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a few last movie lists for 2023

I'll probably watch a few more movies this year, but unless one is an all-time classic, these will likely remain the best movies I watched in 2023 for the first time. I gave all of them a rating of 9 on a scale of 10. Sorted by release year:

[Letterboxd list of movies I watched in 2023]

I have watched 60 movies from 2022. I watched 23 of them in 2023, which is why I make lists like this a year late ... after an extra year, I will have seen a lot more movies from that year:

[Letterboxd list of my favorite 2022 movies]

As of this writing, my favorite 2022 movies are:

  1. Women Talking
  2. RRR
  3. Everything Everywhere All at Once

As I said in a different context, I was a bit behind the times, but 2023 was when I gave myself over completely to my Jessie Buckley crush. So, always looking for an excuse to include a video of Jessie Buckley and the delightful way her mouth turns up on one side like she's an Irish female Elvis, I'll add this brief clip from a Women Talking red carpet moment:

television 2023

Another topic where I used to write a ton, but don't get around to it much any longer. I still watch TV, although movies seem to have overtaken television as my go-to escape route. Here are a few shows I've watched in 2023. First, shows where I've at least watched enough episodes to mention here:

The Bear. Excellent show, breakout performance from Ayo Edibiri. Loved Season One, am still behind on Season Two episodes.

Justified: City Primeval. Watched a few episodes of this new sequel-of-sorts to one of our favorite shows. Liked them, too. But like a lot of television these days, we're still many episodes behind.

The Night Agent. Watch this with my wife. We like it. But we're still (get ready for it) a couple of episodes away from finishing the season.

There are still a few shows I am hooked on.

Fargo. Season Five is another good one. Jon Hamm makes a good bad guy, Jennifer Jason Leigh chews the scenery, and Juno Temple is the best.

House of the Dragon. "Hooked" might be going too far, but my wife likes it.

The Last of Us. An actual example of what used to be called Peak TV.

Outlander. Still with it, through (so far) 83 episodes.

Poker Face. A triumph for Natasha Lyonne, we have kept up fully with this modern-day Columbo.

Slow Horses. Gary Oldman is the leader of a fine group of actors/characters.

Welcome to Wrexham. One of the few shows I've actually written about here.

And my current favorite show, now near the end of Season Four:

For All Mankind. It is not an accident that two of these shows have the name Ronald D. Moore attached.

geezer cinema: may december (todd haynes, 2023)

The last Geezer Cinema movie of 2023, 51 films, from Bessie to May December. It was a good one to go out on, with some fine acting and an intriguing, almost horror-film approach. Not that it follows standard horror tropes. But Natalie Portman pulls off a fascinating transformation with her character, Elizabeth, an actress doing background research for her latest project, where she plays a Mary Kay Letourneau-like woman (herself played in this movie by Julianne Moore).

Todd Haynes doesn't go overboard on the sensational aspects of the story (Letourneau, and Moore's character here, "Gracie", has an affair with a young student that results in her going to jail for rape, after which she married the kid and had a family with him). At least as I saw it, the most interesting thing in the movie was watching Portman/Elizabeth gradually taking on the mannerisms of Gracie/Moore. It sneaks up on you, but it would make a fine double-bill with Bergman's Persona or my beloved Performance. Portman's performance is quite sly ... apparently Julianne Moore did not notice Natalie Portman was improvising by mimicking her mannerisms in some scenes until later into filming. Near the end, Portman reads an old letter that had been written by Gracie, and at that point, she is completely channeling Moore. It's quite a depiction of the process of acting, at least one kind of acting.

Here's a summary of Geezer 2023:

Longest: Killers of the Flower Moon.

Shortest: Bottoms and The Royal Hotel.

Favorites: The Shape of Water, E.T., Walkabout.

Least Favorite: Black Adam

Favorites from 2023: Past Lives, Barbie, Oppenheimer, Killers of the Flower Moon, Anatomy of a Fall, Godzilla Minus One, The Boy and the Heron

And here is the complete list of all 221 Geezer movies (and counting) since the first one on July 9, 2019:

[Letterboxd list of Geezer Cinema movies]

music friday: end of the year

What would ordinarily be the biggest music news of the year for me went sideways. First, Bruce Springsteen got peptic ulcer disease, postponing what would have been our first Bruce show since 2016 until next March. Then, Sleater-Kinney announced a new album and tour. I have seen them 17 times over a period of 21 years, but the last two times, they were without Janet Weiss, the drummer who left the band (or was kicked out), and those shows weren't the same. Also, although Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein have been the only constants in the history of the band, Janet was already there the first time I saw them in 1998, and I never thought of them as anything other than a 3-person group. In some way, Janet's departure broke my heart, and I don't have the same feeling for S-K as I once did. I've checked out the few songs they have already released, but I don't have any enthusiasm for them, and their Bay Area shows come just before we leave for Spain, so it's easy to decide I won't be going to see them.

These are the two songs I've obsessed about the most in 2023:

books 2023

Over the years, this blog has evolved into a place for me to write about movies, along with a weekly look at music. I used to write a lot about television, about teaching, about current affairs ... don't know why that's mostly absent nowadays. I only posted once about books this year, so it must be time for a year-end list. These are some of the books I read in 2023 ... yeah, I should say something about them, a list is useless, but whatever. If you're looking for recommendations, I suggest the books by Maureen Ryan, Annalee Newitz, and Matt Singer, along with the two memoirs, and obviously I have a thing for David Thomson.


Peter Biskind, Pandora's Box: How Guts, Guile, and Greed Upended TV.

Michael Harriot, Black AF History: The Un-Whitewashed Story of America.

Mehdi Hasan, Win Every Argument: The Art of Debating, Persuading, and Public Speaking.

Naomi Klein, Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World.

Kliph Nesteroff, Outrageous: A History of Showbiz and the Culture Wars.

Maureen Ryan, Burn It Down: Power, Complicity, and a Call for Change in Hollywood.


Mick Herron, Real Tigers.

Annalee Newitz, The Terraformers.

Ursula Parrott, Ex-Wife.


Elliott Page, Pageboy: A Memoir.

Sarah Polley, Run Towards the Danger: Confrontations with a Body of Memory.


Stephen B. Armstrong, I Want You Around: The Ramones and the Making of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.

Matt Singer, Opposable Thumbs: How Siskel & Ebert Changed Movies Forever.

David Thomson, Acting Naturally: The Magic in Great Performances. The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies. Disaster Mon Amour. The Fatal Alliance: A Century of War on Film. Sleeping with Strangers: How the Movies Shaped Desire. Why Acting Matters. (Yes, I read 6 books by the same author.)


Phil Dellio, Happy for a While: "American Pie," 1972, and the Awkward, Confusing Now.

Will Hermes, Lou Reed: The King of New York.

Dave Marsh, Kick Out the Jams: Jibes, Barbs, Tributes, and Rallying Cries from 35 Years of Music Writing.

Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk.

Hank Rosenfeld, The Jive 95: An Oral History of America’s Greatest Underground Rock Radio Station, KSAN San Francisco.

Joel Selvin, Sly & the Family Stone: An Oral History.

Lucinda Williams, Don't Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told You: A Memoir.

Warren Zanes, Deliver Me from Nowhere: The Making of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska.


Russell A. Carlton, The New Ballgame: The Not-So-Hidden Forces Shaping Modern Baseball.

Ian Herbert, Tinseltown: Hollywood and the Beautiful Game - a Match Made in Wrexham.

Joe Posnanski, The Baseball 100.

scrooged (richard donner, 1988)

The grandson and his family were over on xmas day, so we had to watch a movie. Some version of A Christmas Carol seemed to be in order, and when asked for my opinion, I volunteered Scrooged, so that's what we watched. My memory is that it was a fun movie, and I was right ... the whole family seemed to enjoy it. I was surprised to find it "boasts" a Metascore of only 38/100. Among the critics' comments: "appallingly unfunny", "as funny as a mugging", and "an exercise in hypocrisy". At least Pauline Kael liked it: "The heartlessness of the film's beauty is exciting."

Sure, the sentimental ending feels bogus, but I've always thought that about the story of Scrooge ... I don't think it's worse here. Bill Murray is great, and the supporting cast is filled with people that I, at least, thought were mostly wonderful: David Johansen, Carol Kane, Bobcat Goldthwait, Michael J. Pollard, Alfre Woodard, Robert Goulet, Buddy Hackett, even Mary Lou Retton. It's loony, of course, but until the "happy" ending, we're allowed to see Scrooge's attitudes from a comic perspective, and it's a smart touch to have Scrooge be a ratings-obsessed television executive. You could double that 38/100 Metascore and come closer to the actual enjoyment Scrooged offers.

red beard (akira kurosawa, 1965)

Highly acclaimed film from a highly acclaimed director, #784 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time. I think Kurosawa is one of our greatest directors, but Red Beard was not one of my favorites.

While it is a period piece starring Toshiro Mifune, it's not what you expect. The period is Japan in the 1800s, and Mifune plays a doctor at a rural hospital clinic for the poor. This is an intriguing concept for a Kurosawa movie, but it's more than three hours, and it feels endless. It's episodic, and the most interesting material comes in the last hour, after an intermission. Which if you do the math means there are two hours of setup to get to the good stuff. Obviously, its elevated reputation tells you that many people disagree with me. I wish the first two hours had been cut in half (at least), and I found the film hard to get through.

Kurosawa and cinematographers Asakazu Nakai and Takao Saito make effective use of light and shadow ... the film looks powerful. But it's no classic.

music friday: joe cocker

On this date in 2014, Joe Cocker died at the age of 70. He was noted as a great interpreter of the songs of others.

Cocker made a big impression at the Woodstock Festival and subsequent movie, with one of the best performances by any of the famous artists at that famous festival. As Paul McCartney said after Cocker's death, regarding Cocker's version of "With a Little Help from My Friends", "It was just mind-blowing, totally turned the song into a soul anthem and I was forever grateful for him for doing that."

Cocker wanted a break from touring, and he disbanded the Grease Band, but there were contracts that committed him to touring, which resulted in the Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. It was well-received and a big success, and like Woodstock, that success was buttressed by a live album and a feature film. Cocker was fried by that point, and started having drinking problems. Still, the music was great:

He had become a joke to some ... John Belushi did an infamous sketch imitating a beer-guzzling Cocker, even performing it next to the real Joe Cocker on Saturday Night Live. I didn't follow his music much after that, but despite the personal problems, Cocker kept it up, living several decades after Mad Dogs. And he wasn't just a nostalgia act ... in 1974, "You Are So Beautiful" was hit, and in 1982, a duet with Jennifer Warnes, "Up Where We Belong", won a Grammy and an Oscar. Maybe my favorite of his tracks in those years was "Woman to Woman", which was later famously sampled by Tupac and Dr. Dre for "California Love":

The Tedeschi Trucks Band is similar in spirit to the Mad Dogs and Englishmen, and they were the perfect choice for a tribute concert to Cocker featuring songs and performers from Mad Dogs, the year after Cocker died.

And it all came full circle: