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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Lies, Tyranny and Decadence

November 13th, 2018 | 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

Tyrant Banderas (Fiction, Ramón del Valle-Inclán, 1926) A Latin American dictator’s capricious decision to punish an underling’s petty crime sends reverberations affecting lives high and low in his rebellious capital city. Written in a voice of omniscient, scathing mockery, featuring searing imagery and frequently protagonist switches. It’s not hard to see how this Spanish novel became a foundational work for the classic generation of Latin American writers.—RDL

Recommended

Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are (Nonfiction, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, 2017) Researcher reveals the covert attitudes on race, gender, sexuality and more  Americans reveal through their Internet activity. A flow of fascinating facts on matters from race horse superiority to the crime reducing powers of violent hit movies. —RDL

The Land of Steady Habits (Film, US, Nicole Holofcener, 2018) Early retiree from the finance world (Ben Mendelsohn) discovers that divorce from his house-proud ex (Edie Falco) has left him just as rudderless as his ex-addict adult son (Thomas Mann.) Mordantly funny drama of exurban anomie, adapted from a novel by Ted Thompson, gives Mendelsohn space to score in a rare leading role.—RDL

Masques (Film, France, Claude Chabrol, 1978) Biographer stays at the country house of his subject, a pompous TV presenter (Philippe Noiret), bringing with him a hidden agenda and a pistol. Cozy, sun-dappled suspenser features a lovely heel turn from Noiret, who gradually reveals the sinister truth behind an overbearingly genial persona.—RDL

Mystery of the Wax Museum (Film, US, Michael Curtiz, 1933) Fast-talking reporter (Glenda Farrell) tracks a sketchy suicide to the wax museum of burned sculptor (Lionel Atwill.) The 30s Warner Brothers house style of wisecracking reporters and cynical cops drops into a world of Expressionistic horror, limned with Curtiz’s hallmark momentum and visual verve. In early two-strip Technicolor, with pre-Code innuendo and drug references. As a rare 30s fright flick that clearly takes place in that period, makes a fun reference point for Trail of Cthulhu GMs.—RDL

The Proud Rebel (Film, US, Michael Curtiz, 1958) An altercation with a sheep tycoon’s violent son (Harry Dean Stanton) forces a Civil War veteran (Alan Ladd) to pause his obsessive quest to cure his young son’s muteness to pay a debt to a stubbornly independent farmer (Olivia de Havilland.) By this point Curtiz is shooting in Scope, so he compensates for limited ability to move the camera with exquisite composition and staging. Features fine performances, including from the dog around whom much of the finely calibrated melodrama revolves.—RDL.

Good

H.P. Lovecraft: New England Decadent (Nonfiction, Barton Levi St. Armand, 1979) This early work of scholarship positions HPL’s writing as a tension between Aestheticism and Puritanism. Although it scants his actual pseudo-Decadent phase (e.g., “The Hound,” “Hypnos”) it remains an illuminating criticism. –KH

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