s based on plays, so the lengthy conversations are understandable, but the Marseilles setting is appropriately cinematic. This gets to be more of a melodrama as the characters deal with the consequences of their sacrifices, but it’s also an enjoyable hangout film, and builds effectively on the characters in Marius (for example, the revelation about why a sailmaker wasn’t more modern.) The Criterion box set is highly recommended.
9/10

Movie #134/ New Movie #92: Cesar (Criterion DVD)
The conclusion to the Marseilles trilogy brings it to a satisfying end. Nearly twenty years have passed, with the romantic leads better able to pull off people their age than 18 and 23 year old young lovers. We do get a sense of the weight of the sacrifices and regrets for all involved, which seems a bit similar to Children of Paradise in terms of how it may take a while before the characters are all in one place. Conversations about class matter more, as we see how they’ve changed over the years. It seems like dark subject matter, but it remains enjoyable, partly with Pagnol’s skill in depicting the flavor of the location and details about characters, all aware of one another’s ridiculousness and what they’re going through. It gets bonus points for nailing the landing.
10/10

Movie #135/ New Movie #93: Blow Out (Criterion DVD)
It’s better to go into the film knowing as little as possible. It seems a bit derivative as Travolta plays a sound engineer who gets evidence of a crime (similar to Blow Up and the Conversation), and gets drawn into a conspiracy. It plays with expectations in interesting ways. The protagonist is involved with the movie business, but when he tells the girl about his background, she’s more interested in work he did involving crime and real people. He tries to do a bold and boneheaded stunt to get through a police barricade, and ends up hospitalized. I can see why young Travolta was such a major star, and Nancy Allen is excellent at depicting a very specific type of imperfect woman.
9/10

Movie #136: ET (Movie Theater)
Steven Spielberg is a mad genius for making something is weird and successful.
10/10

Movie #137/ New Movie #94: Give Em Hell Harry (DVD)
This is one of the strangest best actor nominations ever, as it’s literally a filmed version of a prestigious one man show. James Whitmore (who I recognize mostly as Brooks from Shawshank Redemption) plays Truman at various stages, sometimes as a new President and sometimes commenting on then-contemporary issues. It’s clever and powerful.
8/10

Movie #138: Spider-Man: No Way Home More Fun Stuff Example (Movie Theater)
I wasn’t as excited by this version. I hope it’s not a matter of one of my favorite movies losing its luster. It sometimes feels a bit long, and the new scenes don’t add much, padding out stretches of the movie before the interesting happens, and the villains of the multiverse make their way to Spidey.
9/10

Movie #139/ New Movie #95: Three Thousand Years of Longing (Movie Theater)
It’s a beautiful fantasy film with two great actors discussing important ideas, and the other stuff that matters in life. It takes an understandable turn in the final act, as Tilda Swinton’s academic realizes there’s something she can wish for, and the film explores the aftermath of that.
8/10

Movie #140/ New Movie #96: Barbarian (Movie Theater)
This is a horror film with some interesting twists, so it’s likely to have three conversations. There is the way the film is discussed to avoid spoiling it. There’s the way its discussed by people who have seen it and can get into the specifics of the surprises. There’s also going to be a different way when it’s part of the horror movie landscape, and likely to pop up on best of lists. A non-spoiler point would be that the characters are solid, and the take on the blight of modern Detroit is impressive.
9/10

Movie #141: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Movie Theater)
For whatever reason Regal played the entire Harry Potter saga back in theaters, so it was fun to see these again. The first time when I was a kid, I remember being a bit disappointed by small changes to the novel. The second time, as part of a rewatch before the last film, I remember thinking the sequels were better. That may very well be the case, but this movie does a really job of worldbuilding. So many triple-A concepts are introduced, and there are so many excellent side characters. If this film were all that existed of Harry Potter, it would still have a seismic reputation.
8/10

Movie #142/ New Movie #97: Petrov’s Flu (Movie Theater)
I saw this at the IFC theater, which may be a good idea because if I was watching it at home I’d be so tempted to pause it every 10-15 minutes, try to see if I can Google references, or talk about what something means. The film is a lot, largely focusing on a Russian family over a weekend, where everyone has the flu and experiences things in a dreamlike logic, where it’s not always clear what’s real or what the connections are. I’m really looking forward to an in-depth article to cover the stuff people who aren’t familiar with Russia might miss.

The parts I understood worked. There’s a good sense of emotional reality, and the weirdness of the Russian people under Putin and before (this was filmed pre-Covid) with a casual coldness that’s familiar to me as an Estonian. The cinematography is nice.
9/10

Movie #143: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Movie Theater)
This was playing at Regal over the weekend, and it is one of my favorite Harry Potter movies. It sets up the big bad of the series pretty well, with Ralph Fiennes pulling off one of the most important roles in the series. It gets across Harry legitimately being a reluctant hero, happy to be a minor character for the first half hour before he’s suddenly involved in the tournament. The challenges work, and while there’s limited focus on the usual school-year stuff (Harry’s classes are barely a problem) the passage of time is conveyed well, thanks to a temporary rift between teenage best friends. It does appear some big stuff is missing, especially with Hagrid and his girlfriend.
9/10

Movie #144: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Movie Theater)
Director David Yates is definitely worth seeing on the big screen. His work has been described as desaturated, which is fine with the setting and subject matter (English teens learning the world is nastier than they expected) and there are some scenes that may not tolerate normal living-room conditions. A pet peeve of mine is when a protagonist keeps stumbling into big adventures, and this story is surprisingly low-key with Harry’s main task being to befriend a professor with a secret. Jim Broadbent is quite good as the professor in question, adding complexity to a guy with really adult problems that Harry Potter has to figure out.
8/10

Movie #145: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (Movie Theater)
It may very well be the weakest of the Harry Potter films, although that speaks to the strength of the larger series. Considering they split a novel into two halves, it does make sense why this film’s unsatisfying as its own thing. There is a major Lord of the Rings influence, more of the vibes of the struggles of the hobbits as they go on the quest.
7/10

Movie #146: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2 (Movie Theater)
The Harry Potter finale did what it needed to: it nailed the landing. Deathly Hallows Part 1 reminded me a lot of the Frodo/ Samwise sections of Lord of the Rings; this one is Helms Deep. It’s mostly a set-up to one big epic battle, and it works, providing a satisfying payoff to a saga that includes one of the best fantasy movies ever. The best moments come in the completion of Snape’s arc.
9/10

Movie #147: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Movie Theater)
Cuaron is pretty obviously the best director to work on the Harry Potter series, and you could see it in the small moments that elevate the larger story. The central mystery is one of the strongest of the series, and works really well at this stage. It’s the third film of a much larger series, but there is a legitimate sense of character growth, of a transformation that is earned.
9/10

Movie #148/ New Movie #98: Don’t Worry Darling (Movie Theater)
It’s not as bad as I thought, but not that good either. Florence Pugh is great, and it is nicely shot. It kinda gets progressively worse, with a compelling atmosphere in the first act, a sense of dread in Act 2, and then the twist and the aftermath. The discussion about it is interesting. This is an ambitious misfire.
5/10

Movie #149/ New Movie #99: Paddington 2 (Movie Theater)
This was such a pleasant, wholesome movie. It has the perfect combination of being set in the modern world with a classic old-fashioned charm. Hugh Grant is a delight as the villain, one of the vainest actors on the planet.
9/10

Movie #150/ New Movie #100: They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (Netflix)
It seemed to provide some useful context for The Other Side of the Wind. It does explain how Orson Welles had a film that was so close to completion that had never been released before. It covers his genius and the shortcomings, as well as the weirdness that belongs in its own category.
8/10

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The Future of the DCEU

A question on a message board was what people would do with the DC Extended Cinematic Universe, given the weird shape of the series. It’s trucking along with new movies including The Flash, Black Adam, Aquaman 2 and other films. Ezra Miller is toxic. Henry Cavill’s involvement is uncertain and he’s pushing 40. The Matt Reeves Batman film made a lot of money, and has its own world. It kinda took Batman out of the shared universe. The Joker is getting a sequel. And then there’s chatter about new reboots.

If I were in charge, I think I’d focus on winding down the main cinematic universe. There might be a handful of new projects like a Black Adam VS Shazam film.

I’d try to go for one standalone Superman film, maybe with Henry Cavill and the cast of Man of Steel, although it could also be something different. One idea would be something with a 1930s/ 1940s Superman, as something we haven’t seen on film that would be unique from what’s been done before, and would allow a generic take on Superman later.

I wouldn’t touch the Joker/ Matt Reeves Batman series since these seem to be working fine. I might suggest a Zoey Kravitz Catwoman spinoff.

In about seven years it might be time to start a new DC Cinematic Universe.
A good structure for a Superman film might be based on the graphic novel Superman: Earth One, where Clark Kent is trying to figure out what to do with his life when he has so many options. Around the same time we might introduce new versions of Green Lantern (John Stewart) and the Flash within that world to seed the way for a Justice League film about five years later.

At this point I’d focus on the major franchises and those already confirmed, rather than more obscure series that have mentioned as potential films (Booster Gold, Metal Men, Lobo, Nightwing, Plastic Man, Static Shock, Zatanna, Supergirl) just because I’d prefer those series connected to a new DC Cinematic Universe, rather than potentially complicating one that can be tied up. There would be potential spinoffs for characters who have already been introduced (Cyborg, Black Canary.)

How it might look like…
2023- Shazam 2, The Flash, Aquaman & the Lost Kingdom, Blue Beetle (This is the current schedule)
2024- Joker 2, Gotham City Sirens, Wonder Woman 3, Cyborg
2025- The Batman 2, Black Canary, Standalone Superman project
2026- Catwoman, Aquaman 3, Shazam VS Black Adam
2027- Final Harley Quinn film, Cyborg 2
2028- The Batman 3, Logan style Black Adam film
2029- Superman relaunch
2030- Flash relaunch, Green Lantern relaunch
2031- Superman 2, Aquaman relaunch
2032- Flash 2, Wonder Woman relaunch

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2022 Film Diary Part 5

This continues a series of observations on films I’ve seen this year. For this section, I also wanted to cover a few movements: B-Films/ Exploitation Films/ Video Nasties/ whatever you want to call it, and German Silent Expressionism, so a bunch of the movies are in those categories.

Movie #101/ New Movie #73: Kid90 (Hulu)
The story behind the documentary is interesting. Soleil Moon Frye wanted to explore what it was like to be a child star and former child star in the days before social media when it was possible to have a private life, but it was also still possible to record much for private video. Initially, it was meant to be the general story but Frye realized much about herself in the process, looking at footage and journal entries in a new light. The results are brief but compelling.
7/10

Movie #102: Mission Impossible (Paramount Plus)
It’s interesting how this series has changed as the later sequels became the epitome of 21st Century action films. This one’s a bit different. Sometimes it seems shot more like a TV drama. The central sequence of breaking into Langley computers is slow and detailed, like something out of Rififi.
8/10

Movie #103: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney+)
On a second watch, I’m still not a fan. This is a largely disappointing finale to the Star Wars saga. It starts out a bit promising but the moment a character says that Palpatine returned somehow, and that’s that, it becomes clear that will be the weakest of the new trilogy. Some new characters are decent (Babu Frik!), and the trap for Rei is a good one. They could have gone further with the temptation of the dark side, but that part was okay.

In retrospect, it would have been better to split this into two films given where Last Jedi had left the characters and to spend more time on this one, rather than to stick to a schedule established before Carrie Fisher passed away, necessitating major changes.
5/10

Movie #104/ New Movie #74: Badlands (Movie Theater)
Mallick’s debut is a great take on young love in really dire circumstances, as a girl in Texas falls for a psycho who develops a hell of a body count. There’s a fairy tale vibe to it all, which works for the girl’s naiveté during the senseless violence. Martin Sheen is excellent as a sociopath who is obviously doomed, but you can see why some people are drawn to him. It’s a good example of how dangerous likable people can be.
9/10

Movie #105/ New Movie #75: Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood (Blu-Ray)
It’s an interesting B movie by people who have largely never worked again in film (Hervé Villechaize is the biggest star) taking advantage of access to an amusement park on its last legs to come up with crazy deathtraps and scenarios. It’s quite primitive, but there are some strong sequences. It’s part of a worthwhile collection by Arrow Video, and of interest to fans of independent horror, grindhouse and the so-called video nasties.
7/10

Movie #106/ New Movie #76: Last Year at Marienbad (DVD)
It’s an interesting and mysterious film about memory and how other people see the world. It’s hard to describe because so much is uncertain and contradicted. It is at times quite spellbinding.
9/10

Movie #107/ New Movie #77: The Witch Who Came In From The Sea (Blu-Ray)
It appears this has been marketed for the sleazier elements, and there is plenty of that, but it is more effective as a character exploration of a troubled young woman, her crimes contrasting with her goody two shoes way of talking.
7/10

Movie #108: The Manchurian Candidate (DVD)
The definitive political thriller. The scenario is compelling and makes for some great sequences. Angela Lansbury may just be the most twisted mother in film. Lawrence Harvey makes the brainwashed war hero obnoxious but layered. There is a documentary feel to it that works very well. I’m not sure I buy Novak’s motivations, but it works in this particular context of ramping up the paranoia. For something so definitive and copied, it goes in some interesting directions, with Sinatra’s lead ahead of where you would expect him to be.
10/10

Movie #109: A Shot in the Dark (DVD)
One of the funniest mystery parodies. Sellers’ Clouseau is exceptional as the lead for these types of projects, balancing the ridiculousness and incompetence with an effort to maintain his dignity. Add to that great running gags.
9/10

Movie #110: Hamilton (Disney Plus)
I guess there’s a technical argument that this doesn’t count as a film, as it’s more of a recording of a play, albeit with much better production values than the typical stuff that you could find on Broadway Plus. It doesn’t matter. This is one of the greatest works of art of the 21st Century. Lin Manuel Miranda’s performance as Hamilton is overshadowed by the depth and cleverness of his script, and by some of the supporting cast. Everyone who got a Tony and Tony nomination deserved it, and there’s a handful of others who would’ve been nominated if they had given a performance of that level on a different show on a different year, rather than being the fourth or fifth best supporting male performance in this one.
10/10

Movie #111/ New Movie #78: Premonition (Blu-Ray)
I saw this as part of Arrow’s American Horror Project blu-rays, and I recommend that along with the commentary which gives a sense of why this film is so nuts. A psychotic woman wants to take back her daughter from the couple who adopted them, and is aided by her boyfriend, a more meticulously psychotic clown played by Richard Lynch. He is excellent in this film: menacing and clownish. The adopted mother starts having visions of the future, which her professor husband is compelled to explore. The threads don’t come together very well in the end, but there is much to enjoy in all that effort.
7/10

Movie #112/ New Movie #79: Class of Nuke ‘Em High (Pluto TV)
It’s shlocky and borderline immoral (not in the ways you think but the anti-nuclear message is one of the major reasons American society is unable to get a handle on climate change) but man it’s fun. It has a bit of a so bad it’s good reputation, but it is more clever than that, with teens mutated by a power plant, so the honor society has become the bullies and two young lovers have a bad experience with irradiated marijuana.
8/10

Movie #113/ New Movie #80: Nope (Movie Theater)
Peele’s third film takes a decent concept- two young minor players in Hollywood find out about a UFO and decide that they’re going to be the ones to get evidence about it- and layers onto it different questions about exploitation and efforts to control nature. Palmer and Kaluuya are excellent as siblings who are quite different but who seem to have a life outside the film, with Palmer as a showman and Kaluuya as a stoic almost classically western lead. Yeun’s traumatized child star is a bit underdeveloped. His whole narrative makes sense to me, although big stuff occurs off-camera, but I’d like to see more of him because he is the most interesting character. The film does have great set pieces, and balances a legitimate exploration of interesting topics with characters I’m invested in.
8/10

Movie #114/ New Movie #81: World on a Wire (Criterion DVD)
It makes sense that this 1970s mini-series would see a reevaluation in the streaming age. The pacing is a good fit for the current era, assuming you’re able to handle a double-length German language movie. It’s quite ahead of its time in the exploration of what it would mean to have a simulated reality, as a scientist realizes that the citizens of a simulation (used to answer policy questions) are starting to realize the truth of their existence, as well as the exploration of the merging of business and government-sponsored science. There’s a great sense of unease to the sci-fi noir.
8/10

Short Film #18: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s World on a Wire: Looking Ahead to Today (Criterion DVD)
Solid bonus on the Criterion edition of “World on a Wire” which notes elements of the film that were more obvious for the original audience in Germany in the 1970s (IE- unconventional casting decisions, filming in Paris locations that would seem near-futuristic at the time).
7/10

Movie #115: F For Fake (Criterion DVD)
I didn’t care for the film as much the last time I saw it years ago. I think it was on Netflix then, so maybe the streaming quality wasn’t great. It could also be that I’ve been persuaded by a video essay about how it’s so well-edited.

It is really well-edited, has some interesting twists and gets into interesting questions about art and truth, as Welles considers the true story of a forger who was exposed by a writer who went on to commit a bigger hoax. The material is quite rich, and one of the most creative filmmakers has fun with it. This is essential viewing to anyone interested in video essays, as one of the best examples of the form.
9/10

Movie #116/ New Movie #82: Blackmail (Talkie Version) (DVD)
It starts out a bit slow. Hitchcock hasn’t quite mastered the ability to keep things interesting during the phase of the movie where we’re getting to know the characters before things go nuts. But it’s a decent movie once the stabbing occurs. It seems a bit primitive, although that’s likely due to the quality of the surviving prints as well as technological limitations in the very early sound era. Hitchcock’s still able to play around with the new tools at his disposal.
7/10

Movie #117/ New Movie #83: Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (Blu-Ray)
It’s been a while since I’ve watched a silent film, so one way to make up for that is with a four and a half hour expressionist epic.

This cat and mouse crime saga has one of the great film villains (not just silent film villains) in the hypnotist criminal mastermind with a penchant for disguises. It drags on at times, and can be hard to follow with a character who is often in disguise, and where some events are paced slowly and some major events occur quickly. But it is often inventive, and surprising, with interesting commentary on Weimar Germany and the respect for autocrats. Someone who seems to be a minor character comes across like a stiff, but he gets interesting when he’s in Mabuse’s claws. It is episodic, but the final sequence does tie it all together.
8/10

Short Film #19: The Story Behind Dr. Mabuse (Blu Ray)
This was an extra on the Kino blu-ray collection of Fritz Lang’s silent films. It seems more like several shorts put together spotlighting different aspects of Dr Mabuse the Gambler, such as the decisions behind a new soundtrack or changes to the source material.
7/10

Movie #118/ New Movie #84: This Much I Know to Be True (Mubi)
There are other people who will appreciate this more, since they’re more familiar with Nick Cave as a singer and the context of things that are referenced here. I appreciate it as an amazingly shot rehearsal film (it’s not a standard concert; it’s more like being in the room when top-tier talent is performing for posterity) with some deep songs, and some insights into a thoughtful man who remains rather private.
8/10

Movie #119/ New Movie #85: The Last Laugh (Youtube)
There is a sequence early in the film so immediate that it just does not seem possible for it to be shot in 1924. Obviously, it’s a prank of some sorts, an elaborate hoax where a film buff uses modern tech and editing, while pretending its from a nearly century-old silent film.

Murnau famously tells the story with only one intertitle, and it works. He’s able to show the emotional life of an ordinary man during a difficult time from highs to lows. His experiences are given the weight of the lead of an epic. For him to be demoted to bathroom attendant is as great a loss as a king being deposed, or a captain of industry losing an essential contract.

After this film, Murnau, lead Emil Jannings and cinematographer Karl Freund were all invited to go to Hollywood, where Oscars and other major accolades would follow.
10/10

Movie #120: The Golem: How He Came into the World (Youtube)
After the Last Laugh, I’ve really come to appreciate cinematographer Karl Freund and this film is really well shot. It comes across at times like it was inspired by the Cabinet of Dr Caligari, but it was released only a few months after, and is the last of a trilogy so much of the work had to be done independently. It’s a bit odd as the one surviving film in a series, although as a prequel, it is a standalone story that seemed to be the story the director had been trying to tell now that he could do it as a period piece. The Golem is an interesting conflicted monster, a proto-Frankenstein. It also seems like this story is a major influence on the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. I’m curious about learning more about the extent to which imagery about witchcraft is coded as Jewish, as that is a bit distracting, though it is otherwise satisfying to see Jewish leads in a German expressionist film.

It’s public domain so it’s available free online. One interesting version has a modern soundtrack by Black Francis of the Pixies.
vimeo.com/15581812?embedded=true&source=vimeo_logo&owner=2308334

But the Murnau foundation restoration is amazing.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6dvWPN8OMA
9/10

Movie #121/ New Movie #86: Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (Movie Theater)
It’s a fine cute film, a mockumentary about a living shell who would like to be reunited with his family. Marcel’s got personality, and the film has much to say about the need for community in a time when everyone is very much online. There are some clever details on what life would be like for someone who is only an inch high.
7/10

Movie #122/ New Movie #87: Vengeance (Movie Theater)
BJ Novak’s directorial debut is very meta, with a New York media figure going to Texas because the death of a girl he hooked up with (whose family thinks they were much closer) might be material for a podcast. Doing a story about a writer is a way to get to some obvious insights about the heartland VS coastal America, although the character sometimes seems too obnoxious, even if the point for others to call him out on his condescension. Still it’s a solid conversation starter. Ashton Kutcher is quite good as a music producer who manages to stay ahead of expectations.
7/10

Movie #123: Black Panther (Disney Plus)
Watching it this time I get a sense of how deliberate Chadwick Boseman is in his choices as the lead. I remember thinking he was fine, but overshadowed by much of the supporting cast, although he is effective at conveying a new king grappling with the sins of his predecessors.
10/10

Short Film #20: The Colour Merchant (Blu Ray)
It’s a nice extra in various versions of A Matter of Life and Death/ Stairway to Heaven, about a cinematographer’s experiences on his first solo project, which ends up being a stylistically daring classic. Hardly essential but nice.
7/10

Movie #124: Metropolis (Blu-Ray)
Watching it this time, I am struck by how a film about a class war in the future does serve to flatter the elite with the metaphor of the head (them) and the hands (the poors who forget about their children in a crucial time.) The quality is weaker with the recently restored films, but it works to create an impression of some lost artifact from another world.
10/10

Short Film #21: Cartoonland Mysteries (Blu Ray)
It was an extra on a Universal blu-ray set, and it’s a decent take on making animation 85 years ago. The cartoon wasn’t included in the set, which is disappointing, although it is on Youtube. It’s interesting to see what has changed and what hasn’t changed.
8/10

Movie #125: Trumbo (DVD)
I watched it again for inspiration on writing, as Dalton Trumo has one hell of a work ethic, although on the second watch, I have a greater appreciation for the characters who don’t want to put up with his shit, as well as his grand plan to ridicule the blacklist.
7/10

Short Film #22: Valparaiso (Mubi)
This was a nice short documentary I saw on Mubi. It mainly seems to be an explanation of how Valparaiso is an interesting and cinematic setting for other people to explore in documentaries or narrative films. The narration is a bit pretentious, but fitting for the setting, and there is a clever shift in storytelling.
9/10

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2022 Film Diary Part 4

This is a continuation on notes on movies I’ve seen this year. For this series, I tried to watch films from several film movements including the Scandinavian Revival, and Pre-Code Hollywood.

Movie #73/ New Movie #51: Top Gun (DVD)
This was a massive hit that I never saw before that spawned a sequel late enough that a character who was a baby in this film could plausibly be a presidential contender in the next one (they’re probably not going down that route.) I could see why this was a star turn for Tom Cruise, and it gets the camaraderie of the pilots, as well as impressive stunts. There is an interesting balance with Cruise’s Maverick and Val Kilmer’s Ice as rivals who are on the same team, and do want the other to succeed. Some scenes are way too obvious, and there is a lack of a compelling antagonist.
7/10

Movie #74/ New Movie #52: Phantom of the Paradise (DVD)
This was a weird film, a mash-up of rock musicals and silent classics Faust and Phantom of the Opera. The strangest part of it may be the twists and turns of the partnership between a naive singer-songwriter and a record producer, which continues after betrayals and violent efforts at revenge. The songs are decent, especially “Goodbye, Eddie, Goodbye” a 1950s style ode to a musician’s suicide, which sets up this warped take.
8/10

Movie #75/ New Movie #53: Sawdust and Tinsel (Criterion Blu-Ray)
It’s an important film for Ingmar Bergman and company, as he has discovered himself as a director, exploring themes (what constant performance does to a person, how dreams represent inner lives, embarrassment and reconciliation) that would be key to his work. It can be cruel, but it’s not just that. And no one is able to surpass Bergman when it comes to cringe humor.
8/10

Movie #76/ New Movie #54: The Fearless Vampire Killers (DVD)
This is not a film that it obviously made by a great director, although it is very obviously Eastern European. It’s not funny. It’s not scary. The characters are so dumb and slower than anyone in the audience that it’s not clear what they know at any given moment. There is one decent set piece at a ball, and an interesting tonally off ending.
4/10

Short Movie #11: Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (Criterion Blu-Ray)
This was a highlight of the Kennedy Films of Robert Drew Criterion collection, with a surprisingly intimate look at the Kennedy White House, the office of Attorney General Robert F Kennedy, the administration of Alabama Governor George Wallace, and two African-American college students who just want to attend the University of Alabama. It’s a bit horrifying to think about how this was so controversial in living memory.
9/10

Movie #77/ New Movie #55: Mister 880 (DVD)
This is a bit of an oddball film depicting a clash between two major actors: future Oscar winner Burt Lancaster as a secret service agent and previous winner for his depiction of Kris Kringle Edmund Gwenn as a friendly minor counterfeiter. It is a showcase for the Golden Age of Hollywood’s ability to mix serious questions with a sense of fun. It’s not a great movie, but it is quite pleasant.
8/10

Movie #78/ New Movie #56: Top Gun: Maverick (Movie Theater)
This is a great sequel to a good film. I just saw the original for the first time a week ago, and this fixed one of the major flaws, by providing an adversary for Maverick. The characters have greater gravity because this builds so well on events from 30+ years earlier, and it’s also a statement on Tom Cruise, movie stardom and awesomeness. It seems it took so long to make this sequel, because they kept looking at the script and figuring how it could be more awesome. And then they did it. That A+ Cinemascore is well-earned.
10/10

Short Movie #12: Waldo Salt- A Screenwriter’s Journey (Criterion Blu-Ray)
This is a perfect story for a Hollywood documentary: a blacklisted screenwriter learns to spend more time on his films and wins multiple Oscars while elevating his form. As a bonus, because he’s a screenwriter, so much footage of his movies is available. It’s a well-told story, and does cover how a relatively obscure screenwriter in his mid-50s adapted Midnight Cowboy (this film is an extra on the Criterion blu-ray), and then went on to success with Serpico and Coming Home.
9/10

Movie #79: Summer With Monika (Criterion Blu-Ray)
It’s an important film for Ingmar Bergman and company, as he has discovered himself as a director, exploring themes (what constant performance does to a person, how dreams represent inner lives, embarrassment and reconciliation) that would be key to his work. It can be cruel, but it’s not just that. And no one is able to surpass Bergman when it comes to cringe humor.
9/10

Short Movie #13: Islands: Georgy Rerberg (Criterion Blu-Ray)
It’s an okay documentary about a cinematographer with an interesting personality that does offer some insights into his talents and how he could be a uniquely difficult person to work with. There’s a very weird thing where they talk about Stalker, where they obviously have cut out specific context about why it was so tragic (contamination from a nearby chemical plant likely led to the higher cancer rate among film and crew.) I wonder why they seemed to set it up, and then abandoned it.
7/10

Movie #80/ New Movie #57: Feels Good Man (Mubi)
This documentary is several things. I like the parts that cover a San Francisco based relatively apolitical indie cartoonist when one of his characters is appropriated by the alt-right. That is an interesting arc with an oddball twist. Some of the people take this way too seriously, with an “occultist” suggesting it is mimetic magic that helped Donald Trump get elected President, and interviews/ footage of some people on the left and right who seem to be in agreement.
8/10

Movie #81/ New Movie #58: Miss Julie (DVD)
I’m watching this as part of an effort to be more familiar with the films of the Scandinavian revival film movement, especially those that aren’t by Bergman or Dreyer. The Swedes are intense, and do not bullshit in a romance of two people separated by class that does not go the way any typical romance goes. They go extreme, pushing people to the limits even in a standard melodrama. The Criterion transfer is solid, but not pristine. I’m not sure if it’s an issue with the restoration, or the original material, but I did notice some issues.
8/10

Short Movie #14: Being Green: Jim Henson’s Early Shorts (Mubi)
This is a catch-all for a few early shorts by Jim Henson (Time Piece, Run, Run, Drums West, Shearing Animation, Cat and Mouse, Ripples, Wheels That Go, Alexander the Grape) with a combined runtime of 21 minutes, shown on Mubi. “Alexander the Grape” is an unfinished short film that predicts gags we’ll see later (Toy Story, Sausage Party.)
9/10

Movie #82/ New Movie #59: The Dissident (Youtube)
It’s a well-made documentary about an international injustice. It’s obviously horrific that a Washington Post reporter was murdered at the behest of a Saudi prince, and this film shows the life of the victim, the causes he fought for, and all those affected in unforeseen ways. It’s powerful. And the lack of major distribution is an indictment of the big streaming companies.
9/10

Movie #83/ New Movie #60: Tough Guys (DVD)
It’s a fun example of a particular subgenre (elderly criminals out for one last score just as everyone underestimates them.) Douglas and Lancaster are a great buddy duo and sell their reactions to how the world has changed in the thirty years they’ve been away. It’s a bit unpolished, but it’s a solid B.
7/10

Movie #84/ New Movie #61: Crimes of the Future (Movie Theater)
Stylistically it feels like a neonoir made either during the events in this film, or decades later. It’s a bit slow, but the worldbuilding is excellent, and the narrative threads tie together rather well. It all feels weird, but lived in.
7/10

Short Movie #15: The Bones (Mubi)
I watched it on Mubi. The lost silent film gimmick works okay. The visuals are odd, but distinctive.
8/10

Short Movie #16: Juke: Passages from the Films of Spencer Williams (Mubi)
This short film is mainly just out of context clips from the films of Spencer Williams. Some commentary and context would be appreciated. Right now, the main result is clips from black and white films during the Golden Age of Hollywood, except African-American characters have agency. That has a power independent of everything else.
7/10

Movie #85: Guardians of the Galaxy (Blu-Ray)
It seems so effortlessly enjoyable that we can overlook that it easily could have flopped. It’s a team film about characters who didn’t have much history in the comics by an indie director whose cast included A-listers in voice roles, the third male lead of a moderately successful sitcom, the female lead of Avatar and a wrestler in his mid-40s. We get a group with the camaraderie and heart of any superhero team, or any iteration of Star Wars or Star Trek. That was the most important accomplishment and it’s done quite well.
9/10

Short Movie #17: Gulpilil: One Red Blood (Criterion DVD Extra)
This is a decent spotlight on an odd actor: David Gulipilil. He is best-known for his first film Walkabout, and there’s some focus on a strange project he did with Dennis Hopper a few years later. The majority of attention goes to two films he made in the turn of the century around when the documentary was made: Rabbit-Proof Fence and the Tracker. It does get into the balance of his life as an aborigine family man who is also a cult actor. I saw this as a bonus on the Criterion edition of Walkabout, and it is above-average for that material. Even if it seems big stuff was left out, enough was included that is interesting..
7/10

Movie #86: Knives Out (Blu-Ray)
Each time I watch this film I’m more impressed. It’s obviously a starmaking performance for Ana De Armas, and the successful launch of a post-Bond franchise for Daniel Craig, as well as a great ensemble piece about a murder mystery involving a weird upper-class family. Add to this legitimately intelligent commentary on modern politics and culture. And it is legitimately great that when Christopher Plummer passed away at 91, a lot of headlines mentioned a movie he had made three years earlier, because he was so nuanced and charming as a murder victim who still managed to get the result he wanted..
10/10

Movie #87/ New Movie #62: Spiderhead (Netflix)
This has become an example of Netflix’s excesses, a sci-fi prison drama reuniting the director of one of the biggest movies of the year (Top Gun: Maverick) with co-star Miles Teller, and adding a Marvel superhero just when his new film is coming out. And they barely promote it, despite a nine-figure budget. Watching it, you do you get why they don’t promote it. There are some interesting ideas, and sequences with prisoners part of a secluded study. But sometimes it just feels like a TV movie, with all that implies. It kinda feels like they rushed it. With a bit more work, it might not be an A film, but it could be a B.
5/10

Movie #88/ New Movie #63: Ordet (Criterion DVD)
It took me a while to watch this, because I thought it would be difficult. After all, it is a movie from a director with a reputation for long shots about a family suffering a crisis when the middle son thinks he is Christ.

That was a mistake. It’s easy to follow, and while we see the difficulties of the family, we see some joys. And it gets into some really interesting questions about what it means to truly believe. It’s certainly worth watching, and discussing.

There was a conversation on film twitter about great directors, and someone said that Spielberg was the most versatile after West Side Story came out, since that proved he could excel in any genre. There was one alternative path to being recognized as a great director: overwhelming success in one genre. So it was Spielberg’s versatility against John Ford’s westerns, Alfred Hitchcock’s thrillers, Martin Scorsese’s crime films, Ingmar Bergman’s psychological dramas, and Kurosawa’s samurai epics. With this, the Passion of Joan of Arc, and the other films where he explored these deep Christian questions, Dreyer joins the list with his skill in religious drama.
10/10

Movie #89/ New Movie #64: Repo Man (Criterion DVD)
Watching this film, I’m not surprised it is the directorial debut of a cult director. It just feels like it. It almost seems like three movies put together: a conspiracy involving a car that may be involved with aliens, a suburban punk taking a new job and Harry Dean Stanton’s veteran repo man. It’s fun, interesting and raw.
10/10

Movie #90/ New Movie #65: Thor- Love and Thunder (Movie Theater)
This may be an example of the MCU as the most expensive TV show ever, rather than discrete films, building in a big way on earlier sagas while also seeding big developments in the future (especially when it comes to the introduction of Russel Crowe’s Zeus and one of the post-credit scenes.) But it also about something, an immortal’s quest for love and meaning. The visuals are really nice. Chris Hemsworth has fun with the Wakiti version of Thor, and it’s also a step up for Natalie Portman. Tonally, it is a bit all over the place, with Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster dying of cancer and Christian Bale’s god butcher as a serial killer of Gods. My bigger issue is that the stakes are sometimes vague, and they don’t seem to take it seriously enough, which reminds me a bit of Infinity War, although I could accept it there because of novelty and the suddenness of the life and death decisions. It’s fine, and a superhero film that can make for some interesting discussions.
8/10

Movie #91/ New Movie #66: Gold Diggers of ’33 (DVD)
I’ve seen this on two separate lists. It’s often ranked among the bottom among Oscar winners (although they acknowledge the opening song is great) but it was on a recent list of best musicals, so I decided to check it out along with other Pre-Code films. It’s generally charming, acknowledging a bit of the hardship of the Great Depression while telling the story of someone trying to make art about it. The conflicts are slight, but there is a great prank played on two stuffy guys, along with one of the least attractive romantic leads to get the girl in any Best Picture winner. But it’s fun. That’s what matters.
8/10

Movie #92/ New Movie #67: Blonde Crazy (DVD)
It’s a somewhat slight movie of a con man falling in love with his accomplice. There is some pre-code fun, although it does feel kinda primitive, as early sound cinema was still finding its way, to say nothing of the equipment. But the cons are fun. James Cagney and Joan Blondell have legitimate star power.
7/10

Movie #93: Moneyball (Blu-Ray)
The reasons I like it are probably why people looking for standard biopics might not. There is an unsentimentality even if the people changing baseball love the game. It’s a good movie about trying new ideas, and what matters for success. It’s inspirational for really ambitious people, which seems to be a sweet spot for Sorkin (The Social Network, Steve Jobs.)
10/10

Movie #94: City Lights (Criterion Blu-Ray)
I haven’t seen this in years, but good lord, does it hold up.

It’s weird. It’s possibly the best Pre-Code Hollywood movie, although unconventional in that it is largely silent, even if Chaplin uses music and sound, including mock dialogue to hilarious effect.

In discussions of film franchises, the tramp is weird, popping up in different settings (the west in Gold Rush, a dystopian future in Modern Times) in some of the best movies ever made. There isn’t anything quite like that in movies.

The story of a poor man trying to help a blind girl who think he’s a millionaire has moments of pathos and tragedy, as well as an ending that just goes beyond that. It’s one of the best comedies ever, one of the best romances ever, and one of the best films ever.
10/10

Movie #95/ New Movie #68: Black Phone (Movie Theater)
It’s a perfectly fine horror film about an abducted middle schooler. The costume and mask for the Ethan Hawke character are suitably creepy. The concept and character arc are decent. The kids are as profane as real middle schoolers would be. This does come across as a pastiche of Stephen King stories, and I know it’s based on a short story by his son, but if you like Stand By Me, Carrie and The Shining, that’s not a bad thing.
8/10

Movie #96/ New Movie #69: Chris Claremont’s X-Men (Amazon Plus)
A talking heads documentary focusing on how one comic book writer was able to make interesting work on one franchise for over a decade, until the suits started trying to get more and more control. It’s part of a larger effort to reevaluate Chris Claremont’s legacy, which is appreciated, even if it is at times borderline hagiographic.
7/10

Movie #97/ New Movie #70: Oblivion (DVD)
It has an interesting take on a dystopia with Tom Cruise as a nostalgist for how the world was around the time this movie came out. The world is well-realized, and there is a decent sense of unease. Some of the elements are similar to other films from the time that also dealt with the loneliness of jobs that require being on other worlds, although given how long Kosinski spent on this it could just be parallel development. There are some good twists, and I do really like the ending. And we do see some big hints of Top Gun: Maverick.
8/10

Movie #98/ New Movie #71: The Kennel Murder Case (Paramount Plus)
This murder mystery was part of a series that made William Powell a star. He’d leave for the superior Thin Man series pretty soon. Here, the lead detective is bland although he elevates it with charisma. The central mystery is a decent one (a man with a lot of enemies seems to have committed suicide) and there are some nice twists. I also like the dynamic between Powell’s detective and Eugene Pallet’s police sergeant, especially when Phillip Vance ends up making a big mistake. The version of Paramount Plus could benefit from restoration work.
7/10

Movie #99: Tron (Disney+)
Tron is imperfect, but interesting and fun. Jeff Bridges is great as a cheated video designer. I like the duplicate versions of characters in the world of the game, and in the real world as well. The futuristic world of Tron seems to have some silent film influences, which helps the film hold up.
8/10

Movie #100/ New Movie #72: Elvis (Movie Theater)
Baz Luhrmann is probably a good match for Elvis, with his focus on music and splash. Austin Butler is able to depict young Elvis and Vegas Elvis pretty well. Hanks is odd as Col. Parker, but his affectations work with a showman who has something to hide. The movie is a bit unfocused, with the interesting stuff in the trailer about a young musician pissing off social conservatives covered in half an hour. It is a bit meandering in the second half, although I do like how it shows Elvis ready to do the right thing for himself, but deciding against it. There is a legitimate element of tragedy in that.
7/10

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The Rule Behind the Rule

One of the best concepts I’ve heard for understanding people is the rule behind the rule. It was summed up pretty well on a Reddit thread.

A great example of this was a story I heard from Brad Bird when he was working on Incredibles 1. Bob and elastagirl where fighting and the brain trust (I believe) came back with notes that it seems like Bob is bullying Elastagirl and the scene needed to be taken out or reworked. He tried to rework the scene, but he kept saying “No, this is what would happen, this is how they would react”. He then eventually realized that while their symptom was correct, this uncomfortable feeling of spousal abuse or bullying, their solution was wrong. Bob didn’t have to be “nicer” or not express his anger, it’s just that Elastagirl was like 1/4th his size and it seemed like a mismatch. He then added that elastagirl puffs up and stretches out “This is not About YOU!!” to a size bigger than Bob and the whole feeling of the scene was fixed without really changing anything but her animation.

In society, we have to be able to have civil discussions with people who we sincerely believe are advocating for policies that will kill millions and prevent much of the population from reaching their potential, because these are the stakes. I’ve made my peace with that, (as well as the possibility that I’m wrong, and standing in the way of policies that will save millions) and may incorrectly assume others thought things through to the same extent.

I personally avoid rhetorical flourishes, reliance on anecdotal evidence, and emotionalism because these would increase the chances of being misunderstood. For the same reason, I try to avoid making arguments personal. I might criticize a tendency or a political position, but I don’t go after the person, because the important thing is the argument. And on that note, I will stick to the specific point being argued. I’m a stickler for goal posts because when people with different sources of information are having a discussion, it’s better if they’ve got the same understanding of information. I can appreciate that we’re human and that we can fail to articulate legitimate points well, but on the other hand it’s not someone else’s job to figure out what we’re trying to communicate.

The idea of the rule behind the rule makes sense when trying to figure out other people. Shorthand is based on people having a shared understanding. I try to avoid it because I’m aware peoples’ frames of reference may be different. There are still going to be times when I make incorrect assumptions about people’s understandings. In that context, it’s important to figure out what they’re trying to communicate, and what they believe to be important.

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MCU Phase 5 And Beyond

There was an argument on a comic book message board about whether the Marvel Cinematic Universe should be rebooted, and I thought that was way too premature. The X-Men and the Fantastic Four haven’t really been introduced yet. Spider-Man’s still going strong. Daredevil just showed up. There’s a new generation of heroes ready to go.

They can easily keep going for another twelve years with three movies and four Disney+ seasons each year. And this is before we consider that we don’t know what characters are going to be breakouts the way Shuri, Agent Carter and Agatha Harkness were.

Movies that have been confirmed at this point are Thor Love and Thunder, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Antman: Quantumania, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3, The Marvels, Fantastic Four, Captain America 4 and Blade. Disney+ shows that have been confirmed include Loki Season 2, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, Armor Wars, Ironheart, Secret Invasion, Nova, an untitled Wakanda Project, Echo, Agatha: House of Harkness and Captain Britain. There are a bunch of animated shows in the larger MCU/ multiverse including What If?, Marvel Zombies and Spider-Man: Freshman Year, which may count as a separate category of content.

For the hell of it here is a potential live-action schedule to get us to 2035, not including anything confirmed so far. We’ll start with 2025 with the assumption that everything announced so far will have been released by 2024. That is a stretch, considering how long it took to make Antman after that was announced. But it does show that they don’t need a new Tony Stark quite yet.

2025

By this point, Shang Chi 2 and Dr Strange 3 seem like obvious sequels. Tom Holland seems to want some time off Spider-Man, but he’ll likely change his mind in two years. The first trilogy had a home theme in the titles. I think it makes sense for a new one to have a war theme for a follow-up, so a fourth MCU Spider-Man film could be Spider-Man: Gang War.

The biggest film would be X-Men VS Avengers, as that would seem like a fun way to introduce the mutants, by having the heroes of the Marvel Universe tricked into a showdown, which would fit the theme of the struggle for acceptance.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure Loki Season 3, Daredevil: Born Again, Moon Knight Season 2 and Nova Season 2.

2026

Fantastic Four: Doomsday would be a sequel focusing on Doctor Doom, so that he could be the villain in a movie without the new origin of the Fantastic Four. Deadpool 3 would feature his entrance to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And Captain Marvel 3 seems inevitable. As does Blade 2.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure a Guardians spinoff, Ms. Marvel Season 2, Punisher Season 3 and Captain Britain Season 2.

2027

Young Avengers would be a team film about the younger heroes. The X-Men would get a proper spotlight film. A new Wakanda related project seems inevitable. And let’s do the alien costume saga and a crossover with Tom Hardy’s Venom in Spider-Man/ Venom: War of the Symbiotes.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure a Human Torch solo project, a Loki spinoff, a Guardians spinoff and Daredevil: Season 5, potentially adapting the Bendis/ Maleev run when his identity goes public.

2028

Fantastic Four: The Coming of Galactus will introduce the Silver Surfer. A Wolverine solo film would make sense. King Thor would be a Thor finale. Deadpool and the X-Force would fit at this time.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure a Thing solo project, Loki Season 4, She-Hulk Season 2 and Echo Season 2.

2029

Blade 3 makes sense at this point, to tie up a trilogy. Steve Rogers: Supersoldier could be a standalone film set in the 1960s where Steve Rogers goes on some kind of secret mission that seeds future conflicts. Spider-Man: Sinister War would be the big Sinister Six story, and a potential finale for Tom Holland’s Spidey.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure a Daredevil finale, the second season of a Guardians spinoff, and first seasons for X-Force and New Mutants.

2030

This would seem an appropriate time for an X-Men sequel, a Silver Surfer spinoff, Captain America 5 and Young Avengers 2, potentially setting up Miles Morales.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure a Punisher finale, Human Torch Season 2, Black Knight and New Mutants Season 2.

2031

At this point, it seems like time for a Wolverine sequel introducing Alpha Flight, as well as the first live action Miles Morales Spider-Man solo film. For a change of pace, it could be interesting to explore the golden age with Human Torch VS Namor, focusing on the android Human Torch.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure X-Force Season 2, Great Lakes Avengers for a change of pace, Excalibur Season One (X-Men and Captain Britain spinoff) and Echo Season 3.

2032

Fantastic Four: Into the Negative Zone seems like a Fantastic Four sequel without Doctor Doom or Galactus. Avengers VS Thunderbolts would be a way to bring back the flagship team. An arthouse Deadpool film would be fun. It seems about time for a Silver Surfer sequel.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure New Mutants Season 3, Maverick, The Vision and Squirrel Girl.

2033

At this point, it’ll be time for X-Men 3, Miles Morales Spider-Man 2 and some kind of Wakanda project (a potential title would be Secrets of Wakanda) as we start building to an epic finale.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure X-Force Season 3, Excalibur Season 2, Werewolf By Night and Photon.

2034

Around here, we would have Silver Surfer 3 and Wolverine 3 to finish trilogies. Avengers: Secret Wars Part One would be this generation’s version of Infinity War, setting up some kind of event where the heroes disappear.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure New Mutants Season 4, Squirrel Girl Season 2, Bishop and Nextwave.

2035

Miles Morales Spider-Man 3 and X-Men: The Secret Lives of Moira X would serve to set up a big finale in Avengers: Secret Wars Part Two.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure a New Mutants finale where they come to their own in a world where the X-Men have vanished, World Without Superheroes showing the Marvel Universe when the heroes have disappeared, Great Lakes Avengers Finale and Marvels (adapting the Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross mini-series)

This is not meant to be what Disney has to do. It’s likely that new characters will emerge, that existing characters will sometimes become much more prominent, and that some stuff will flop. For all I know She-Hulk will be a monster hit with seven seasons, launching spinoffs for Awesome Android and Wyatt Wingfoot. I have no idea how the conclusion of Guardians of the Galaxy will work or what characters will be able to have adventures afterwards. I have no idea what kind of spinoffs or follow-up there could be to the Skurll-centric Secret Invasion or Ironheart. Maybe someone will have a great take on Machine Man, the Champions, Warlock, the Crew or the Guardians of the Galaxy team led by Sylvester Stallone. America Chavez’s exploration of the multiverse or a new take on the Runaways could easily be a series. But it is fair to say we can wait some before introducing a new version of Tony Stark.

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Film Seen In 2022 Part 3

I’m still keeping track of movies I’m watching. This year I’ve gotten involved into some annual film challenges. One is to watch 52 particular Criterion moviesand the other is to watch four movies each from multiple movements. For this entry, I went with 21st Century blockbusters, which I recognize one of four major movements at the moment in American/ anglosphere cinema and the post-code Golden Age of Hollywood. The first blockbuster is not a good one.

Movie #51/ New Movie #35: Morbius (Movie Theater)
It’s not that bad, but it’s also not recommended either. Matt Smith is the highlight, even if there’s a lot that doesn’t make sense if you think about it for a millisecond (like how exactly does Michael Morbius get his money?)
4/10

Movie #52/ New Movie #36: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Movie Theater))
I was a big Sonic fan growing up, so it was important that this film captures the dynamic between Sonic, Tails and Knuckles. And it succeeds on that level. It’s not great, but it brings them together and has some fun with their friendship, while also showing sequences that do seem to be straight out of the video games. The CGI seems worse this time around. In the first film, there was one CGI creature interacting with humans. This time, there are multiple CGI characters, and giant robots, and obvious scenes of ordinary people interacting with green screens. Jim Carrey’s okay as Eggman/ Dr Robotnick, but the robots are kinda dull. It’s just drones. The Genesis-style credits were great, and gets this back to a “B” grade.
7/10

Movie #53/ New Movie #37: Everything Everywhere All At Once (Movie Theater)
This was fun. Weird but fun. And by weird, it is one of the strangest semi-mainstream films I’ve seen, although it remains accessible despite the mishmash of immigrant family drama, and sci-fi action comedy. It’s not going to happen, but I would love to see Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Lee Curtis, Stephanie Hsu, James Hong and Ke Huy Quan all get Oscar nominations for playing interdimensional versions of their characters (and for making the Earth versions more layered and complex than is immediately apparent.) This film conveyed an emotional truth quite well, and in between the butt-plug jokes and wacky action set pieces, it can have you thinking about how your life could have gone.
10/10

Movie #54/ New Movie #38: Fantastic Beasts- The Secrets of Dumbledore (Movie Theater)
This is an odd sequel. It’s the third film in the Newt Scamander saga, although it’s promoted like a Justice League/ Avengers with wizard Ash Ketchum teaming up with Dumbledore, a top Hogwarts professor and an elite auror. The actual film comes across more like an X-Men, but if Magneto and Professor X had dated. It’s fine. It’s the third of five, but it does tie up things okay. Jude Law’s Dumbledore works well as a tragic hero. I’m not sure how excited viewers are about all the plot points involving an election at the ministry of magic, or a metaphor for how Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. The question of extralegal moves against Grindelwald raises some icky questions in the modern political climate that aren’t addressed. Who should get to decide if someone who isn’t convicted of a crime belongs the ballot?
6/10

Movie #55- Captain America: The First Avenger (Disney Plus)
The Captain America saga might just have the best batting average of any solo Avengers films. It’s a fun homage to 1940s action adventure movies (as well as retro projects like Indiana Jones) which sets up the hero quite well, and gets into some interesting conflicts (What happens when a guy who just wants to contribute to the war effort becomes a celebrity capable of selling lots of war bonds but kept on the sidelines?) Over a decade later, it is clear that Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell are really well cast.
9/10

Movie #56/ New Movie #39: Cluny Brown (Criterion DVD)
I am quite unfamiliar with Jennifer Jones despite her immense popularity in the mid ’40s, which included four consecutive Academy Award nominations (and one win.) This wasn’t one of them, but it shows her efforts as a comedienne in a collaboration with Lubitsch and Charles Boyer (the bad guy in Gaslight.) The film is perfectly fine, but overshadowed by Lubitsch’s other productions, even if Boyer is a perfect match for his approach, and Jones is fine, even if she is kinda playing Katherine Hepburn’s little sister. There is a sense of a lack of stakes here, and much of the film is about conflicts that likely seemed old-fashioned at the time (The staff in a stuffy mansion don’t know their place!)
7/10

Movie #57- To Be Or Not To Be (Criterion DVD)
This might just be my favorite Lubitsch movie, with the perfect balance of adulterous romp and high stakes, as a Polish acting troupe gets involved in the resistance against Hitler. It has some astounding sequences and recurring gags.
10/10

Movie #58/ New Movie #40: Lone Wolf and Cub- Baby Cart in the Land of Demons (Criterion Blu-Ray)
This entry in the film series features some great sequences. It is a bit haphazard, combining several notable chapters from the manga but at least the results are decent. This does expand quite well on the uncompromising world of the manga.
8/10

Movie #59/ New Movie #41: The Northman (Movie Theater)
There’s a lot of talk about how it’s pre-modern and seems like it’s outside of current understandings of the world, and that may be a bit of stretch, but it can feel like how someone at the time would have imagined a campfire story. That person would need a violent sensibility, but that is one of several contexts in which the film works. It feels like a ripoff of Hamlet, but the source material inspired Shakespeare. It’s violent and intense, but it can be quite enjoyable. I saw it with some people who called it the most metal movie ever, which is apt.
9/10

Movie #60/ New Movie #42: The 50 Year Argument (DVD)
This documentary about the New York Review of Books functions as a companion to Best Enemies, I Am Not Your Negro and Town Bloody Hall, covering those and other disputes. It’s an enjoyable defense of intellectual inquiry, although it focuses on controversies the magazine got right (the Central Park Five, opposition to the Iraq war) when there had to be some stuff they got wrong, which would have been interesting and honest to cover. I’m curious about the reaction to it now that many on the left have gone more illiberal.
8/10

Movie #61/ New Movie #43: The Front (DVD)
It’s compelling to see Woody Allen at his height in a film directed by someone else. This take on the Hollywood blacklist is a mixed bag. Zero Mostel is a highlight as a hack entertainer caught in a Kafkaesque trap. One complication is the difficulty of taking him and Allen seriously when they’re responding to legitimate injustice.
7/10

Movie #62- The Mouse That Roared (DVD)
This is a comedy about the threat of nuclear annihilation over a silly international misunderstanding in which Peter Sellers plays multiple roles and it’s not Doctor Strangelove. It has a different sensibility, although it is obviously a creature of the Golden Age of Hollywood rather than the film brats. It is a lot of fun, with a decent hook (small nation invades America hoping to lose and get aid; they accidentally steal an experimental nuke) and excellent sequences.
9/10

Movie #63- Moana (Disney Plus)
It’s quite decent. It fits some tropes that Disney has been exploring recently, and is a good example of their incorporation of underseen but visually interesting cultures. It’s an enjoyable reluctant partners story, with some good twists and fantastic songs.
9/10

Movie #64/ New Movie #44: The Adam Project (Netflix)
I like time travel stories and this was okay. Ryan Reynolds and his younger counterpart are sometimes over the top annoying, although the story does have something to say about loss and trauma, along with some decent but not exceptional sci fi action set pieces.
7/10

Movie #65/ New Movie #45: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (Movie Theater)
It’s obviously quite meta, but very fun: a parody and celebration of an unusual actor/ star that serves as a commentary and example of the types of movies he does. But at least it’s a good example.
8/10

Short Movie #6: Sword of the Samurai (Criterion Blu-Ray)
This silent documentary was an extra in Criterion’s Lone Wolf and Cub collection. It really gets across the difficulty of making samurai swords, and why they’re so honored, showing the process step by step. Quite relaxing, actually.
8/10

Movie #66/ New Movie #46: Pillow Talk (Blu-Ray)
This was a fun movie from the tail end of the golden age of Hollywood when they’re hinting at some stuff but keeping it vague enough. It is at a very specific time, when men and women could work in creative endeavors but people living in different apartments would still sometimes need to share a phone line. It has excellent leads in Rock Hudson and Doris Day, and all-star supporting performances in Tony Randall’s cad best friend and Thelma Ritter’s drunkard housekeeper, who has a great sequence with Hudson later in the film .
10/10

Movie #67/ New Movie #47: Downfall- the Case Against Boeing (Netflix)
In ninety minutes, Rory Kennedy and co. do a decent job of setting up the initial response to a major news story (two Boeing plane crashes a few months apart) before looking at the safety shortcuts that contributed to it. Well-made and infuriating.
8/10

Short Movie #7: Hendrix at Montrey Pop (Criterion Blu-Ray)
Monterey Pop might be my favorite concert film, and this expansion of the Jimi Hendrix material gets to a big reason why. It’s not polished, keeping the rawness of the concert with feedback and imperfect acoustics. This feature highlights Hendrix’s skill, and you can believe that his contemporaries were looking at him trying to figure out how he’s doing this.
10/10

Movie #68: Casino Royale (Blu-Ray)
I don’t think I’ve seen this film since it was in theaters. I liked it then, but I appreciate it even more now. Daniel Craig isn’t just good as Bond. I can’t think of anyone who has been better in the first movie of any series taking over such an iconic role. He is obviously newer at the job, but he comes to his own very quickly, and then things get worse, so he’s pushed in ways the other iterations of Bond haven’t been. At least not so soon. Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd is an exceptional Bond girl, with a strong character arc. Judi Dench is great as the boss. This is Mads Mikkelsen’s first A-list villain, and he’s got the balancing act of being vicious and desperate. The film takes the Bond franchise to the 21st Century, with exceptional action sequences and drama, while keeping the fun. When it isn’t time for torture.
10/10

Short Movie #8: The Long Goodbye (Youtube)
Riz Ahemd’s Oscar-winning short serves as a companion to a concept album, but works in its own context as a stream of consciousness nightmare, when the normal chaos of a family gathering goes to hell.
8/10

Movie #69: The Evil Dead 2 (Blu-Ray)
A horror movie so insane it makes the original into a proof of concept, and remakes it in the first seven minutes. It’s a lot of fun. Ash is one of the strongest horror movie protagonists, with iconic visuals and an appropriately unhinged reaction to all the craziness. Putting together several groups of people who don’t know one another works well here, in contrast to the usual trope (seen in the first) of a group of friends to a cabin. Raimi’s personality as a director is also a joy. This is a movie where anything can happen, and does.
10/10

Movie #70/ New Movie #48: Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (Movie Theater)
This has more of a directorial stamp than any MCU film; there are scenes where it is very obvious Sam Raimi is in charge. It’s a solid film, which builds on earlier continuity and is clearly about something interesting. The distinction between being glad and happy is a decent addition to pop culture discourse. It’s probably the first MCU film to really piss off some people because of the actions an existing character commits, but it makes sense in the context. It does set up the two main characters pretty well, and it’s fun to see Dr Strange on the other side of the situation where someone has to be sacrificed for the greater good.
8/10

Short Movie #9: An Occurrence at Owl Creek (DVD)
I saw this the way most viewers have, as an episode of the Twilight Zone. It is a decent adaptation of the Ambrose Bierce short story, with impressive cinematography and a good example of the will to live in desperate circumstances. There’s a great twist constructed generations any episode of any TV show aired.
9/10

Movie #71/ New Movie #49: The Man Who Wasn’t There (DVD)
This is a well-made military procedural about one of the most interesting stories in World War 2. Gloria Grahame is a standout as a young woman who accidentally gets involved in the conspiracy, and targeted by a spy. It has a suitably mature understanding of espionage for a 1950s film, but it’s not Le Carre dark.
8/10

Movie #72/ New Movie #50: Summer of Soul (Disney Plus)
This is an excellent addition to the canon of 1960s concert films (Woodstock, Monterey Pop, Festival) with performances of the same quality, and the explanation of as very specific context (a series of concerts in Harlem for largely black audiences with mainly black singers in the summer of 1969.) It’s so great to see the interviews with the singers, and their reactions to seeing the footage of what had to be among the best professional experiences of their lives.
9/10

Short Movie #10: Otis at Montrey Pop (Criterion Blu-Ray)
This is a great extra on the Criterion Monterey Pop blu-ray, which shows Otis Redding at his most intense. The way he gloriously rushes through almost everything is a contrast with Hendrix. It is also an astounding top five set.
9/10

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One Reason The Last Decade Has Been So Uniquely Stupid

Signe cartoon TOON23

Jonathan Haidt had a piece on the Alantic on social media’s effects on culture called “Why the Past Ten Years of American Life Have Been So Uniquely Stupid.” It got a lot of attention, although one portion of it is underappreciated, as he gets to a major reason for the subtext of so many culture war fights.

Childhood has become more tightly circumscribed in recent generations––with less opportunity for free, unstructured play; less unsupervised time outside; more time online. Whatever else the effects of these shifts, they have likely impeded the development of abilities needed for effective self-governance for many young adults. Unsupervised free play is nature’s way of teaching young mammals the skills they’ll need as adults, which for humans include the ability to cooperate, make and enforce rules, compromise, adjudicate conflicts, and accept defeat. A brilliant 2015 essay by the economist Steven Horwitz argued that free play prepares children for the “art of association” that Alexis de Tocqueville said was the key to the vibrancy of American democracy; he also argued that its loss posed “a serious threat to liberal societies.” A generation prevented from learning these social skills, Horwitz warned, would habitually appeal to authorities to resolve disputes and would suffer from a “coarsening of social interaction” that would “create a world of more conflict and violence.”

And while social media has eroded the art of association throughout society, it may be leaving its deepest and most enduring marks on adolescents. A surge in rates of anxiety, depression, and self-harm among American teens began suddenly in the early 2010s. (The same thing happened to Canadian and British teens, at the same time.) The cause is not known, but the timing points to social media as a substantial contributor—the surge began just as the large majority of American teens became daily users of the major platforms. Correlational and experimental studies back up the connection to depression and anxiety, as do reports from young people themselves, and from Facebook’s own research, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Depression makes people less likely to want to engage with new people, ideas, and experiences. Anxiety makes new things seem more threatening. As these conditions have risen and as the lessons on nuanced social behavior learned through free play have been delayed, tolerance for diverse viewpoints and the ability to work out disputes have diminished among many young people.

You can write another cover story article on just this one question. Someone will likely do that soon enough.

In general, parents are controlling children too much.

Children are growing up into young adults who don’t know how to manage basic conflict.

Haidt considers potential solutions to this question, and to the harm social media causes children, although there will likely be pushback.

The most important change we can make to reduce the damaging effects of social media on children is to delay entry until they have passed through puberty. Congress should update the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which unwisely set the age of so-called internet adulthood (the age at which companies can collect personal information from children without parental consent) at 13 back in 1998, while making little provision for effective enforcement. The age should be raised to at least 16, and companies should be held responsible for enforcing it.

This may get to why some parents freak out so much about pop culture. Obviously kids always had pop culture, but they would also have structured play (IE- sports leagues) and unstructured play. Now we’ve got more structure play than ever, but the main alternative is pop culture, which means that parents who are used to keeping an eye on their kids may be worried about propaganda from adult entertainers. With so many forms of pop culture, it’s also impossible for parents to keep track of everything their kids watch and listen to, which further increases the suspicions. With more material for children, it’s also easier for adult media to do some nutpicking, and point out the craziest things some kids somewhere may be exposed to.

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Should Political Parties Support Independents?

On a discussion forum, there was an argument about British politics and the strength of the Scottish Nationalist Party, which led to questions of whether something like that could work in America. The United States sometimes has a history of regional parties, although most politicians would not want to openly copy their approach as these tended to be racist Southerners pissed off at Democratic support for Civil rights. These parties did sometimes win electoral votes for presidential races. Stromm Thurmond carried 4 states in the 1948 presidential election, and George Wallace carried 5 in 1968. Their basic strategy was to play kingmaker if neither major party gets a majority.

The political environment is different now, as politics is so nationalized. Although there is still a geographic shift with Democrats becoming the urban party, and I’ve seen an argument that they should support independent candidates in red states.

One solution, prompted by some of the data presented by Rodden in his book, is that would-be conservative and moderate Democrats in red states should shun the Democratic label and run instead as Independents. This both saves them from being automatically cast aside by rural Republican voters and allows them to adopt some more conservative social positions — say, on gun rights, abortion, immigration, or what-have-you — which Democratic Party activists and organizers would ordinarily fight them on. Dividing the party system anew along economic lines could also decrease the salience of social and moral issues which are currently the main wedge between Americans. That would increase the return Democrats would see on their popular economic policy proposals.

This new cohort of economically liberal, pro-working-class Independent candidates could be funded by outside donors, so there are no problems there. And if they restrict their efforts to very red states, and Democrats refuse to run candidates there, then they would avoid the spoiler effect which has doomed third-party candidates in single-winner plurality electoral systems. They could run as write-in candidates, or maybe even fight for ballot access with a unified name across states. Maybe call it the New America Party or something. Perhaps they could get Joe Manchin to sign on — which would have the added bonus of saving him from having to performatively kill major Democratic legislation in order to appear conservative and anti-Democratic enough for West Virginia’s massively pro-Trump voting population to re-elect him.

There’s been a bit of a trial run. Independent Bill Walker was elected Governor of Alaska in 2014 with Democratic support, while Democrats dropped out in favor of independent businessman Greg Orman in the Kansas senate election. He got 42% in a red state in a bad year for Democrats, which is likely an improvement over what a generic Democrat could have gotten.

There could be a similar approach for moderate candidates in blue states and cities, with Republicans not running candidates.

It might all be too clever by half as it’ll be obvious which “independent” candidates are backed by major parties, but it might still result in a difference of a few points, which may be enough to win a few races. They should just make sure not to emphasize that the most successful efforts at this in living memory came from racist Southerners.

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