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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Parasite, Jojo Rabbit and a Suppressed Transmission

October 29th, 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.

The Pinnacle

Parasite (Film, South Korea, Bong Joon Ho, 2019) Hardscrabble family spins a series of deceptions to win positions in a tech tycoon’s household. Deliriously unpredictable, masterfully executed thriller of slow-boiling class tension.—RDL


Buoyancy (Film, Australia, Rodd Rathjen, 2019) Impoverished teen Chakra (Sam Heng) leaves his Cambodian village for work in Thailand but gets enslaved on a fishing boat. Gripping drama of character and situation fully digs into both, becoming a modern-day Jack London story complete with the sea, exploitation, and brutal violence. Sam Petty’s sound design exacerbates and completes the experience. –KH

Jojo Rabbit (Film, US,Taika Waititi, 2019) As the Allies close in on Germany, a naively fervent ten-year-old member of the Hitler Youth (Roman Griffin Davies) whose imaginary friend (Waititi) discovers that his mother (Scarlett Johannsen) is harboring a Jewish teen (Thomasin McKenzie.) Broad, biting comedy and bubbling energy create that most unlikely of combinations—a profoundly humane satire.—RDL

Mr. Jones (Film, Poland/UK/Ukraine, Agnieszka Holland, 2019) Curious about the Soviet economy,  Welsh journalist Gareth Jones (James Norton) follows a lead to Ukraine where he witnesses Stalin’s terror-famine. After a long takeoff, the movie gets to the USSR and becomes a wild blend of Carol Reed and David Lean, going from the vile decadence surrounding the New York Times’ Walter Duranty (Peter Sarsgaard, beautifully odious) into the white nightmare around Stalin. –KH

Monstrum (Film, South Korea, Jong-ho Huh, 2018) Exiled but loyal royal guard risks political treachery to investigate rumors of a monstrous creature. Classic adventure moments abound in a movie unabashedly intent on delivering the funnest version of every plot turn.—RDL

Once Upon A River (Film, US, Haroula Rose, 2019) In 1978 Michigan, teenage Annie Oakley-wannabe Margo Crane (Kenadi DelaCerna) heads up the Stark River to find her mother. Rose (and her cinematographer Charlotte Hornsby) pulls off a tour de force of tone, balancing and adjusting natural beauty with good and evil, growth and fear. DelaCerna commands the screen in every scene despite barely having any dialogue; John Aston makes a superb foil as a dying misanthrope. –KH

Vast of Night (Film, US, Andrew Patterson, 2019) While everyone in Cayuga, New Mexico one night in 1959 attends the high school basketball game, late night DJ Everett (Jake Horowitz) and precocious switchboard girl Fay (Sierra McCormick) discover a strange — dare I say suppressed — transmission. The word “bravura” could have been coined to describe this film, and so much (including the small-town dynamic) works so well that I feel like a churl kvetching about a slight misstep in the ending. –KH


Svaha: the Sixth Finger (Film, South Korea, Chae-hyŏn Chang, 2019) Opportunistic cult-busting pastor (Jung-jae Lee) investigates a Buddhist sect engaged in a covert demon hunt. Bump up the rating of this twisty supernatural thriller to Recommended if you want to see a flick that precisely parallels a GUMSHOE scenario.—RDL


8: A South African Horror Story (Film, South Africa, Harold Hölscher, 2019) When Lazarus (Tshamano Sebe) shows up at the farm inherited by hapless white folks, he fixes their generator and befriends their daughter Mary (Keita Luna) so of course he’s got a demon in a bag. “Single Black Handyman” doesn’t deliver much but rote plot ratchets and gratuitous misogyny on the way to a wildly colorful but nugatory ending. Bump it up to Good if the African lore and setting really move you. –KH

The Great Green Wall (Film, UK, Jared P. Scott, 2019) Documentary follows Malian singer-songwriter Inna Modja across the Sahel collaborating with local musicians on an album to raise awareness and funds for the titular wall, a planned reforestation belt from Senegal to Djibouti. It provides a 101-level overview of the region’s various interlocked crises from an unabashedly activist point of view; those seeking a close or hard look at the challenges and promises of reforestation (or full versions of the songs) should look elsewhere. –KH

The Hypnotist (Film, Finland, Arthur Franck, 2019) Olavi Hakasalo reinvents himself as Olliver Hawk, Finland’s missionary hypnotist — but what of his relationship with longtime Finnish President Kekkonen? What of it indeed? In this mix of recreation and archive, of self-aggrandizement and shrugging guesswork, somewhere there could be a gripping documentary about the relationship between politics and hypnosis and showmanship. Not here, though, in what my friend Emily describes as “the world’s most conspiratorial ASMR video.” –KH

Integrity (Film, HK, Alan Mak, 2019) Financial crimes agent (Lau Ching-Wan) races the clock to save a case against corporate-level cigarette smugglers after his whistleblower (Nick Cheung) flees to Australia. Police procedural with an overactive soundtrack takes its time getting to the twisty bit.—RDL

The Laundromat (Film, US, Steven Soderbergh, 2019) An insurance scam impels a determined widow (Meryl Streep) to investigate the world of shell companies, as embodied by shady Panama-based lawyers Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Fonseca (Antonio Banderas.) Soderbergh’s knack for adding magic to quotidian moments partially buoys this effort to apply The Big Short’s dramatized essay format to a parallel instance of high-level financial chicanery. Chiefly interesting as a study in contrast between two highly mannered performances: Streep, fussy and joyless, Oldman fully committed to over-the-top hilarity.—RDL

The Moneychanger (Film, Uruguay/Argentina, Federico Vieroj, 2019) Somewhat ambitious and totally venal, Humberto Brause (Daniel Hendler) oozes to the top of 1970s Uruguay’s money laundering and offshoring business. Somewhat ambition isn’t enough to drive this lackluster film, though, despite a game cast and a suitably grainy color palette. Like its main character it gets partway somewhere but doesn’t have nearly enough fun along the way. –KH

Paradise Next (Film, Japan, Yoshihiro Hanno, 2019) Two gangsters — taciturn, cool Shima (Etsushi Toyokawa) and smirking punk Makino (Satoshi Tsumabuki) — hide out in rural Taiwan with bartender Xiao En (Nikki Hsieh), who eerily resembles a dead girl linked to both. Look, I’m as fond of beautiful yet oblique emotional collage as the next Taiwanese director, but you’ve got to give me something we can agree is a plot before you’re getting out of Okay. –KH

One Response to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Parasite, Jojo Rabbit and a Suppressed Transmission”

  1. Christopher Hatty says:

    Didn’t enjoy the last 1/3 or so of Parasite. Part of it was that my father in law, who is a film guy but likes depressing European cinema and not violent Asian cinema, was next to me, and part of it was what I refer to as “Three’s Company style discomfort”. But I am glad Robin did!

    Did like Jojo Rabbit.

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