Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Black Widow, Summer of Soul, and the Fate of the Artist

July 13th, 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.


Black Widow (Film, US, Cate Shortland, 2021) On the run from the authorities, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) finds a new lead to the Soviet assassin training program that warped her life—and reunites with her worse-for-wear costumed surrogate family (Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz.) Self-contained, rooted in character, snappy and with clear, well-staged action, this shaggy dog spy romp nimbly leaps past the structural pitfalls of the MCU.—RDL

The Fate of the Artist (Comics, Eddie Campbell, 2006) When artist Eddie Campbell disappears, a detective interviews his family and associates (including a troupe of actors depicting one of his creations) to get a lead on his character. Campbell elevates a perfectly good joke with visual stories of the arts and a domestic-comedy comic strip (Honeybee) that acts as a sort of Greek chorus of Campbell’s home life. Campbell takes the form seriously to (seemingly) avoid taking the subject seriously, to giddy result. –KH

Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (Film, US, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, 2021) Consigned to basement storage by dunderheads who didn’t think they could sell it, thrilling musical footage from a series of 1969 Harlem park concerts finds new life and historical context. Top acts include Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Staple Singers, and the Fifth Dimension. Crowd shots, usually a crutch in concert films, become the centerpiece, depicting the community that gathered around the music as much as the acts themselves.—RDL


Black Widow (Film, US, Cate Shortland, 2021) A chance to break the Red Room that trained and twisted them reunites Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) with her sister Yelena (Florence Pugh). For a movie about mind control, this has a very on-the-rails, no-twists plot; for a comic-book spy movie the fights (while at least visible) don’t match the best of Marvel much less the best of the genre. Ray Winstone gets the Annette Bening role of “ridiculously squandered actor” this time around. Fortunately Johansson, Pugh, and Rachel Weisz (as their “mother” Melina) bring so much to the table as actors that you aren’t really hungry for much else after two years away from the MCU. –KH

By Sidney Lumet (Film, US, Nancy Buirski, 2015) The prolific director holds court as the sole talking head in a retrospective covering a career that starts in live TV and concludes in the mid-oughts, hitting such highlights as Twelve Angry Men, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, and The Verdict. A fine companion to his excellent book of practical filmmaking, Making Movies.—RDL


The Baron in France (Fiction, John Creasey, 1953) and The Baron and the Mogul Swords (Fiction, John Creasey, 1966) Former jewel thief turned art dealer John Mannering investigates stolen gems, and the murders attendant on them, in these two able potboilers. Creasey wrote something like 600 books, including 47 titles in the Baron series, and don’t worry I’m not going to read them all. Based on these two random titles, they provide a modicum of action, not-too-challenging puzzles, and entirely unchallenging (not to say cardboard) characters. The pages do whiz by, though. –KH

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Film Cannister
Cartoon Rocket
Flying Clock
Film Cannister