Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Murder in the Gallery, Mesmeric Powers, and Fred Hampton

March 30th, 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.


Death of a Ghost (Fiction, Margery Allingham, 1934) Attending a showing of a dead artist’s work, Campion is on hand when a live artist is murdered. By turns charming, cutting, grim, clever, and finally suspenseful as hell, Allingham pulls out all the stops. Her keen social eye here catches the backward-looking fustiness of yesterday’s avant-gardes without (too much) mockery and with very real sympathy. –KH

Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 (Film, Kevin Rafferty, 2008) In a 1968 match-up that will reverberate in Ivy League sports history, the scrappy underdogs of Harvard (seriously) take on the cocky juggernaut that is the Yale team. Armed only with play-by-play footage and retrospective video interviews, this documentary performs the astounding, if temporary, feat of investing me in the world’s stupidest, most aggravating team game. Worth it simply to see what it looks like when Harvard player Tommy Lee Jones is interviewed on a subject he cares to talk about.—RDL

I am Not Sidney Poitier (Fiction, Percival Everett, 2009) Wealthy Black orphan named Not Sidney Poitier makes quasi-successful use of his mesmeric powers in a series of travails echoing the filmography of the beloved movie star he eerily resembles. Surreal coming-of-age picaresque features such hilarious oddball characters as media mogul Ted Turner and author/professor Percival Everett.—RDL

Judas and the Black Messiah (Film, US, Shaka King, 2021) Small time car heister (Lakeith Stanfield) becomes an infiltrator for an FBI operation to take down Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), head of Chicago’s Black Panther chapter. Tight, driven storytelling boils down a complicated story into something that plays more like a political thriller than a prestige biopic.—RDL

Slings & Arrows Season 1 (Television, Canada, The Movie Network, Susan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinney, 2003) Guided by the ghost of the mentor (Stephen Ouimette) whose betrayal steered him into a crack-up, an ex-actor (Paul Gross) steps in as acting artistic director of the New Burbage Shakespeare festival, directing a production of Hamlet featuring his ex (Martha Burns) and a young movie star (Luke Kirby.) Steeped in the lore of the Canadian stage, this comedic theatrical procedural gets character-driven laughs while genuinely digging into the process of Shakespearean interpretation. Also with Rachel McAdams, appearing about ten minutes before her own movie stardom.—RDL


My Golden Days (Film, France, Arnaud Desplechin. 2015) Anthropologist returning to France after a long absence recalls his childhood conflict with his mother, a teen trip to Europe, and his tempestuous first love. The agonized intellectualism of its teen lovers (Quentin Dolmaire, Lou Roy-Lecollinet) partially obscures the usual flaws of the coming-of-age film: protagonists who lack agency and the perspective to really make choices.—RDL

Sweet Danger (Fiction, Margery Allingham, 1933) Campion traces the heirs to a suddenly oil-rich Adriatic principality to rustic Essex just ahead of a tycoon who will stop at nothing. Also there is a treasure hunt and a warlock and a love story. Another ripping yarn with lashings of would-be Wodehouse, this might have worked better as a series of novelettes rather than the somewhat ungainly omelette it is. –KH

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