Ken and Robin Consume Media: The Walter Brennan Upgrade
November 22nd, 2016 | 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.
Arrival (Film, US, Denis Villeneuve, 2016) Linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) attempts to decipher the language of just-landed aliens in an expansive adaptation of Ted Chiang’s novella “The Story of Your Life.” Thanks mostly to Adams’ performance, Arrival manages to layer its dense material without feeling too much like ten pounds of movie in an eight-pound bag; Jóhann Jóhansson’s score keeps things on a properly ethereal boil. –KH
Firelands Winery Gewürtztraminer (Wine, Isle St. George OH, 2014) No, I didn’t know there was an Ohio wine country either but here we are. This crisp, fruity white hovers between semi-dry and sweet, making it an excellent accompaniment to seafood, vegetables, risotto, and perhaps even chicken. I suspect the Ohio thing keeps the price down, too; at $11 a bottle this is a damn steal. –KH
I Am Not Madame Bovary (Film, China, Feng Xiaogang, 2016) After her husband reneges on a deal to remarry after a sham divorce to skirt housing regulations, a woman (Fan Bingbing) initiates a series of protests that ensnare countless hapless officials. Deceptively gentle comedy-drama shot within the imposing formal constraints of two extreme aspect ratios: a cropped upright rectangle and an iris.–RDL; seen at TIFF16; now in limited North American theatrical release.
Over the Edge (Film, US, Jonathan Kaplan, 1979) The boredom of a planned community with nothing for its teens to do sets an ordinary kid (Michael Kramer) and his delinquent pal (an alarmingly young Matt Dillon) on a dangerous collision course with authority. A flair for rebellion perfect for a 70s drive-in infuses this social problem drama with explosive energy.—RDL
Atlas of Indian Nations (Nonfiction, Anton Treuer, 2014) National Geographic maps primarily depict contact-era linguistic boundaries and modern reservations; period maps with annotations provide some coverage of the history of major tribes. Not a historical atlas, really, but an adequate survey of the major remaining Amerind peoples north of the Rio Grande. Rich art, and those period maps, keep it in Good territory. –KH
Best of the Badmen (Film, US, 1951, William D. Russell) Union officer on the brink of retirement (Robert Ryan) arranges a safe transition to civilian life for such members of Quantrill’s Raiders as the Cole Younger gang and the James brothers, earning the murderous ire of a corrupt carpetbagger (Robert Preston). I was going to rate this diverting Technicolor nonsense as merely okay, but then Walter Brennan points two six-shooters at a room full of dangerous men and says, “Step back gents, and reflect on the joys of livin’.” So clearly my math was wrong there.–RDL
Sour Grapes (Film, US, Reuben Atlas and Jerry Rothwell, 2016) Documentary decants the story of the wine counterfeiter known as Rudi Kurniawan, who befriended and then defrauded a circle of ultra-rich grapeheads intent on collecting impossible old vintages. Tells its twisting story clearly, and comes this close to presenting a thesis about wealth, status, and desire, before veering away.–RDL
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Film, Sweden, Roy Andersson, 2014) Absurdist vignettes of quiet desperation mostly focus on the travails of two incompetent novelty item salesmen, but also on Sweden’s King Charles XII, who exists and marshals a 19th century army against Russia in the present day. What at first plays as a spoof of Swedish cinematic mordancy eventually reverts to type and becomes regular Swedish cinematic mordancy.–RDL