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Ken and Robin Consume Media: The Post With Three Hands

January 31st, 2017 | 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 our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

The Pinnacle

Wylding Hall (Fiction, Elizabeth Hand, 2015) Another (and one of the best) of Hand’s effortless blendings of art and the uncanny, in this case a folk-rock band encountering a faerie in 1972 during a lengthy summer stay at the titular Hall. There is nothing twee or forced about this short novel, and everything horripilating and oblique and terrible and wonderful: think Fairport Convention opening for Arthur Machen. –KH

Recommended

The Abominable Mr. Seabrook (Comics, Joe Ollmann, 2017) Canadian cartoonist Ollmann wields a deft, dark brush and a disapproving, dour view of William Seabrook in this thorough biography of the once-famous bestselling travel writer, drunkard, sadist, psychic experimenter, and cannibal who hung out with Aleister Crowley, Aldous Huxley, Man Ray, James Joyce, and J.B. Rhine, to hit just the highlights. Ollmann can’t quite bring himself to like Seabrook, but his Can-conventionality winds up giving the biography a needed backstop for Willie’s weirdness to bounce off of. –KH

Death of a Cyclist (Film, Spain, Juan Antonio Bardem, 1958) Guilt grips a mathematician and his married lover after they kill a cyclist in a hit and run incident. Jagged cutting, compelling compositions and sleek 50s modernist design energize this taut existential noir.—RDL

Girl in a Band (Nonfiction, Kim Gordon, 2015) Memoir from Sonic Youth singer/bassist covers a childhood overshadowed by a taxing older brother, her art and music, and the divorce that broke apart her family and band. While the breakup album is a rock n roll tradition, Gordon’s established writing chops make the memoir format an even sharper stake to drive through the heart of cheating rat Thurston Moore.—RDL

Hello My Name is Doris (Film, US, Michael Showalter, 2016)  Left with possibilities on her hands after the death of her mother, an eccentric woman (Sally Field) conceives an infatuation for a much younger co-worker (Max Greenfield.) Mix of drama and cringe comedy challenges our willingness to identify with a character whose objectives can only end in disaster, instead of merely feeling sorry for her.—RDL

Illyria (Fiction, Elizabeth Hand, 2007) Cousins Madeline and Rogan Tierney, scions of a theatrical lineage, fall in love in 1970s Yonkers. In this tight, intense novella the only magic is that of love and the theater, although little touches of “the fey” lurk in the wainscoting. –KH

Jackie (Film, US, Pablo Larraín, 2016) In a series of flashbacks framed by Theodore White’s (Billy Crudup) post-assassination interview, Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) arranges her husband’s funeral and his legacy. Larraín’s protean direction and Portman’s superb performance pull what began as a squishy-safe HBO biopic up into Recommended country despite the tinny dialogue. Somehow Larraín has made a hagiography about the cynical work of making a hagiography. –KH

Marina Abramovic: the Artist is Present (Film, US, Matthew Akers, 2012) Documentary reviews the career of groundbreaking performance artist as she undertakes a marathon event involving prolonged silent eye contact with volunteer participants at her MOMA retrospective. At times moving, occasionally funny and sweet, with more focus on Abramovic’s surprisingly accessible backstage personality than on abstract artspeak.—RDL

Radiant Days (Fiction, Elizabeth Hand, 2012) Time-shifting story (written for YA?) of a graffiti artist in 1978 Washington DC meeting Arthur Rimbaud in 1870 lives and dies by Hand’s gorgeous language. Not quite enough myth or secret history for hard-core Powersians, but plenty of art and setting for Hand-philes. –KH

Good

The Ghost Ship (Film, US, Mark Robson, 1943) Junior officer’s first assignment aboard a freighter discovers that his captain’s mania for authority extends to murder. Val Lewton-produced nautical thriller imports the weird atmosphere of his non-supernatural horror films but suffers from a couple of classic script issues, including characters who bang on and on explaining its theme.—RDL

The Love Witch (Film, US, Anna Biller, 2016) In her narcissistic quest for the ideal lover, a foxy witch combines Helen Gurley Brown’s philosophy of man-catching with overly potent love potions. Obsessively detailed pastiche captures early 70s exploitation movie style from film stock to the era’s very specific sort of stilted acting. At two hours, this is overlong for what it is, and there are 20-30 minutes of easy cuts here.—RDL

Moana (Film, US, Ron Clements & John Musker, 2016) The ocean sends Polynesian Disney princess Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) on a quest to save her people by finding the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) and, of course, herself. As is standard, the villainous Tamatoa (Jemaine Clement) has by far the best song. Visually lush and narratively undistinguished, this rote Disney self-actualization flick does at least demonstrate how high the “average” bar is set by the studio now. –KH

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