Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: A Technothriller, a Western and the State of Curmudgeonry

January 26th, 2021 | 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 Bomb Maker (Fiction, Thomas Perry, 2018) When a genius demolitionist wipes out half the LA bomb squad, a calmly competent alumnus pauses his lucrative personal security business to take temporary command of the survivors. Tightly told technothriller keeps its people as plausible as its munitions.—RDL

Pretend it’s a City (Television, US, Netflix, Martin Scorsese, 2021) Once more Martin Scorsese talks to New York humorist Fran Lebowitz, this time in the form of a miniseries. Although it gives an enjoyable picture of Lebowitz’ current state of curmudgeonry, if you come to it cold you might slide off the staccato, sometimes facile structure: short episodes, very few long stories or observations, and (aside from a nearly beside-himself Spike Lee on the topic of sports) almost no pushback or even interplay by the occasional interviewers. Recommended for Lebowitz fans, Good for the Fran-curious. –KH

The Sisters Brothers (Film, France/US, Jacques Audiard, 2018) Notorious gunslinger brothers, one psychopathic (Joaquin Phoenix), the other increasingly reluctant (John C. Reilly), pursue a good-hearted chemist (Riz Ahmed) into gold country. Straightens out the picaresque plotting of the Patrick deWitt novel, swapping its cosmic irony for moody Manichaeism.—RDL


Father of My Children (Film, France, Mia Hansen-Løve, 2009) Charming, driven film producer  (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) careens toward bankruptcy and a decision that will leave his loving wife and daughters in the lurch. Fictionalized evocation of the final days of a well-known French film figure, told with impressionistic naturalism.—RDL

Sisters of the Gion (Film, Japan, Kenji Mizoguchi, 1936) Geisha sisters, one sentimental, the other calculating, struggle for money and dignity, and against the folly of their self-deluding patrons. A sort of preparatory sketch for his later classic Street of Shame shows Mizoguchi’s unusually clear-eyed understanding of the sex trade.—RDL

Those Who Came Back (Film, Mexico, Alejandro Galindo, 1948) Passengers and crew of a plane downed in the Amazon rainforest establish a new community as hope of rescue dims. Sets up the template for aviation disaster movies before establishing itself as a moral fable.—RDL

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