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  • Ken Ilgunas

Barbenheimer stunk. Watch these instead.



Crumb (1994, USA) Crumb and his weirdo brothers make this documentary into a sort of Northeastern Gothic. I haven’t seen many of Crumb’s illustrations (though I’ll never forget this one), but I respect him as an artist, largely because he didn't care who he offended or what his critics thought. In the doc, Crumb wonders if there’s any artistic value in the vile. Maybe not all the time, but when someone has the skill and the ability to scope the darkest corners of their psyche, there’s something for all of us to learn. B+


Wild Tales (2014, Argentina) This is for anyone who’s fed up with the nonsense of modern life (cold-blooded bureaucracy, arsehole drivers). Wild Tales is dark, but satisfyingly dark because the characters get to act out all of our most twisted and unmentionable urges. It’s a cross between the "hypothetical scenario" of a Black Mirror episode and the don't-give-a-crap-anymore violence of Falling Down. B


Society of the Snow (2023, South American) This is an update on the Alive book/movie from a South American perspective. Just as it’s hard to mess up a pizza, it’s hard to mess up a survival movie. It’s not flashy or challenging, but it checks all the boxes. Watch with a warm blanket and a (veggie-only) pizza. B  


Return of Martin Guerre (1982, France) Depardieu was excellent as a charming, virile, enigmatic beast, but perhaps the best thing about the film was the set—it looked like the set designers went all-in on building a Medieval French Village. B


Paterson (2016, USA) An odd little film, essentially about living artistically. There was nothing overtly surreal, yet the film felt like it took place in a parallel universe. There was nothing overtly sinister, but I kept thinking something terrible was about to happen. Perhaps that was purposeful. It’s a movie about poetry, yet I found myself wondering if the bus was going to explode. A- 


American Nightmare (2024, USA) This miniseries is slickly paced with some crazy twists. It’s sensational and lurid, and yet the real-life characters were drawn compassionately. I wanted more answers by the end, but it’s better to leave the viewer asking for more than giving too much. B


On Body and Soul (2017, Hungary) A touching film about an autistic outcast and a disabled man, who begin to coexist in each other’s animal dreams, as deer. B+ 


Oppenheimer (2023, USA) Oppenheimer did a fine job capturing the moral sufferings of the bomb creators, but the plot was weighed down by a gigaton of unnecessary and convoluted politics. It seems when our genius directors (i.e., Scorsese & Nolan) reach a certain age or a certain level of prominence, they cease working alongside tough editorial voices—one of whom should have urged Nolan to cut the three-hour running time in half. C




I am exploring a possible book project, so I find myself not merely down a rabbit hole, but in a many-chambered warren. Such chambers include identity politics, critical race theory, fourth-wave feminism, male malaise… I have read The Right to Sex, What Do Men Want?, For the Love of Men, Woke Racism, The Identity Trap, Cancelling of the American Mind—all with a broad sense of inquiry, ever-vigilant scrutiny, and good-natured amusement.


Yascha Mounk's The Identity Trap helps me understand the historical roots of cancel culture / identity politics. Mounk traces it back to Michel Foucault and an African American named Derrick Bell, born in 1930. I also couldn’t put down the Jungian Iron John by Robert Bly, who claims that men ceased having healthy relationships with their fathers and their "father-mothers" (a group of men who guide the boy into adulthood) when the world industrialized.




The Atlantic - Jonathan Rauch demands an apology from the U.S. government for its past vilification of LGBTQ+ people. Sign me up.


NY Review of Books - A funny review of Werner Herzog’s memoir.




This month I was featured on the Hunt Quietly Podcast, #103. We talk about my thoughts on Barbie, Grizzly Man, how unfun it would be to be a bear, how men need to talk about their love lives, how I ended up in Scotland, as well as some of my old favorites—trespassing and the right to roam.


Who Killed JFK? - I take pity on most conspiracy theorists, but, uh, it certainly looks like the CIA was behind the assassination. And that pisses me off. I’d like to know why there isn’t sustained pressure on the government to declassify 15,000 records (11,000 of which are CIA records). And I’d like to know why the mainstream media isn’t responding more to this amazing podcast and coming up with their own questions. The obvious answer is that the CIA is guarding its reputation (and existence). I agree with host Rob Reiner—America can handle the truth, and the truth would, in the end, heal.




I read Chuck Klosterman’s The Nineties, largely about Gen X, and one of my favorite finds was this radio hoax, in which a fake author claims to have written a rock n’ roll book called Rock, Rot, and Rule. Klosterman makes the point that Gen X wasn't just jaded and ironic; they were passionate and sincere, too.


When giving a talk in Cleveland, I stopped in at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I had a surprisingly wonderful time. In the Foster Theater, there’s a 15-minute “Power of Rock” doc produced by Jonathan Demme. Prince’s guitar solo to “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was unforgettable.


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