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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Pagan Fertility vs. Eurotechnocrats

July 16th, 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.

Recommended

DIE Volume 1 (Graphic Novel, Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans, 2019) Former RPG group, scarred by an event from 1991, reluctantly reunites, casting them once again into a realization of the dark fantasy setting they used to game in. From its familiar player types to the heroes’ conscious immersion in a meta-text, presents a shock of familiarity by depicting the culture from within,—RDL (Full disclosure: the fifth chapter is named after a Thing I Always Say.)

Monsoon Diary (Nonfiction, Shoba Narayan, 2003) Memoir explores the role of food in the author’s life, from childhood in Kerala to university and marriage in the US. Sparkling, unfussy style evokes the rhythms of family life and the delights of cooking and eating.—RDL

Picnic on the Grass (Film, France, Jean Renoir, 1959) When the handlers of an artificial insemination proponent eyeing a post as European President (Paul Meurisse) turn his engagement to a stern Girl Scout leader into a rustic photo op, the primal forces of fertility send him into the arms of a vivacious vintner’s daughter (Catherine Rouvel.)  Satirical magic-realist romcom finds Renoir once again sending up the French aristocracy, now in its postwar technocratic guise.—RDL

Where I Was From (Nonfiction, Joan Didion, 2003) Blending social history with family memoir, Didion trains her distinctive asperity on her home state of California, placing its many transformations within a long tradition of rugged federal subsidy acquisition.—RDL

Good

Booksmart (Film, US, Olivia Wilde, 2019) On the night before high school graduation, inseparable pals (Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever) decide to make up for lost partying time and embark on a quest to find the hot bash all the cool kids are at. Gender-reversed answer to Superbad concentrates on affirming its leads, giving the choice comic business to a cast of adult sharpshooters (Jason Sudeikis, Jessica Williams, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, Mike O’Brien.)—RDL

Chef (Film, US, Jon Favreau, 2014) In the wake of a viral meltdown, a stifled chef (Jon Favreau) rediscovers his love of cooking on a food truck road trip. A barely-sketched family bonding arc acts as the serving platter for a tribute to professional food service.—RDL

Nine Wrong Answers (Fiction, John Dickson Carr, 1952) A chance meeting impels Bill Dawson to impersonate the nephew of a rich sadist; true love, radio drama, and a deadly wrestler are only some of the curves in wait. In lieu of a series detective, Dawson becomes the Hitchcock-style protagonist of this thriller mystery. Carr occasionally footnotes likely wrong answers by the reader to keep the mystery boiling, but he’s just not comfortable enough in the thriller vein to skate past the “wait what” questions. –KH

A Woman’s Face (Film, US, George Cukor, 1941) A cynical blackmailer (Joan Crawford) undergoes treatment from a dashing plastic surgeon (Melvyn Douglas) to repair her lifelong facial burns, then finds that her aristocratic lover (Conrad Veidt) expects her to bump off an inconvenient young heir for him. Cukor classes up a script several shades more lurid than his usual assignments.—RDL

Okay

Stranger Things Season 3 (Television, US, Netflix, The Duffer Brothers, 2019) As Hopper (David Harbour) makes himself an obstacle to the young love of Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Elle (Millie Bobby Brown), the Mindflayer assembles a gooey new weapon against them. The pastiche becomes broader and more intrusive as it embraces the corny side of 80s mainstream moviemaking, devaluing the characters.—RDL

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