Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Renfield, Air, Patton Oswalt, and Judy Blume

May 16th, 2023 | 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.


Air (Film, US, Ben Affleck, 2023) Hardheaded Nike basketball scout (Matt Damon) puts his career on the line to sign an endorsement deal with a young Michael Jordan, discovering that the truly formidable player is not a competitor at the better-funded Adidas and Converse, but the athlete’s mother (Viola Davis.) Rollicking business procedural with strong ensemble cast bravely commits its visual look to the worst browns, blues and oranges of the 8Os.—RDL

Hunt (Film, South Korea, Lee Jung-jae, 2022) An assassination attempt on South Korea’s dictatorial president touches off a mole hunt that puts the heads of the KCIA’s domestic and foreign branches (Jung Woo-sung, Lee Jung-Jae) at each other’s throats. Reconfigures the events of the country’s tumultuous 80s into a high action, twisty-turny political thriller.—RDL

Judy Blume Forever (Film, US, 2023) Documentary profiles the pioneering YA author, whose policy of depicting the truth for teenagers has made her a target of censorship ever since her breakthrough novel appeared in 1970. Highlights include animated collages and interviews with women who corresponded with Blume as struggling teens.—RDL

The Ninth House (Fiction, Leigh Bardugo, 2019) Secretive Yale society Lethe House pulls strings to admit Galaxy Stern because she can see ghosts, a handy talent given their remit to keep an eye on the other eight Yale magical secret societies. A somewhat start-and-stop narrative and slightly too-overt magic notwithstanding, Bardugo delightfully layers secret magic onto the (mostly) real history and architecture of Yale in a strong sorcerous whodunit. –KH

Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life From an Addiction to Film (Nonfiction, Patton Oswalt, 2015) Engaging memoir describes Oswalt’s rise through the comedy ranks by way of a crippling film addiction in the late 1990s. Part autobiography, part life-lessons, part film brag, never less than interesting and often compelling. —KH


All Four Wimsey Novels of Jill Paton Walsh (Fiction, Jill Paton Walsh, 1998-2014) Walsh completed a Sayers manuscript and then wrote three more detective novels featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and his wife Harriet Vane, in the pastiche tradition that I certainly can’t throw stones at given my Holmesian and Lovecraftian bents. In that tradition, then, they perform adequately although the language (of course) slips from the Sayers standard. The second and third books have close to proper Sayers-style twisty plots (book two borrows a bit from Christianna Brand tsk tsk) although Walsh’s real priority is fanfic about the Wimsey marriage. –KH

Renfield (Film, US, Chris McKay, 2023) Inspired by honest cop Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina), Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) decides to confront his codependent relationship with Dracula (Nicolas Cage). Recasting the Dracula-Renfield relationship through a self-help lens may not guarantee reliable comedy (it does not) but it somehow lets us see a really dangerous Dracula, revealed by and/or despite Cage’s camp and mugging. –KH

The Suspect (Film, US, Robert Siodmak, 1944) When his rage-filled wife dies, a long-suffering tobacconist (Charles Laughton) in love with a supportive younger woman (Ella Raines) faces questions from a supercilious Scotland yard inspector (Stanley Ridgers.) Mix of drama and thriller places film noir themes in an Edwardian setting. Held back by an ending that loses track of the audience desires it has established.—RDL

Not Recommended

The Tall Men (Film, US, Raoul Walsh, 1955) Capable cowhand (Clark Gable) and aspiring cattle magnate (Robert Ryan) vie for the affections of a big-dreaming survivor (Jane Russell) as they drive a herd from Texas to Montana. Love triangle western doesn’t so much develop its central conflict as suspend it for most of the. running time to instead gaze at cows in all their Cinemascope majesty.—RDL

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