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Once Upon a Time… in Ken and Robin Consuming Media

July 30th, 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.

Recommended

The Farewell (Film, US/China, Lulu Wang, 2019) Struggling writer (Akwafina) reluctantly goes along with a family plan to stage a fake wedding for her cousin back in China, so that everyone can gather around her grandmother, whose fatal cancer diagnosis they are keeping from her. Generous comedy drama sticks to real behavior without throwing in nonsense to heighten the stakes.–

Marjorie Prime (Film, Michael Almereyda, 2017) Worried as her mother (Lois Smith) slips into dementia, a brittle woman (Geena Davis) and her doting husband (Tim Robbins) set her up with a hologram (Jon Hamm) that simulates a younger version of her late husband. Hushed, absorbing stage play adaptation sets aside the usual and-then-everything-goes-horribly-wrong structure of AI stories for a dramatic contemplation of memory and grief.—RDL

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (Film, US/UK, Quentin Tarantino, 2019) In 1969, cowboy actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo diCaprio) confronts his fading career, alongside his factotum Cliff (Brad Pitt), and next door to Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Harnessing his meta urges (for the most part), Tarantino — along with his two leading men, who nail their roles — gives us a Western about the end of Hollywood. Only the last act is a little rushed and tight, depending too heavily on voice-over. It seems insane to say this about a 2¾-hour movie, but with an extra hour or so this would be a Pinnacle. –KH

Uptight (Film, US, Jules Dassin, 1968) Days after the MLK assassination, the alcoholic associate of a fugitive revolutionary succumbs to the temptation presented by the $1000 police reward for his whereabouts. Color-saturated pressure cooker of a movie transposes The Informer to the black militant movement, with which it entirely sympathizes.—RDL

Good

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (Film, US/UK, Quentin Tarantino, 2019) Buoyed by his loyal ex-stuntman (Brad Pitt), an alcoholic TV actor (Leonardo di Caprio) faces career decline; meanwhile Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) enjoys life’s everyday pleasures in 1969 L.A. Tarantino conjures magic in the first two acts, a Jacques Demy inspired tone poem of cinematic cool, before an abrupt gesture yanks us back into a greatest hits of shock flourishes past.—RDL

Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (Film, US, Tim Skousen & Jeremy Coon, 2016) Three Mississippi 12-year-olds began filming a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1982; they finished all but one scene (the flying wing) by 1989; in 2014 they reunite (sort of) to complete the movie. Amiable and earnest documentary follows this ludicrous story, sucking the viewer into its demented gravity without ever really having much of a reason to get made — in a way, apropos. –KH

Okay

Sky On Fire (Film, HK, Ringo Lam, 2016) Security officer (Daniel Wu) working for a murderous biotech magnate goes rogue to help a farmer get his sister a revolutionary cancer cure. I’d love to be able to make an argument for Lam’s final film, and there’s something interesting going on with the staccato pacing of exposition in its first act, but it never quite gels.—RDL

One Response to “Once Upon a Time… in Ken and Robin Consuming Media”

  1. Jacques de Villiers says:

    Hats off to the Criterion Channel and Barry Jenkins for introducing me to Uptight. What a film!

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