Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Kingdom Exodus, Babylon and Singin’ in the Rain

January 3rd, 2023 | 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

Singin’ in the Rain (Film, US, Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen, 1952) In 1927, romantic leading man Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) falls for chorus girl Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) as his film studio tries to make a newfangled talking picture. Like almost everyone, I’ve seen chunks of this movie in excerpts and dance numbers, but my first time (!!) watching it all the way through reveals it as one of the most astonishing feats of bricolage the old studio system ever produced. Ordered to churn out a jukebox musical to make use of songs MGM already owned, the writers and directors and actors literally choreographed a magnificent, multivalent love story of a caliber now only seen in Bollywood. More cynical than you remember, and more beautiful too. –KH


Kingdom Exodus (Television, Denmark, Lars von Trier, 2022) After watching season two of Lars von Trier’s supernatural medical soap opera, a kindly sleepwalker (Bodil Jørgensen), vexed by its inconclusive ending, checks herself into Kingdom hospital to investigate the truth behind the events it depicted. 24 years ago, von Trier, seemingly dismayed to have created something entertaining that people liked, dropped his show in midstream. In a meta-sequel that amps up the absurd comedy and overt dark fantasy elements, he finds a way to wrap it up without abandoning his core self-loathing.—RDL

The Last of Sheila (Film, US, Herbert Ross, 1973) A year after his wife’s unsolved hit and run death, a grandly manipulative movie producer (James Coburn) invites his friends (James Mason, Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon, Raquel Welch, Ian McShane, Joan Hackett) aboard his yacht to play a social deduction scavenger hunt on various Mediterranean islands. Puzzle-loving whodunnit wreathed in laidback 70s glamor and icy cynicism. Written by Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins and cited by Rian Johnson as an influence on Glass Onion.—RDL

The Last of Sheila (Film, US, Herbert Ross, 1973) Big-shot movie producer Clinton Greene (James Coburn) invites the six littler-shot Hollywood suspects in his wife’s unsolved murder (James Mason, Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon, Raquel Welch, Ian McShane, Joan Hackett) to play a murder mystery (and social dominance)  game on his yacht off the south of France. All three of the interlocking whodunits work thanks to a tight script by Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins; Coburn, Mason, and especially Cannon breathe life into their deliberately stagy characters. –KH

Margin Call (Film, US, J.C. Chandor, 2011) In 2008, immediately after a Wall Street brokerage fires its risk management officer (Stanley Tucci), a wunderkind analyst (Zachary Quinto) discovers the firm – and by extension all of Wall Street – is horrendously over-leveraged. Beautifully geometrical thriller tosses the apocalyptic hot potato up the corporate ladder (Paul Bettany, Kevin Spacey, Simon Baker) to the very top (Jeremy Irons) where no good options remain. Superbly acted, shot, paced, edited, and scored, only occasional touches of artificiality keep it from Pinnacle status. –KH


<'>As Luck Would Have It (Nonfiction, Derek Jacobi, 2013) English acting autobiography bestows the requisite theatrical anecdotes and a self-depiction of a thoroughly reticent man brought up as a beloved only child by equally retiring parents.—RDL


See How They Run (Film, UK, Tom George, 2022) Checked-out, alcoholic police inspector (Sam Rockwell) and eager constable (Saoirse Ronan) investigate a murder backstage at the 100th performance of The Mousetrap. Ironically for a film in which crass directorial rewrites appear as a major plot point, a script that shows vestigial signs of having something to say about the murder mystery genre and literary travesty winds up immured in a broad, cutesy style.—RDL

Not Recommended

Babylon (Film, US, Damien Chazelle, 2022) In 1926, starry-eyed gofer Manny Torres (Diego Calva) falls for wild child starlet-to-be Nellie LeRoy (Margot Robbie) as his film studio tries to make a newfangled talking picture. In three-plus hours, Chazelle can’t help but shoot a few arresting images, and although Justin Hurwitz’ driving jazz score and Robbie’s self-destructive it girl do nothing original, they do it very well. But bereft of both antagonist and structure, the film’s a mess: a shitting elephant. (That’s literally the first scene of the film.) As silent star Jack Conrad (a checked-out Brad Pitt) shouts at us about two hours in: “Movies don’t need subtext!” If you say so, Damien. –KH

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Kingdom Exodus, Babylon and Singin’ in the Rain”

  1. Hank Harwell says:

    It sure seems like Babylon is a wannabe Singing in the Rain, but without the music or the charm.

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