Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Bones and All, EO, and the Letters of M. R. James

March 14th, 2023 | 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.


Band of Outsiders (Film, France, Jean-Luc Godard, 1964) Pushover Odile (Anna Karina), feckless Franz (Sami Frey), and thuggish Artur (Claude Brasseur) plot to steal a hoard of cash from Odile’s landlord. Godard as usual cares less about the plot than about the dysfunctional interplay among the trio, but hits an ideal ironic distance from which to watch their attempts. The pernicious colonialism of American culture on French youth provides both a running leitmotif and the film’s highlight dance sequence. –KH

Bones And All (Film, Italy, Luca Guadagnino, 2022) Teen obligate cannibal Maren (Taylor Russell) searches for answers and meets other “eaters” including scary Sully (Mark Rylance) and lovely Lee (Timothée Chalamet). Sweet and creepy by turns, Guadagnino’s 80s American road trip horror-romance never stops working, hitting a balance and a vibe his Suspiria remake notably failed to. –KH

Bank Shot (Fiction, Donald E. Westlake, 1972) Seeing opportunity when a bank under renovation temporarily relocates to a modified mobile home across the street, a team of down-at-the-mouth thieves led by dyspeptic planner John Dortmunder resolves to put it back on wheels and tow it away. Second in Westlake’s series of wry, observant heist-gone-wrong novels delights in the procedural obstacles thrown up by its unique premise.—RDL

EO (Film, Poland, Jerzy Skolimowski, 2022) After animal welfare officers remove him from a circus, a donkey, seeking his beloved performance partner, undertakes an arduous journey into the hellish world of humans. Visual language predominates in an inverted quest narrative made poignant by the emotions we project on the large, expressive eyes of its equine protagonist.—RDL

Madeleine Collins (Film, France, Antoine Barraud, 2021) A busy professional (Virgine Efira) struggles to keep ahead of the lies she’s floated to hide the existence of her secret second family. Suspenseful character study wouldn’t work without Efira’s brilliant performance, which keeps us with the protagonist as we discover the full extent of the terrible decisions that have placed her in her worsening spiral.—RDL


Avengement (Film, UK, Jesse V. Johnson, 2019) Inmate hardened by repeated attempts to kill him in prison (Scott Adkins) escapes to settle the score with the older brother (Craig Fairbrass) who put the bounty on his head. Brutal action vehicle for Adkins classed up with a flashback structure and a taste for hard man dialogue.—RDL

Casting the Runes: The Letters of M.R. James (Nonfiction, Jane Mainley-Piddock (ed.), 2023) Collects and reprints 101 letters from M.R. James held in various Cambridge University archives, spanning his life from childhood to c. 1925. (This collection excludes the letters from MRJ to the family of his bff James McBryde, which have been separately published in a now-out-of-print volume.) Readers get a glimpse of James’ personality emerging, and some familiarity with his life thanks to generally excellent annotations by Mainley-Piddock. While still Recommended for MRJ-heads, the near-total absence of insight into his ghost stories from his correspondence must drop it to Good for the casual Jamesian. –KH

Not Recommended

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (Film, US, Guillermo del Toro, 2022) Woodcarver mourning the WWI bombing death of his young son gets a second chance at fatherhood when a wood nymph breathes life into a marionette he has fashioned. Grim slog through the Carlo Collodi story trafficks in loaded imagery of fascism and crucifixion without resolving its meaning.—RDL

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