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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Oscar Noms are Fine, Paul Thomas Anderson, But Here’s the Real Accolade

January 23rd, 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 our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

The Pinnacle

Phantom Thread (Film, US, Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017) Couturier to the 1950s London elite Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) adds a new lover/model to his ensemble, Alma (Vicky Krieps). Her refusal to be relegated to backdrop, and the interplay of both with Reynolds’ sister/manager Cyril (Leslie Manville) drive the strangely Gothic comedy or arch drama to its sublime conclusion. Jonny Greenwood’s score and (of course) Mark Bridges’ costumes deepen and perfect this work of art about the work of art. –KH

Wormwood (Television, US, Errol Morris, Netflix) Through the eyes of the son who has never let it go, this documentary series probes into the 1953 death by defenestration of military research scientist Frank Olson, long linked to MK-ULTRA, the CIA program of LSD experimentation. Morris continues to expand the formal boundaries of the documentary, here using collage, mulit-cam split screen and dramatization sequences that use the full palette of cinema, from score and composition to the casting of such stellar actors as Peter Sarsgaard, Molly Parker and Tim Blake Nelson. Through these devices he brings forth a profound emotional resonance that could easily have gone missing amid the story’s labyrinthine layers of conspiracy.—RDL

Recommended

Freak Out!: My Life with Frank Zappa (Nonfiction, Pauline Butcher, 2013) Memoir recounts counterculture chaos and personal intrigue that come with her job as personal secretary to the iconoclastic purveyor of hyper-sexualized jazz-rock-classical music from 1967-1970. Evocative inside view of its time and place retains an affection for its central figure even as it punctures his pseudointellectualism and hippie-era chauvinism.—RDL

Love, Nina (Nonfiction, Nina Stibbe, 2013) Young woman’s sparklingly snarky letters to her sister recount her life as a nanny to a literary family. Everyday moments from 80s London become compulsively readable thanks to the writer’s pinpoint comic ear and willingness to make herself look as nutty as anyone else she portrays. With guest appearances from such neighbors as Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller.—RDL

Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live (Nonfiction, Marlene Zuk, 2013) Evolutionary biologist surveys recent research challenging simplistic conceptions of early human existence and their supposed application to diet, exercise and gender roles today. Learn about the great ear wax divide, the anti-AIDS gene the Vikings spread, and the great overarching lesson of science: “uh, it’s complicated.” Although Zuk engages in a bit of straw-manning by poking fun at paleo beliefs as expressed by random internet commenters, those bits are more about comic relief than persuasion, so I’ll allow it.—RDL

Satan’s Town (Film, Japan, Seijun Suzuki, 1956) When cruel yakuza boss Ohba (Ichiro Sugai) escapes from prison, honor compels his underling Hayasaki (Seizaburo Kawazu) to help him get enough money to flee to Hong Kong. Suzuki must have decided to jam as many noir elements as he could into his third film (his first yakuza picture) and that over-fullness feeds his innovation and experimentation in editing and shot composition. –KH

Okay

Harbor Toast: Victory in My Hands (Film, Japan, Seijun Suzuki, 1956) Suzuki’s first film (also known as Victory is Mine) has flashes of interest and some neat framing shots, but it’s just a bog-standard B-picture about a jockey whose brother (a beached sailor) helps him out of a jam when he falls for a gangster’s woman. Bump it up to Good if you’re keen to spot the emerging genius in this factory film beginning. –KH

Proud Mary (Film, US, Babak Najafi, 2018) Taraji P. Henson does a creditable job as the titular Mary, an assassin for Danny Glover’s mob who impulsively starts a gang war with the Russians over a 12-year-old boy (Jahi Di’Allo). But even decent acting chops mean nothing slathered in murky lighting; the lackluster fight choreography and dull score slow this wan attempt at modern blaxploitation way down when it should be kicking out the jams. –KH

Fascinatingly Terrible

A Lady Without Passport (Film, US, Joseph H. Lewis, 1950) Risk-taking immigration officer (John Hodiak) on undercover assignment in Cuba investigates a sinister people smuggler (George Macready) and falls for a glamourous Buchenwald survivor (Hedy Lamarr.) Lewis (Gun Crazy) directs the hell out of a script that takes one weirdo turn after another in its struggle with the sympathy issues endemic to movies with immigration cop heroes. It must also be said that any film where George Macready plays an oily villain becomes automatically good whenever he occupies the screen.—RDL

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Oscar Noms are Fine, Paul Thomas Anderson, But Here’s the Real Accolade”

  1. Hubert Thorsby says:

    The Magnus Archives seems like something you might like. A horror podcast about an insitute that takes statements about supernatural events. Lovecraft meets creepypasta.

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