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Ken and Robin Consume Media: 60s LA, 80s Argentina, 30s Germany, and Classic SF Art

May 17th, 2022 | 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.

The Pinnacle

Eve’s Hollywood (Nonfiction, Eve Babitz, 1972) Autobiographical essays of girlhood at late-50s Hollywood High and young adulthood in the heyday of the Sunset Strip assert an unsparing but wholehearted love for Los Angeles. Voice is everything in these sere, incisive gems of the memoirist’s art, never mind brushes with the Manson family or the time she introduced Dalí to Zappa.—RDL

Recommended

Azor (Film, Argentina/France/Switzerland, 2021) Uneasy Swiss banker (Fabrizio Rongione) travels to junta-era Argentina with his vigilant wife (Stephanie Cléau) to sort out business deals complicated by a colleague’s ambiguous disappearance. Handles the material of the political thriller with a hushed minimalism, wringing dread from anodyne surroundings.—RDL

Better Days (Film, China, Derek Tsang, 2019) Withdrawn girl (Zhou Dongyu)  targeted for vicious senior-year bullying seeks the aid of a street tough (Jackson Yee.) Intense performances from the young leads and the director’s urgent visual style lift this gritty crime drama above the po-faced declarations of Party propaganda inserted around its hard-hitting social critique.—RDL

Chroma: The Art of Alex Schomburg (Nonfiction, Jon Gustafson, 1986) Puerto Rican artist Schomburg began illustrating for Gernsback in 1925, drew covers for Golden Age superhero comics, and survived self-exile in Spokane to return as an SF art grand master. If there were another study of Schomburg, this one (which spends too many of its slim 108 pages describing potted history) might only be Good, but as the only survey of a near-forgotten master, it deserves Recommendation. –KH

Little Man, What Now? (Film, US, Frank Borzage, 1934) When his optimistic fiancée (Margaret Sullavan) gets pregnant, a young clerk’s (Douglass Montgomery) struggle to find a stable job in Depression-era Germany reaches a point of desperation. Borzage’s humanism overcomes Montgomery’s wooden ingenuism in this adaptation of Hans Fallada’s observational novel.—RDL

Okay

Crazy Samurai: 400 vs. 1 (Film, Japan, Shimomura Yuji, 2021) Disgraced Yoshioka clan seeks revenge on sword master Musashi (Tak Sakaguchi) by ambushing him with 400 samurai and ronin, setting up a one-take, 77-minute fight scene. Sadly, the cheapout production undermines the “killing is pointless” message the dull choreography hopefully intends. More like watching a really good gardener pull 400 weeds than anything else. –KH

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