All posts by Marisa



There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!

T2 Trainspotting, Legion, and the Line Between Style and Something Else

Since the release of T2 Trainspotting, we’ve been exploring the work of Danny Boyle. In our conversations here, as well as elsewhere in other corners of the internet that pay as much attention to the director as we do, the question has come up of just how much of a journeyman director Boyle is. We go more in depth in our Danny Boyle podcast, but it seems like he has a lot of the hallmarks of your typical director-for-hire. He works fast, and often, and in a lot of different genres. But then there’s the question of his style—with lots of flashy, music-video touches—and whether that counts for or against him in the general artistic scheme of things.

To me, Boyle has always been something more than a journeyman. That’s because, for all of his directorial flourishes, he always makes me feel something. T2 is essentially a get-rich-quick-scheme movie, but it really got the feeling of getting older, and the (sometimes misguided) nostalgia of what it’s like to think back on your younger years and the doors you’ve shut behind you as you age—along with the ways that younger people (mostly Veronika) feel so untouched by that kind of regret.

Even the showier parts of the first Trainspotting hit me on some sort of emotional level, even if it’s for a quick laugh (“the worst toilet in Scotland”). I’ve never done heroin, but I got it when I saw Renton sink into the floor to the calm, dulcet tones of Lou Reed.

I know that being able to hit the emotion button might not actually be the line between journeyman and auteur, but I was thinking about Boyle when I was watching another style-rich bit of media: FX’s Legion.  I quite enjoyed Legion.  Like everyone else, I liked the vibe, the sort of future-as-imagined-in-the-mango-and-avocado-colored-1970s look to everything. There were groovy astral planes and out-of-nowhere dance sequences and one beyond-amazing performance by Aubrey Plaza that really went for it.

But, as much as I appreciated it, at the same time it didn’t make me feel anything. The kitchen explodes around David’s head, and, yeah, it looked cool. (They must’ve thought so, too, because they show that moment a million times in a million different ways.) They break out into Bollywood or Bond-ian song or dance, and, yeah, it was neat. But nothing really made me stop dead in my tracks and say, “Oh, damn!” In a show that, in the parlance of Buster, really gets off on being withholding, when the season was over there was no revelation as startling as the big reveal in Danny Boyle’s Sunshine. After the credits roll, I thought, “Oh, this is what people feel when they accuse my favorite directors of being all style with nothing going on underneath.”
Did I feel any differently about David’s character at the end of the season than I did at the beginning? Not really. I understood more what his deal was—after all, every character explained what his deal was to every other character, over and over—but I wish it was more deeply felt. There was one intriguing moment when he looks over at Lenny and says, “Who am I without you?” It could’ve been really powerful, but it was tossed off in favor of more mutant/D3 conflict I didn’t really care about. Even the central romance happened so quickly, I didn’t really believe at first that Syd’s intentions were genuine. I could go for a big, swoony mutant romance, but I just didn’t feel it, and all the pristine, mid-century-modern white rooms in the world couldn’t get me to buy into it 100%.

Legion by FX 1×01 Scene : David Dream / Dance (Serge Gainsbourg) from Chromatic BloodBloodBlood on Vimeo.

And let’s go back to those dance sequences as an example. Legion showrunner Noah Hawley told Vulture that the musical number in the first episode of Legion (above) was supposed to signal how David and Syd are kicking off their big romance. (“What signals falling in love?” he told the website. “Well, it makes you want to sing and dance!”) And yet watching it, I don’t feel swept away. I feel analyzing the depths of David’s mental illness. I feel nothing from Syd. Boyle has a departing-reality-and-falling-in-love musical number, too. It’s in A Life Less Ordinary, one of his worst movies. In our podcast, we talked about how the musical number itself is hampered by the fact that Cameron Diaz can’t sing. And yet, despite all of its flaws, I can feel the love. I’m charmed in some way. It’s a fantasy, but it’s not a fever dream. (Sadly, it is not online, but if I were Diaz, I’d make sure it stayed off Vevo, too. If you’re really curious, fast-forward to the one-hour mark here, but you have to play it at 1.25 speed to get it right. Or just ask Jesse to watch it with you.)

Then again, I’ve always had my problems with Noah Hawley. There’s just something that’s so not fun about him. I was really into the first season of Fargo, but the second season really fell off this cliff into slow-moving ponderousness that sucked all the air out of the series. (But, ugh, I’m back on board for S3, because he’s borrowing Boyle’s ace-in-the-hole Marisa-bait, Ewan McGregor.) If Boyle could squeeze in a silly anti-Catholic karaoke-heist scene into his meditation on middle age, couldn’t Hawley have breathed a little bit more life into his no-touching romance? Get a bit of the old Pushing Daisies spirit in there?

I know that Legion comes with its own backlash insurance, where you can’t really watch an individual episode and think, “Well, that was a lot of nothing,” because it’s all a big slow-burn puzzle, right, and you have to see it through to the end to find out if you liked the previous episodes. Now that I’ve watched it through to the end (and enjoyed quite a bit of it despite my griping), I can say that it did not all build to one amazing ending that made every head-scratching moment worthwhile. (It’s weird that the show can make an ice-cube-man in an astral plane make sense, but it’s not clear why Melanie won’t let David go rescue his sister. I also remember one episode where Jesse was all, “Wait, why are they all camping in a forest?”) So I know not everyone shares my impatience with Hawley, but these types of cul-de-sacs and re-reveals hit my personal pet peeve button of having episodes that always run long, even when there’s not really enough meat in them to justify it. For that matter, when it ended, Jesse was like, “I think I would’ve gotten just as much out of this if it was a two-hour X-Men movie,” and I don’t really disagree.

In that way, Legion has a lot in common with a show I like very much, but don’t love: Mr. Robot. It also indulges in long episodes,  when I think cutting them would make them stronger. It also has a heightened style that distinguishes it from anything else on TV. Both shows have a certain emotional remove. And, most importantly, both shows are both smart, but seem to think that they’re genius.

It’s personally frustrating to me, because if these shows focused less on the smart and more on the heart, I could see them joining my very favorite things ever. Until then, I’m glad I have Danny Boyle movies to remind me that heightened style isn’t always so empty and cold. Founder In the Wild: Kevin Geeks Out About Monkeys!

As you may have noticed, co-founder Nathaniel is a bit of an expert when it comes to monkey movies. If you’re in the NYC area, you get the chance to see him monkey around in person ONE WEEK FROM TODAY at Kevin Geeks Out: Monkey Madness taking place at the delightful Nitehawk Cinema. Official description:

The show celebrates some of the strangest tropes including: Gorillas vs. Nazis, Women who participate in forbidden monkey love, Chimps in Horror Movies, a defense of Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, a retrospective on Kong sequels (authorized and unofficial), plus the use of monkeys in art-house cinema and propaganda films.

Thursday, March 23
9:30 pm
Nitehawk Cinema
Williamsburg, Brooklyn

In the meantime—or if you’re surfing over here from the Nitehawk page/event—get a preview of Nathaniel’s primate expertise by checking out all the kongtent he’s written in the run-up to Kong: Skull Island.

The Best Disney Songs of All Time

No matter your age, you probably hear Disney songs as part of your first exposure to real music. Those songs have stuck with you, for better or worse. But which ones were better, which ones were worse, and where to you fall on the “Feed the Birds” love/hate spectrum? did a deep dive, pre-Moana, into the Disney song canon.

The Top 20 Best Disney Songs of All Time (So Far)

Our Beloved Outliers

The Podcast: Disney Songs

Best of 2016!

The year that was 2016 is over, and not a moment too soon. Do better, 2017. Until then, we’ll try to block out the worst moments of last year by reliving the best.


The Top 6 Best Albums of 2016

The Album of the Year: Lemonade by Beyoncé

The Podcast: The Best Music of 2016

Track Marks: “Shut Up and Kiss Me” by Angel Olsen, “Berlin Got Blurry” by Parquet Courts, “I Can’t Stand You Anymore” by Sleigh Bells, “A 1,000 Times” by Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam, and “Cranes in the Sky” by Solange


The Top 20 Best Movies of 2016

The Podcast: The Best Movies of 2016


The Top 12 Best TV Shows of 2016

TRACK MARKS BEST OF 2016: “Berlin Got Blurry” by Parquet Courts

Non-story of 2016: How good some regular ol’ dude-fronted rock bands were. (That is non-news of such little consequence I’m surprised the New York Times didn’t cover it.) I quite enjoyed the albums of Car Seat Headrest, Public Access T.V., Modern Baseball, and, of course, Parquet Courts.

Parquet Courts is a little different from the others in that half the time they seem like they’re just screwing around. Well, they always seem like they’re at least partially screwing around, but half the time it feels like the joke is on me. But then, when they get the chance to focus up, they come up with something like “Berlin Got Blurry,” and I want to shake them and ask them why they don’t write songs like that all the damn time.

It has, like the best Parquet Courts songs, references to food—fries, hot dogs, ketchup, and, since it’s about being a foreigner traveling in Berlin, döner. But between the travelogue of treats, the band drops really elegant bits of wisdom (“It feels so effortless to be a stranger/But feeling foreign is such a lonely habit”) or really well-crafted lines (love the internal rhyming of “Kind ears captive to the beers you’ve purchased”).

It’s not deep, but it’s upbeat, moving along at a jaunty pace. Like being a stranger in a strange land, it’s fun for a short time.


This song has a lot going against it. It’s by that one guy from that one band, plus another guy (but not the guy) from that other band; surely it can’t be as good as the output of their real groups, right? It also has an uninspired title, similar to that song from Llewyn Davis or that catchy one-hit wonder. Worse, when you load it into iTunes, that title comes up as “A 1000 Times,” which I always read as “a one thousand times.”

When I actually stop and listen to the song, though, I don’t think about those things anymore. I don’t think about anything. “1,000 Times” brings me to a dead stop, and all I can do is feel longing. Rarely am I attracted to songs because they are merely beautiful; this one is pretty, to be sure, but also sad and lonely, though not exactly down for the count.

The speaker of the song is dealing with an unrequited love, the kind that has you wandering past someone’s house without consciously deciding to. I get that, but I’m mercifully long past my unreturned-crush days. Even so, the opening lines “I had a dream that you were mine/I had that dream a thousand times” can be felt by anybody who has something just out of reach, aka everybody on the planet.

Again, universality isn’t a requirement for me to like a song. But there’s just something so gripping about this one. You can feel the mix of hope and defeat. You get the sense of moving on (“I changed my crowd, I ditched my tie”) without really getting over. I know by now it’s a cliché to say that 2016 was a rotten year, but it’s one we’re closing the books on as we take its traumas with us. And one heartbroken voice, singing “The 10th of November, the year’s almost over,” is going to come with me into 2017. Founder in the Wild!

The turkey is done. The doors have been busted. The Friday has been blackened. Now ’tis the time to move on to the season of holiday specials. To that end, founder Nathaniel will be giving a presentation on comic strip-related holiday specials at a very merry edition of Kevin Geeks Out at the Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn.


Official description:

For the Christmas edition of the KEVIN GEEKS OUT show, comedian Kevin Maher and his guests look at their favorite Holiday Specials, from the obvious to the obscure. This two-hour video variety show will stuff your stocking memorable moments from movies and tv specials.

You want to check out the new Alamo Drafthouse. (Drinks an food at your seat! Rosé shakes!) You want to see nerds presenting clips from different holiday specials, recalling your youthful favorites and introducing you to the weird ones that passed you by. You want to find joy and light in the world. You want to see Nathaniel in some kind of festive garb. You want to get tickets.

If you’re investigating this page becuase you found the ticketing site for Kevin Geeks Out and thought, “Hmmm,, what is that?”—good! Our obtuse, SEO-befuddling site title has somehow worked on you. You can see what we’re all about, holiday-wise, with this podcast about our favorite holiday entertainment.

What ‘The Girl on the Train’ Gets Wrong About Westchester

The novel The Girl on the Train takes place across the pond in the good old U.K., but the move adaptation imports it to Westchester County, NY. It’s a pretty good match for the subject matter, in that there is a train that runs alongside some big freaking houses, which is basically the main building blocks you need for the story. Since Westchester is my turf, I’m in charge of WC fact-checking,  just like I was with the X-Men movies. Here’s what they messed up.


You Can’t Live in Ardsley-on-Hudson

At least I don’t think you can. It my 20 years of living in Westchester, I never met anyone who said they were from Ardsley-on-Hudson. Ardsley-on-Hudson is more of a hamlet than a village. There is a college (that uses a Dobbs Ferry street address), a country club (home to Westchester’s only curling team), and, yes, a Metro-North station, but that’s about it. There’s no mayor. There’s no elementary school. If you look for Ardsley-on-Hudson real estate, you’ll find houses in Irvington.

It’s funny, because if the movie had transplanted the events of The Girl on the Train to any other “-on-Hudson” town, they’d be fine. Irvington-on-Hudson is a place, which is also just called Irvington. Hastings-on-Hudson is a wonderful village, and you can get away with calling it Hastings. But the village of Ardsley—which is a real village with its own mayor, school system, mailing addresses, and the like—and Ardsley-on-Hudson are two different places, and they’re in two entirely separate locations. Sadly, Ardsley has no Metro-North station of its own, so many times people hop on the train assuming the Ardsley-on-Hudson stop is close enough, only to wind up with an expensive cab ride. The New York Times even made this mistake.

That stuff about being a routine baby factory, though, is pretty spot-on.


For updates on the seedy crime that’s being investigated throughout the movie, the characters often turn to TV staton New York 1. NY1 is unavailable in the county. We’re a News 12 Westchester region all the way.


The Train Itself

Sometimes, the Metro-North seats looked a little off to me. Sometimes, though, they were dead on, so it could’ve just been the shooting angle. But the fact that I could see enough of the seats to scrutinize them is a fundamental mistake in the movie. If Rachel was really commuting at a time that would be convincing for someone who had a real job in a city, all those seats would be taken. And forget sitting in the same window seat in the same car every day—if she was getting on around Ardsley-on-Hudson, she’d either be squished in the middle, or standing.

And One Last Note

Ardsley is a teeny, one-square-mile village, and Ardsley-on-Hudson is less than that. It’s not odd to me that few movies are set in any of the Ardsleys. As far as I know, there are only two: The Girl on the Train, and Unfaithful.

In the cinematic world, “Ardsley” is shorthand for one thing: murderous infidelity. In our Tim Burton podcast, we talk about how the suburbs are usually only given one treatment in film: the whole American Beauty, materialistic souring-of-the-American-dream/seedy-underbelly thing. You go from zero to The Ice Storm in 60 seconds. (Though The Ice Storm took place just over the border in Connecticut.) That’s not to say that it never happens, or that it never works. (Cheever, man.) But I do hope that someday filmmakers find a different color to paint the suburbs in the way Burton does.


Watching the Rio Olympics—Maybe Just Don’t?

I have watched exactly one night of the Rio Olympics. And, after doing so, I cannot put myself through another. Some of my problems with the Games are with the events themselves, most of them have to do with NBC broadcast, and the two combine to make the whole thing unwatchable for me; call me a curmudgeon, but I’m not the only one who thinks so, since Olympic ratings are down (although that might be because of streaming).

“But Marisa,” you say, “you never watch sports. Obviously there’s no way you’d ever be into the Olympics.” Wrong. I can muster enthusiasm for sports spectating once every couple years, because: 1) Olympic stories are often inspirational, and I’m not made of stone. I like me a good tear-jerking backstory. 2) There is something genuinely thrilling about seeing people at the peak of their athletic prowess being the best at what they do. Even I can appreciate that. 3) I have good memories of watching the Olympics with my family as a kid—together, we’d all ignore sports regularly (except for my Dad who is a Giants fan and would bother us all by hogging the TV during football season) and then get together to get excited about gymnastics or ice-skating. 4) I can certainly get into things we watch together-but-separately and tweet about; if I can do it for Grease Live!, which has source material that I actively hate, I can easily do it for the Olympics.

Basically, I want the Olympics to be like the Oscars. Sure, the broadcast has problems—the same problems every year, which will probably never be fixed—but we can all hold our nose and watch because we can enjoy it together. Yet, while I know some of you are having a good time with this year’s games, this is not like the Oscars. These are the reasons I just can’t have fun with it, not even with a saucy wink.


Continue reading Watching the Rio Olympics—Maybe Just Don’t? Founders in the Wild

There’s a new ARG that’s sweeping the nation where you have to try and find the founders in the wild. Here are some cheat codes.

Nathaniel Will Be at Kevin Geeks Out

12036970_1673214976245526_3521092882304315489_nNathaniel will be featured on Kevin Geeks Out, Brooklyn’s favorite video variety show/salon of nerdy ideas. The theme of the evening will be Star Trek, and, as KGO’s resident Planet of the Apes expert, Nathaniel will talk about the optimism of Star Trek vs. the pessimism of Planet of the Apes as two poles of ’60s sci-fi. It goes down at 9:30 pm on Wednesday, July 13 at the Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn. BUY TICKETS HERE RIGHT NOW, SUCKERS.

Jesse on CBC Radio

JH film criticJesse was invited to chat on the CBC’s “Day 6” radio program about the sexism inherent in pre-release Ghostbusters bashing, because he’s woke as shit. LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE, SUCKERS.