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!

Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “So It Goes,” “Signal to Noise,” and “Miscellaneous”: Live Through This

Halt and Catch Fire is an interesting way to take the temperature of our current television climate. It is a very, very good show, with all of the hallmarks of a prestige cable drama, and yet it’s nobody’s favorite. Still, we’ve been covering Halt and Catch Fire since the first season, and Marisa has always found something about it that spoke to her personally, so she decided (a little late) to write about the individual episodes as it heads into its final stretch, starting with a quick catch-up of the season so far.

So, how did we get here? The conventional wisdom is that the show got better once it stopped being a Mad Men ripoff and found its own footing. That opinion says more about the watcher than the show itself. To me, it never really bore more than a surface-level resemblance to Mad Men. Sure, it was a period drama in a business setting, and maybe Joe got a slice of the backstory pie that was out of proportion to how much his character warrants. (Joe is the way he is because of…daddy issues? Snooze.) But Joe was never really a Don Draper, because Don Draper is widely recognized as a remarkable talent in the advertising world at the start of Mad Men, and Joe can rarely catch a break. He’s not an anti-hero in the he can’t accomplish anything major, good or bad.

Neither can the rest of them, even though all of the ingredients are there for them to achieve greatness. Together, they have the vision (Joe), programming talent (Cameron), engineering and hardware know-how (Gordon), and business sense/capital (Donna) to really launch a successful tech company—and they often have the right, world-changing idea at the right time. The show keeps bringing them to the precipice of runaway success. And yet, while they’ve managed in three seasons to amass some individual accomplishments, their volatile interpersonal dynamic keeps them from getting to that next level, because they need to work together to get there. And they can’t. But they know that, if they were able to somehow work on a project together and pull it off, the benefits would be immeasurable. But, again, they can’t. But they’re still drawn to each other, until they blow each other up again, retreat to their separate corners, and start the cycle anew. That push/pull dynamic, which has been there since the first season, is the whole reason for Halt and Catch Fire’s existence, and separates it from Mad Men, where Don was affected by the other characters, but not entirely dependent on them.

Continue reading Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “So It Goes,” “Signal to Noise,” and “Miscellaneous”: Live Through This

Greetings, A.V. Clubbers!

If you’re joining us for the first time because of  a recommendation from the A.V. Club‘s Podmass, welcome! We hardly ever really talk about sports or alcohol!

If you liked our discussion of the movies of summer 1997, you might also enjoy:

-Chats about this summer’s blockbusters, including Wonder Woman and Spider-Man: Homecoming. We plan on covering the indie movies of the summer soon, like we did last summer, so stay tuned.

-Talk about what makes us cry or what makes us scared. Feelings, guys. We have them.

-Our reminisces about the movies of previous summers past: 1996, 1995, and 1994, which Rob and Jesse tackled by themselves. I’d like to say these are more concise, but, while the running times are shorter, we talk a lot about Batman Forever.

Or, if you’re more of a reader than a listener:

-We’ve done lists of the best songs by Radiohead, David Bowie, Sleater-Kinney, the Hold Steady, Belle and Sebastian, Los Campesinos, and the Disney machine, in addition to a mega-list about the best songs of the ’90s.

-We have a lot of stuff here about King Kong. More kong-tent than you could possibly read in one lunch break!

Bonus Content!

Here’s a behind-the-scenes follow-up to our podcast about the movies of the summer of 1997: Jesse bought a used copy of Spawn: The Album and sent it to Rob, but, when he opened it, there was only a copy of Silverchair’s Frogstomp inside. Founder in the Wild: Kevin Geeks Out About Kaiju

One Week From Today!
One Night Only!

As you may have noticed, co-founder Nathaniel is a bit of an expert when it comes to all things Godzilla. If you’re in the NYC area, you get the chance to see him smash through the structures of Monster Island ignorance in person ONE WEEK FROM TODAY at Kevin Geeks Out About Kaiju. The event takes place at the Alamo Drafthouse in Downtown Brooklyn, where you can have a warm peanut-butter-banana cookie with your monster mash. Official description:

The two-hour show features rare clips with everything from fan favorite kaiju to obscure creatures, with appearances by smog monsters, flying turtles, giant bird-beasts and more. With footage you won’t find on Netflix, Hulu or YouTube.

You definitely want to head over to the Alamo website to check out the event trailer.

Okay, now that you’ve done that, you probably want in. Details:

Date: Thursday, July 20, 2017
Time: 7:30 pm
Ticket Price: $15
Rating: NR
Run Time: 120 minutes
Format: Digital
Language: English
Age Policy: 18 and up


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Soundtrack: I Still Feel the Same (Anti!)

I know this is going to make me sound like a crotchety old lady who can’t lighten up and have fun, but we need to talk about the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 soundtrack. After the first movie blew up and its playlist hit the top of the Billboard charts, I ranted against the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 soundtrack. As time passed, I worried that, by calling the songs overdone and overplayed, I might have been missing the point. Maybe they were supposed to be like that? In college, when it would get nice out and everyone would sit outside on blankets on the lawn with tiny radios to play music, my friends and I started piecing together what we called The Generic Mix Tape, with those decade-agnostic tracks that transcend musical taste, like “Sweet Home Alabama” or “The Hurricane.” Maybe I’d overlooked some subtle nuance, and director James Gunn had been commenting on those kinds of songs with his Guardians needle drops.

Enter Vol. 2. Nope, I was right the first time. (Warning: The rest contains spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.)

Continue reading Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Soundtrack: I Still Feel the Same (Anti!)

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.