Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Slow Horses, American Fiction, Anatomy of a Fall, The Holdovers

February 13th, 2024 | 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) Basketball guru Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) pursues Michael Jordan for third-ranked shoe company Nike. What could have been a leaden produpic soars thanks to Affleck’s willingness to invest in a multi-beat story (providing many of the comic beats by playing self-involved Nike CEO Phil Knight) and to wisely give Viola Davis her head in crafting the film’s moral center, Deloris Jordan. The result is more miracle play than produpic, with Vaccaro as John the Baptist and 80s needle drops as psalms.—KH

American Fiction (Film, US, Cord Jefferson, 2023) Literary novelist Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (Jeffrey Wright) creates a fake “street” identity to sell a pandering novel as his mother’s (Leslie Uggams) Alzheimer’s puts stress on his family. Repeatedly blunted satire nestles uneasily in a gently sad family drama, but Wright pulls the film through on the strength of a brilliant, low-simmering performance. Cristina Dunlap’s effective cinematography deserves a nod as well.—KH

Anatomy of a Fall (Film, France, Justine Triet, 2023) Tightly wound writer (Sandra Hüller) faces a murder trial that strains her relationship with her sensitive, vision-impaired young son (Milo Machado Graner) when her resentful husband takes a fatal plunge from the top floor of their chalet-style home. Realist courtroom drama takes full advantage of the freewheeling structure of French criminal proceedings to flesh out its study of a marriage on the brink.—RDL

Fair Play (Film, US, Chloe Domont, 2023) Hedge fund analysts and surreptitious lovers Emily and Luke (Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich) hit the emotional rocks when one of them is promoted. Crackling character beats show their dog-eat-dog financial careers stripping the humanity from both; great acting from the duo prevents the melodrama from overweighting the careful verisimilitude of Domont’s Wall Street mise en scene.—KH

The Holdovers (Film, US, Alexander Payne, 2023) Bilious prep school history teacher (Paul Giamatti) bonds with a grieving cafeteria supervisor (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) and a smart, rebellious student (Dominic Sessa) when ordered to supervise the few students staying over for Christmas break. Empathy rises from misanthropy in a dramedy revolving around a trio of winning performances and a love of the American New Wave.—RDL

Slow Horses Season 3 (Television, UK, Apple+, Will Smith, 2023) A former embassy guard’s quest for justice draws River Cartwright (Jack Lowden), Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman) and the other Slough House exiles into a high body count MI5 internal struggle. This season pulls the lever on the thriller switch, bringing greased-rail pacing to the serialized TV format.—RDL

The Vietri Project (Fiction, Nicola DeRobertis-Theye, 2021) As she reaches the age when she might inherit her Italian mother’s schizophrenia, a Californian former bookseller’s travels take her to Rome and a search for a mysterious bibliophile. Echoes of Eco set the stage for a quest to reconcile the protagonist’s dual, dueling national identities.—RDL


Everything Goes Wrong (Film, Japan, Seijun Suzuki, 1960) Young malcontent (Tamio Kawaji) melts down over his mother’s relationship with a thoughtful but married business executive. High-strung drama positions itself as a juvenile delinquent picture in order to question the genre’s anti-youth hysteria.—RDL

Fanfare of Love (Film, France, Richard Pottier, 1935) A pair of unemployed musicians pose as women to get hired by an all-female nightclub orchestra. A fun situation farce mostly notable as the ultimate source, by way of its 1951 German remake, for Some Like It Hot.—RDL

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