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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Lovecraft Tales, Succession, Only Murders, and the Psychology of Poker

December 21st, 2021 | 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.

Recommended

The Biggest Bluff (Nonfiction, Maria Konnikova, 2020) Aided by her psychology background and one of the world’s best players, New Yorker writer Konnikova goes from absolute novice to poker champion. Engrossing interweaving of Plimptonesque experiential journalism and pop science uses Texas Hold ‘Em to explore the twists and traps of the decision-making process.—RDL

Lovecraft: The Great Tales (Nonfiction, John D. Haefele, 2021) Lengthy, layered critical analysis of Lovecraft’s oeuvre traces the underrated influence of other authors on HPL and casts the whole corpus as one multi-textual great work. Haefele expands compellingly on the neglected structuralist insights of George Wetzel (neglected even by Haefele, as it happens) in a great work of his own that all serious Lovecraftians should engage seriously. If my book whets your appetite, this is the big picnic. –KH

Only Murders in the Building Season 1 (Television, US, Hulu/Disney+, Steve Martin & John Hoffman, 2021) The fishy apparent suicide of a resident in an upscale NYC apartment building unites a washed up actor (Martin), a flailing stage director (Martin Short) and a young woman with a secret (Selena Gomez) as neophyte true crime podcasters and amateur sleuths. Comedy-mystery draws on a deep well of solitude but has the sense and taste to undercut its Hallmark moments with big gags.—RDL

Succession Season 3 (Television, US, HBO, Jesse Armstrong, 2021) Kendall (Jeremy Strong) renews his rogue mission against Logan (Brian Cox) as Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) jockey for the number two slot at Waystar-Royco. Where other shows become discursive after a strong early run, Succession achieves success by sadistically tightening its focus on its core hothouse of hilariously awful, conspiratorial characters.—RDL

Voir Season 1 (Television, US, Netflix, David Fincher, 2021) Series of brief essays on cinema features analyses ranging from the political (Walter Chaw on 48 HRS) to the technical (animation character design) to the personal (Sasha Stone on memories of childhood in the summer of Jaws.) The reenactments in the latter have to be the most gorgeously shot in documentary history.—RDL

Good

The Asakusa Kid (Film, Japan, Gekidan Hitori, 2021) Intent on a comedy career but without discernible skills, young Takeshi Kitano (Yûya Yagira) apprentices himself to a fading burlesque troupe’s dyspeptic master (Yô Ôizumi.) Yagira goes way overboard imitating Kitano’s physical tics, and the piece is much more conventional and sentimental than the filmography of its subject, but the depiction of a bygone showbiz world does hold interest.—RDL

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