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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Fantasy Heartbreaker and a Golden Bough Mystery

June 11th, 2019 | 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

Leave No Trace (Film, US, Debra Granik, 2018) Traumatized veteran (Ben Foster) tries to keep his thirteen year old daughter (Thomasin McKenzie) by his side as he lives the nomadic, forest-dwelling existence that will hold any other contact with society at bay. Exquisitely shot, perfectly modulated naturalistic drama featuring the expected brilliant performance from Foster and a revelatory one from McKenzie.—RDL

Recommended

Archipelago (Film, UK, Joanna Hogg, 2010) A stay in a holiday rental home in the Scilly Isles becomes the stage for sublimated conflict between a passive-aggressive mom (Kate Fahy) and her  painfully empathetic son (Tom Hiddleston) and brittle daughter (Lydia Leonard). Minimalist inquiry into the exquisite torment of upper class English interpersonal communication.—RDL

Death by Water (Fiction, Kenzaburo Oe, 2009) Encouraged by an experimental theater troupe, an aging novelist investigates his father’s long-ago drowning death, only to find that a trunk supposedly full of crucial documents contains nothing more remarkable than three volumes of The Golden Bough. Discursive, autobiographical novel of repressed family turmoil and dark political undercurrents.—RDL

Die Vol. 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker (Comics, Image, Kieron Gillen & Stephanie Hans, 2019) After barely returning from a fantasy world years ago, an RPG group finds themselves once more in the gameworld of Die. Gillen somehow makes the oldest, tiredest story in fantasy both fresh and original, while staying true to the dynamics of game groups and adulthood. Hans’ art provides both wonder and terror. –KH [Gillen has also released a beta version of the RPG of his comic]

The Judas Window (Fiction, John Dickson Carr, 1938) When Avory Hume is found dead in a locked room with an arrow in his chest, Sir Henry Merrivale defends the man found in the room with him in court. Carr takes the unusual step of telling almost the whole story through court transcripts, which has the salutary effect of taming the self-indulgent Sir Henry and allowing evidence for the defense to legitimately appear as a surprise. –KH

The South vs. The South (Nonfiction, William W. Freehling, 2001) Only half the South fought for the Confederacy — the other half (border-state whites and Southern blacks) fought for the Union. Freehling argues that the rifle’s defensive advantage counterbalanced the Union’s railroad advantage, leaving a war of numbers that only half the South could never win. –KH

Under the Silver Lake (Film, US, David Robert Mitchell, 2019) Skeevy layabout Sam (Andrew Garfield) passes through the LA looking glass when a blonde he liked (Riley Keough) disappears. Beautifully shot existential slacker daylight-noir conspiracy film plays wonderfully with Garfield’s slack uselessness and with the inherent weirdness of LA; the heavy-noir score by Disasterspace kills as well. With a better ending, it would achieve Pinnacle; as it is, it will achieve hipster cult status, deservedly. –KH

Good

Around the World in 80 Days (Film, US, Michael Anderson, 1956) Phileas Fogg (David Niven) and his valet Passepartout (the superb Cantinflas) set out to win a circumnavigatory wager. Part of the old school of cinema as magic-lantern show and ViewMaster, this film mostly shows off landscapes and cameos by old school actors to the detriment of pacing or tension. However, it is gorgeous and remarkably faithful (modulo a balloon ride) to the Verne novel. –KH

Two-Faced Woman (Film, US, George Cukor, 1941) Clean-living ski instructor (Greta Garbo) fears she’s losing her new magazine mogul husband (Melvyn Douglas), so she goes to New York to get him and naturally winds up posing as her nonexistent, gold-digging twin sister. Late-cycle screwball comedy reteaming the leads from Ninotchka runs entirely on their charm, bolstered by classic studio glamor cinematography.—RDL

Okay

Jubal (Film, US, Delmer Daves, 1956) Rootless cowhand (Glenn Ford) signs on with a good-hearted but oafish rancher (Ernest Borgnine) whose wife (Valerie French) fixes him in her wandering gaze. Western tropes make way for 50s psychosexual melodrama. Marred by a deeply mannered performance from Rod Steiger as an antagonistic ranch hand.—RDL

Trapped Season 1 (Television, Iceland, Baltasar Kormakur, 2015) The washing up of a limbless torso roils a small Icelandic fishing town socked in by a storm, leaving the police chief (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) a former Reykjavik hotshot, to handle a high-profile murder case aided only by his local staff. Sober Nordic crime drama keeps its intrigue (with a key exception) in the realm of the real, though perhaps not without a payoff worth a 10 hour runtime.—RDL

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