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Ken and Robin Consume Media: David Byrne, The End of Supernatural, and the Foucault of the UFO

November 17th, 2020 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.

Recommended

David Byrne’s American Utopia (Film, US, Spike Lee, 2020) Stringing beads from his forty-odd-year discography, Byrne fronts 11 barefoot musicians in a deliberately stark and minimalist stage show that perversely attempts to be open and optimistic. (Coldness inviting warmth is a weird vibe, it must be said.) Lee captures the show from every angle, but prefers a deliberately human-scale theater-style frame that emphasizes the common humanity of the performers; Byrne mostly remains at the center but Lee only rarely shoots him as the icon that he is. –KH

Forbidden Science 1: A Passion for Discovery, The Journals of Jacques Vallee 1957-1969 (Nonfiction, Jacques Vallee, 1992) Early diaries by the Foucault of the UFO take him from intellectually precocious university student to the software pioneer author of Passport to Magonia—that is, from a character in a Francois Truffaut movie to the character Truffaut would later portray in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Takeaways from this rich, erudite journal: 1) the French take second place to no one in being annoyed by the French. 2) Boy howdy, the entire UFO scene sure was steeped in the straight-up occult.—RDL

Supernatural Season 15 (Television, US, Andrew Dabb, CW, 2019-2020) Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles) wrap up their epic battle against sinister cosmic forces with a battle against that malign thug, God (Rob Benedict.) Brings nerddom’s longest-running series in for a satisfying landing, with a conclusion both grounded and cosmic. In a TV ecosystem shifting to the short, serialized seasons and hasty cancelations of the streaming world, we likely won’t see another show log 320 episodes of the episodic-with-continuity arcs format. The achievement becomes all the more remarkable when you consider the tightness of its template it rang its variations on.—RDL

(Edit: Whoops, am informed that despite the apparent finality of last week’s ep there’s still one more to go.—RDL)

Good

Fast Color (Film, US, Julia Hart, 2018) In a slowly collapsing, water-starved America, a recovering addict (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) on the run from scientists studying her paranormal powers seeks refuge with her mother (Lorraine Toussaint) and young daughter, who share her abilities. Scores points for restrained atmosphere, despite a script that spends a lot of time explaining itself without ever entirely making sense.—RDL

Netflix vs the World (Film, US, Shawn Cauthen, 2019)Documentary traces the rise of Netflix from scrappy strip mall startup to streaming giant, with particular emphasis on the tit-for-tat battle of its battle with Blockbuster during the DVD rental by mail phase.—RDL

Two Monks (Film, Mexico, Juan Bustillo Oro, 1934) A monastery murder attempt triggers a tale of romantic woe told from the perspectives of victim and perpetrator. Monumental deco expressionist sets add gothic overtones to a love triangle melodrama. Bump up to Recommended if you are Guy Maddin.—RDL

Okay

The Crowd Roars (Film, US, Howard Hawks, 1932) When his kid brother joins his team, a champion race driver (James Cagney) becomes a controlling bully, also junking his relationship with his long-suffering girlfriend (Ann Dvorak.) Later in his career Hawks would learn to give his redemption arcs to secondary characters, but here the protagonist doesn’t much deserve one.—RDL

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