Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Ghoul Thieves, Black Horror and Joseph Kennedy

February 12th, 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.


Chappaquiddick (Film, US, John Curran, 2018) Cowardly weasel Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) allows his family fixers to save his political future following his negligent homicide of Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara). Ordinarily a film with a weakling protagonist goes slack, but this one motors on thanks to the just-the-facts script by Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan. Also crucial: strong turns from foil Joe Gargan (Ed Helms) and gothic monster Joseph Kennedy (Bruce Dern), and most of all Clarke’s puffy, inverted Hamlet. –KH

Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (Film, US, Xavier Burgin, 2019) Documentary surveys the depiction of the African-Americans in cinematic horror, culminating in Get Out and starting with the terrors in Birth of a Nation. Aptly for a piece so centered around questions of observing and being observed, the interviews are mostly staged with subjects sitting in cinema chairs, often together, discussing what they’re seeing up on the big screen. Interviewees include Robin Means Coleman, author of the namesake book it adapts.—RDL

The Gutter Prayer (Fiction, Gareth Hanrahan, 2019) A heist gone wrong thrusts a ghoul, a petrifying man and a young woman too tied to the gods into sweeping events in a fantastical industrial city. Throws a lot of balls into the air and deftly keeps them there as it inverts the standard Arthurian myth-pattern into a tale of escape from destiny. Gar of course is a boon friend and longtime collaborator, making this a plug and not a review. Though if I hadn’t found it Recommendation-worthy I wouldn’t be telling you or him about that.—RDL

John Mulaney: New in Town (Stand-up, John Mulaney, 2012) Back when we unknowingly loved John Mulaney for Stefon alone, the self-proclaimed “grown child” remained grateful for a lack of quicksand and eager to play with vocal intonations, a technique probably best abandoned now but still pretty funny. As he says about some “good-natured light anti-Semitism” in the show, “Go ahead and laugh, I’m the one who will get in trouble.” –KH

Merrily We Go to Hell (Film, US, Dorothy Arzner, 1932) Sheltered heiress (Sylvia Sidney) falls hard for charming drunk newspaper columnist (Fredric March). Swank-set melodrama offers an unsparing portrait of codependence, half a century before anyone used that word.—RDL

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Film, US, Morgan Neville, 2018) Documentary profile of pioneering children’s television creator Fred Rogers zeroes in on the fundamental seriousness underlying his work. Radical empathy, it turns out, requires a steely core. I’m a Mr. Dressup man myself, so if you want to get me all verklempt, make an Ernie Coombs documentary.—RDL


Three Identical Strangers (Film, UK, Tim Wardle, 2018) Three young men accidentally discover that they are triplets, separated by their adoption agency, leading at first to NYC tabloid celeb status, then to revelations of experimental malfeasance. Formally straightforward documentary uncovers the dark scandal behind a once-seeming feel-good story.—RDL

You Were Never Really Here (Film, US/UK, Lynne Ramsay, 2018) Scarred, brooding killer Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) suffers from PTSD and suicidal ideations in between murdering pedophile brothel keepers with a hammer. Phoenix inhabits the part, and Jonny Greenwood’s score is another triumph, but Ramsay confuses art-house oblique for original or interesting in this cut-space between Taxi Driver and Sin City. –KH


Apostle (Film, UK, Gareth Evans, 2018) His faith replaced with opium after torture during the Boxer Rebellion, lapsed missionary Thomas (Dan Stevens) travels incognito to the remote island run by cult leader Malcolm (Michael Sheen) to rescue his kidnapped sister. This overcrowded, dank riff on The Wicker Man spends its first two acts building atmosphere and frittering away narrative urgency and its last act bloodily expiating its first two acts. –KH

The Man Who Cheated Himself (Film, US, Felix E. Feist, 1950) When his rich lover (Jane Wyatt) guns down her husband, a gruff homicide lieutenant (Lee J. Cobb) covers it up, then works the case, with his overly keen new partner, who is also his kid brother. Workmanlike direction focuses on plot over theme or mood, but does summon up some noir atmosphere for the climactic sequence, staged at Fort Point, San Francisco.—RDL

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Ghoul Thieves, Black Horror and Joseph Kennedy”

  1. Benjamin Davis says:

    “Phoenix inhabits the part” may be the “water wet” of today.

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