Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Queen’s Gambit, Sabrina, and Fran & Marty Talk About Stuff

January 19th, 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.

The Pinnacle

The Queen’s Gambit (Television Miniseries, US, Netflix, Scott Frank, 2020)  Child genius (Isla Johnston) Introduced to chess and substance abuse during her time in an orphanage grows up into a killer player (Anya Taylor-Joy) mowing down an array of male opponents on her way to an epic confrontation with her cold-eyed Soviet nemesis. From gorgeous production design to a star-making performance from Taylor-Joy, to the stunning achievement of making not just a few but many chess games cinematically riveting, this Walter Tevis adaptation excels on every level.—RDL


Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother (Nonfiction, Barry Sonnenfeld, 2020) In a series of well-honed, often hilarious, always unsparing, anecdotes, the director of Men in Black and Get Shorty recounts his adventures in film and the upbringing that made him into the industry’s most notorious bundle of neuroses.—RDL

Pretend It’s a City (Television Miniseries, US, Netflix, Martin Scorsese, 2021) Following a train of thought not unlike the one that led to a certain podcast, Scorsese turns his enjoyment of hanging out with acerbic writer and speaker Fran Lebowitz into seven episodes of delightful snark on such erudite topics as book ownership, talent, transit, and the then-and-now of New York City.—RDL


Mank (Film, US, David Fincher, 2020) While bedridden, Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) looks back on his drunken, cynical career and attempts to justify it by writing Citizen Kane. A movie about the evils of the Big Lie committing a Big Lie itself, a movie about idiosyncratic lefty genius that tries to hollow out Orson Welles (a downright elderly Tom Burke) while riding his coattails — the flaws of this film don’t stop with the stagy, tell-don’t-show, talky screenplay (by Fincher’s dad). But Fincher loves shooting in black and white, and Amanda Seyfried (as Marion Davies) like Oldman often overcomes the material. The period-style score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross swings along, too. –KH


The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season (Television, US, Netflix, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, 2021) Sabrina and gang take on a succession of eldritch horrors intent on cosmic destruction, including one of deeply familiar octopoid aspect. Idiot plotting and time-killing musical numbers foretell a structural waywardness leading to a classic instance of series finale letdown.—RDL

The Cotton Club Encore (Film, US, Francis Ford Coppola, 1984 / 2017) Stardom-bound cornet player (Richard Gere) becomes an unwilling errand boy for Dutch Schultz (James Remar) and falls for his girl (Diane Lane) as ambitious hoofer (Gregory Hines) woos a singer at the eponymous, mob-run nightclub. Coppola again shows his interest in scenes over narrative, in a film with a way longer run time than any of the 30s movies it homages.—RDL

Sylvie’s Love (Film, US, Eugene Ashe, 2020) Amid the cool glamour of 50s New York, an aspiring TV producer (Tessa Thompson) catches feelings for the stardom-bound sax player (Nnamdi Asomugha) who takes a day job in her dad’s record store. Lush romantic drama switches throughlines for its final act, a feat more readily accomplished in prose fiction than within the unforgiving confines of the screenplay format.—RDL

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