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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Coppola and Murray Reteam, and Cinema as Fractal Nexus

October 27th, 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

Careless Crime (Film, Iran, Shahram Mokri, 2020) Pill addict Faraj (Mohammad Sareban) gets drawn into a plot to burn down a movie theater which eerily recalls the Cinema Rex fire in 1978. Mokri lays down long, overlapping takes and arcs, slowly arcing tighter and tighter on multiple levels (including a film-within-a-film-within-a-film, at one point) around the inescapable haunting of Iran’s cinema past. A superb achievement on so many levels; the lighting and Ehsan Sedigh’s discordant score stand-outs among them. I desperately need to see it again in the kind of real theater space that Mokri turns into a fractal nexus.–KH

On the Rocks (Film, US, Sofia Coppola, 2020) Blocked novelist (Rashida Jones) gets more help than she asked for when she asks her incorrigibly magnetic art dealer father (Bill Murray) to evaluate signs her work-obsessed husband (Marlon Wayans Jr.) is cheating on her. Incandescent, perfectly judged comedy-drama two-hander uses every part of the Bill Murray.—RDL


Charlatan (Film, Czechia/Ireland/Poland/Slovakia, Agnieszka Holland, 2020) Loose biopic of the Czech healer and herbalist Jan Mikolášek (Ivan Trojan; his son Josef Trojan plays young Jan) framed by his 1958 arrest and trial by the Communist government. Holland’s portrait of Mikolášek never goes where the audience expects, just as Trojan’s performance alienates and attracts in equal measure. Her refusal to put Mikolášek into a simple box (despite her monodimensional title) gives depth and realism while Martin Strba’s deliberately cinematic lensing expertly plays with history-film convention.–KH

Fireball: Visitors From Darker Worlds (Film, US, Werner Herzog & Clive Oppenheimer, 2020) Herzog follows enthusiastic geologist Oppenheimer on a tour of meteoritic science, art, and religion from Norway to Antarctica. Most interested in how humans make art and meaning out of the arbitrary falling rocks, Herzog sometimes strays a little bit into vorticism, cutting staccato between flashes of meaning and thought — but how appropriate for a film about meteors. –KH

I Never Met a Story I Didn’t Like: Mostly True Tall Tales (Nonfiction, Todd Snider. 2014) Americana singer-songwriter transposes his raconteurial wit to the printed page with a series of substance-soaked anecdotes of life on the road. Be forewarned: the reader never does learn what caused Digger Dave to be banned from all three bars in Homer, Alaska.—RDL

Night of the Kings (Film, Côte d’Ivoire/Canada/France/Senegal, Phillippe Lacôte, 2020) The newest inmate (Koné Bakary) in the “jungle” of the MACA prison gets tapped by its dying king to tell a story on the night of the red moon. Prison-gangster drama meets Arabian-night medievalism both narratively and visually in a rich and surprising film of narratology and survival. –KH

Shivers (Film, Canada, David Cronenberg, 1975) Slug-like, genetically engineered parasites turn high-rise residents into frenzied sex killers. Most horror films seem tamer a few decades later, but the opposite is true for this puckishly unpleasant blend of Romero, Ballard and Euripides.—RDL


The Pistol Shrimps (Film, US, Brent Hodge, 2016) A women’s basketball rec league forms around the nucleus of the L.A. comedy scene, propelling a ragtag band of unlikely athletes, most famously including Aubrey Plaza, to a delightfully low-stakes winning streak. Big-hearted documentary ode to fun and camaraderie.—RDL

Preparations to Be Together For an Unknown Period of Time (Film, Hungary, Lili Horvát, 2020) Neurosurgeon Marta (Natasa Stork) impulsively returns to Budapest to reunite with her love-at-first sight Janos (Viktor Bodó) but he says he’s never met her before … Huge potentials for noir, romance, and horror loom in the premise but Horvát slowly lets the air out of all of them in 90 minutes. Stork’s tight performance deserves a better, tenser film; as it is she seems not so much a woman on the edge as one sensibly distant from a low-boiling distraction. –KH

The Prophet and the Space Aliens (Film, Israel/Austria, Yoav Shamir, 2020) Invited to receive a (bogus?) award from the Raëlian cult, documentarian Shamir takes Raël (nee Claude Vorilhon) up on his invitation to make a movie about them. Shamir plays it restrained and mostly fair, bending over backwards to not call Raël a con artist and depict the cultists on their own terms. The trouble is, when your subject is a former pop singer and race car aficionado who sees UFOs in 1974 and hears he’s the son of alien Yahweh and gets eager flower brides and oh by the way all religious leaders are still alive as sexy clones on another planet and claims to have cloned a baby in 2002 maybe restraint is not quite the best key for your movie. –KH

Undine (Film, Germany/France, Christian Petzold, 2020) Undine (Paula Beer), an urban historian who may also be the titular vengeful water-spirit, gets dumped by her lover but meets-cute devoted diver Christoph (Franz Rogowski) before we find out for sure. Palpable love for Berlin drenches this somewhat uneven film that kicks into gear on the mystery but goes soppy in the romance, and doesn’t quite consummate either. –KH

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Coppola and Murray Reteam, and Cinema as Fractal Nexus”

  1. snowtica says:

    I read the post, it’s really informative for me. Thank you for sharing such valuable posts.

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