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Ken and Robin Consume Media: The Beanie Baby Heart of Darkness

July 23rd, 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

The Great Beanie Baby Bubble:  Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute (Nonfiction,  Zac Bissonnette, 2015) Eccentric, broken corporate outsider Ty Warner inadvertently sparks a grassroots speculative bubble with his obsessively designed beanbag creatures. Rich with anecdote and confidently told, this would be essential reading only as business journalism dissecting a briefly omnipresent marketing phenomenon. It’s as a human story, revealing plush, as its denizens call their trade, as a well of inexpressible despair, that turns this into a foundational account of its era.—RDL

Recommended

The Chef Show Season 1 (Television, Netflix, Jon Favreau, 2019) Director Favreau and L.A. star chef Roy Choi, his advisor on Chef, cook, eat, and hang out with pals including David Chang, Robert Rodriguez, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Robert Downey Jr. An engagingly loose paean to food prep with a conversational energy recalling Favreau’s old “Dinner for Five” show.—RDL

The Far Cry (Fiction, Fredric Brown, 1951) Recuperating in Taos from a nervous breakdown, George Weaver becomes fixated on the girl murdered in his summer home eight years previously. A pure portrait of disintegration and obsession, combined with truly frightening alcohol intake? It must be a Fredric Brown noir crime novel! Even if you figure out where this one is going, you’ll stay locked in the car waiting for the crash. –KH

Madball (Fiction, Fredric Brown, 1953) Carnies scheme, kill, and betray to find the loot from a bank robbery carried out by two of their number. Brown switches viewpoint characters with each chapter, twisting his carnival crime yarn ever tighter in this tour de force noir. Almost a Pinnacle for me, and even more unjustly neglected than most of Brown’s work. –KH

La Marseillaise (Film, France, Jean Renoir, 1938) During the interregnum between the storming of the Bastille and the arrest of the king, a band of comrades from Marseilles joins the revolutionary army. Panoramic, human scaled historical epic set during the confusing bit of the French Revolution most cinematic treatments snip out.—RDL

Moonrise (Film, US, Frank Borzage, 1948) Man scorned all his life as the son of a hanged murderer kills a tormentor in self-defense, hides the body, and bonds with the man’s schoolteacher girlfriend. Wildly expressionistic style layers noir visual motifs onto a small town melodrama.—RDL

Sword of Trust (Film, Lynn Shelton, 2019) Exasperated pawn shop owner (Marc Maron) assists an underconfident woman (Jillian Bell) and her no-BS partner (Michaela Watkins) sell an antique sword whose provenance purports to prove that the South won the Civil War. Semi-improvised character comedy for our present period of dissolving consensus reality scores with Maron’s increasing assurance as an actor, and including one of cinema’s best monologues.—RDL

Okay

The Mourner (Fiction, Richard Stark (Donald E. Westlake), 1963) Master heister Parker once again finds himself on the trail of a double-crosser, this time an Eastern European spy stepping out on his masters to rip off a traitorous colleague. The fourth installment in the Parker series goes a touch off-model, with a mid-novel viewpoint switch and Cold War shenanigans.—RDL

A Simple Favor (Film, US, Paul Feig, 2018) Straight-laced vlogger (Anna Kendrick) falls under the spell of a glamorous, devil-may-care fellow mom (Blake Lively), who then disappears, leaving her to care for a bereft son and stunned husband. This is at its most fun when it’s a stylish contemporary gothic, but jeez, pick a tone.—RDL

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