Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Ferrari, Stax, and Alexander the Great

June 18th, 2024 | 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.


Ferrari (Film, US, Michael Mann, 2023) Luxury car maker Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver) prepares his racing team for a dangerous make-or-break race as his wife and business partner (Penelope Cruz) discovers the existence of his longtime mistress (Shailene Woodley) and their young son. Tale of an isolated obsessive pursuing extreme self-realization via roaring, beautiful, dangerous machines allows Mann a platform for an explicit thesis statement of his entire filmography.—RDL

Gate of Flesh (Film, Japan, Seijun Suzuki, 1964) Amid the chaos of postwar Tokyo, a gang of violent streetwalkers lose their collective autonomy when they take in a hypermasculine war vet turned criminal (Jo Shisido.) Hard-hitting crime drama shot in a widescreen color palette as lurid as its sensibility.—RDL

Life’s Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive (Nonfiction, Carl Zimmer, 2021) Bats, boa constrictors, and virophages come under the microscope in this engaging round-up of organisms—or are they?!?—that test science’s ability to coherently define what a life form is. Consumed in audiobook format.—RDL

Stax: Soulville USA (Television, US, Max, Jamila Wignot, 2024) Documentary chronicles the rise and fall of Stax Records, the Memphis outfit that redefined southern soul and then progressive funk before its inevitable betrayal by CBS Records and the local business oligarchy. Thrilling companion piece to Rob Bowman’s richly detailed 1997 book lets the emotions flow through archival performance footage and retrospective interviews.—RDL


Alexander the Great: From His Death to the Present Day (Nonfiction, John Boardman, 2019) Short overview of the legends about Alexander the Great, from the late-antique pseudo-histories to the full-blown medieval Alexander Romance to a afterthought of a chapter about Alexander in movies and novels. Strongest on the Alexander Romance, but more useful to someone who hasn’t already read Richard Stoneman on the topic. Boardman’s specialty is art history, and when he discusses artistic representations of the conqueror the book is far stronger.—KH

Lock No. 1 (Fiction, Georges Simenon, 1933) On his last days before early retirement, Inspector Maigret looks into the attempted stabbing of a blustering tugboat magnate. Our hero does little detecting in what is mostly a character study of its victim-slash-antagonist.—RDL


The Murder of Eleanor Pope (Fiction, Henry Kuttner, 1956) The first of four mystery novels by superb SF author Kuttner sets up his detective, San Francisco psychoanalyst Michael Gray. Kuttner can’t write a bad sentence, but the murder mystery isn’t particularly interesting (or convincing). Kuttner’s unblinking endorsement of Freudian analysis reads a little like having an astrologer detective solving crimes with horoscopes, except there would probably be less interminable talking.—KH

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