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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Ballard, Almodovar and the Whisperer in Podcast Darkness

January 28th, 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.


The Atrocity Exhibition (Fiction, J. G. Ballard, 1970) A psychiatrist, or psychiatric patient, or rogue installation artist, named Travis, or Tallis, or Traven, stages a series of ultra-disturbing demonstrations, or interventions, or hallucinations concerning celebrity, the Vietnam war, and automobile accident eroticism. Kaleidoscopic and prescient, and still truly transgressive after all these years. I’ve written before about what the Dreamhounds of Paris surrealist Dreamlands might look like in the 60s, and well, exactly like this, right down to the direct invocation of Ernst and Dali and inescapable parallels to “Repairer of Reputations.”—RDL

Pain and Glory (Film, Spain, Pedro Almodovar, 2019) Sidelined by chronic pain, an acclaimed filmmaker (Antonio Banderas) remembers his childhood, reconnects with estranged figures from his past, and experiments with heroin. His color sense as expressive as ever, Almodovar frames a powerfully interiorized performance from Banderas with deceptively simple mastery.—RDL

The Whisperer in Darkness (Podcast, BBC, Julian Simpson, 2019) Following up on 2018’s Case of Charles Dexter Ward, the true crime “Mystery Machine” podcast ventures into the mysterious disappearance of Henry Akeley from Rendlesham Forest. Lovecraft’s tale was already the ur-UFO/contactee tale, and the addition of weird government conspiracies only juices the original story kernel. Purists may grump at the submergence of Lovecraft’s original climax, but they can’t complain about an insufficiency of audio trickery and cool stuff. –KH


A Brighter Summer Day (Film, Taiwan, Edward Yang, 1991) In early 60s Taipei, a high school student flirts with street gang violence and falls for a seemingly demure girl with bad luck in boyfriends. Subtly told epic flags in its fourth and final hour, when it becomes apparent that the central character is less interesting than the piece’s overall evocation of time and place.—RDL

mid90s (Film, US, Jonah Hill, 2018) Young teen whose suffocating home life drives him to self-harm finds community by joining a band of hard-partying skateboarders. Dreamy slice-of-life drama delivers more charm than your average social drama pic, without quite managing a third act escalation.—RDL

Midsommar (Film, US, Ari Aster, 2019) Grief-stricken young woman (Florence Pugh) accompanies her feckless grad student boyfriend (Jack Reynor) and his pals to visit an insular community in rural Sweden, whose charming folk rituals take a turn for the sacrificial. Holds interest with slow burn pacing and Kubrickian compositions but ultimately proves a long walk around the block for a cover version of The Wicker Man.—RDL


No Blade of Grass (Film, UK, Cornel Wilde, 1970) When a grain-killing virus plunges the world into starvation and Britain into anarchy, a stentorian architect (Nigel Davenport) and his family flee London for the north, descending almost immediately into murder hoboism. Brutal, crudely executed stewpot of social conscience and exploitation gives voice to the misanthropic strain of environmentalism. While the text laments humanity’s downfall, the subtext says the bastards had it coming.—RDL

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Ballard, Almodovar and the Whisperer in Podcast Darkness”

  1. I. J. Betty says:

    “A long walk around the block for a cover version of The Wicker Man” describes my thoughts exactly.

    Pretty, though.

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