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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Chernobyl, Little Women, and the Birth of Modern Luxury

January 21st, 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 Pinnacle

Chernobyl (Television, US/UK, HBO/Sky, Craig Mazin, 2019) Faced with the unimaginable catastrophe of the 1986 nuclear disaster, a politically naive nuclear physicist (Jared Harris) and bluff party official (Stellan Skarsgård) battle obstacles both logistical and systemic. Speaking of logistical challenges, it’s a miracle anyone got this made this at all, let alone executed it on the highest level of writing, cinema, acting, music and production design.—RDL

Recommended

Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator (Film, US, Eva Orner, 2019) Outlandishly wealthy yoga entrepreneur eludes justice for sex offenses against his trainees. Documentary presents yet another case study of a remorseless, charismatic fabulist who uses his intrinsic clownishness to bypass the logic circuits of his prey, supporters, and adversaries.—RDL

Cash On Demand (Film, UK, Quentin Lawrence, 1962) A bullying fussbudget of a branch manager (Peter Cushing) becomes an unwilling accomplice to the robbery of his own bank, at the hands of a bluff mastermind (Andre Morell) threatening his wife and son. Real-time, constrained location crime thriller from Hammer Studios is a model of tension-building from a tightly limited palette of elements—and an unconventional Christmas movie to boot.—RDL

Little Women (Film, US, Greta Gerwig, 2019) Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) and her sisters (Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen) grow up in Civil War-era Concord, Mass. Gerwig’s script depicts the shift from warm yet rambunctious adolescence to sudden, constraining maturity with wit and generosity to her characters (and to the Alcott novel) but its flashback structure somewhat jumbles the arc. Gerwig again proves herself to be a real actor’s director, and with this standout ensemble cast (especially including Laura Dern as Marmee) she creates a thoroughly, continuously satisfying film. –KH

Ritz & Escoffier: The Hotelier, The Chef, and the Rise of the Leisure Class (Nonfiction, Luke Barr, 2018) At the close of the 19th century, in London and elsewhere, the team of hotel manager Cesar Ritz and innovative chef Auguste Escoffier establishes conceptions of luxury and fine dining that still prevail today. A double biography cemented by strong character portraiture, social observation, and vivid food prose.—RDL

Good

Us (Film, US, Jordan Peele, 2019) Scissor-wielding doppelgangers attack a family at their summer house, awakening dark memories for mom Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o.) I wouldn’t have guessed that Peele would follow up Get Out with a movie about the dispossessed rising up to murder us in our homes, but he sure does demonstrate his mastery of horror-action staging.—RDL

Not Recommended

Overlord (Film, US, Julius Avery, 2018) American paratroopers assaulting on a Nazi radio tower discover that the base also houses monstrous super-soldier experiments. Spends too much time as a derivative war movie to develop its horror aspect.—RDL

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