June Entertainment: Binge-watching at its finest

It finally feels like summer is in full swing, and what a wonderful feeling it is.

Though my first year of grad school ended over a month ago (how is that even possible?), it took until last week for me to really feel like summer had set in. Between travels to New York and Texas and finishing up my job, I wasn’t able to decompress from the semester for a while, so I’m very glad to feel the freedom sinking in.

For me, this independence means finding as much time as I possibly can for entertainment purposes. What’s the point of having a degree in Pop Culture Studies if not to shirk all responsibilities to watch a movie, right?

Of course, I’ve still got academia to contend with this summer: I’m trying to spend a little time every day working on my Master’s thesis project, and at some point I’m going to sit down and try to really figure out the PhD programs I’m most interested in. That is a pretty ridiculous thought, but it’s reality.

In my leisure time, though, I’m still making room for plenty of pop culture goodness. Here’s an update on my reading and viewing ventures of late.

Books — Sometime in the last week or two I realized I’d only finished one book since the end of my semester, which put me into a bit of an irrational panic. Since then, I’ve done my best to kick into high gear and get some reading done, especially since I know I’ll be returning to some school-related reading soon enough. I’ve now worked through four more works: Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient ExpressJesse Andrews’s Me and Earl and the Dying GirlJudy Blume’s In the Unlikely Event, and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America Part One: Millennium Approaches (click the links for my reviews of these works). I’m moving onto Part Two of Angels in America today (look for my review of both parts soon), and I’m making myself read at least one Flannery O’Connor short story per day so I can finish her collected works that I started reading in March. Once I’ve finished Angels in America, I’m moving on to my primary reading goal for the summer: John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

TV — The drought of good summer TV is both a curse and a blessing; the fact that there’s so little to watch in real time means there’s a greater opportunity for bingeing on the shows I’ve been waiting to watch for some time. Last week I finished watching the 2008 HBO miniseries John Adamswhich was beautifully acted and produced. During our (very) long car ride to and from Austin, TX, I got started on my loftiest TV goal for 2015: FrasierI’m not sure I can expect to finish all 263 episodes before the end of the year, but I’ve just started season 3, so I think I’m at least making good progress.

Yesterday, my mom and I finished season 1 of Netflix’s Bloodline, a dark and twisty drama about an insanely dysfunctional family in the Florida Keys. The cast is an all-star ensemble, but the acting from Kyle Chandler and Ben Mendelsohn is particularly superb. Here’s hoping these two are recognized when the Emmy nominations are announced next month.

Since finishing Bloodline, which we started one weekend while I was still in school, we’re finally ready to make progress on two shows that have been patiently waiting on our DVR for some time now. First up is season two of Broadchurch, which we started last night. I have high hopes for another good season. After Broadchurch, we have the PBS miniseries Wolf Hall to enjoy, which I also imagine will be a nominated show come Emmy time.

As far as current TV goes, I loved (or maybe hated, based on all those deaths) season 5 of Game of Thrones just as much as the rest of the world, and I think season 4 of Veep was the show’s best yet. I’m looking forward to the premiere of season two of True Detective this weekend, but I was very underwhelmed by the first season, so I’m trying to keep my expectations low (but this cast is making me very happy, so it’s kind of hard). The only other current shows I’m watching are Hannibal and Wayward Pines, which I’m intrigued by. I got bored with Wayward Pines after a few episodes, but last week’s revelation reinvigorated my interest. As for Hannibal, it’s still as strange as ever, but totally worth watching.

Movies — Much like my reading for the summer, I found myself feeling behind on my movie-watching earlier this week, but I’m quickly remedying that fact. Mom and I saw Spy on Monday, and I’m hoping we’ll go see Inside Out soon. The only Best Picture nominee I didn’t see in time for the Oscars this year was American Sniper, mostly because the political controversy around it made me decide to abstain. We finally watched it Wednesday night and were completely underwhelmed and surprised it garnered such acclaim. I love Bradley Cooper and think he’s terrifically talented, but there’s no way he deserved another Oscar nomination over David Oyelowo’s performance in Selma. So that was a pretty big disappointment.

My fun movie news, though, is that my mom and I have established a little movie series of our own that we’re very excited about (maybe we’re easily enthused, but oh well). We still have a collection of VHS tapes, many of which are well known movies that I’ve never seen. Yesterday, we picked out 20 that we need to watch and made a bowl with numbered slips of paper, so our goal is to draw one out every day and watch the according movie. After reminding ourselves how a VCR works, we started last night with Robert Redford’s 1992 film, A River Runs Through It, a movie I’m happy to have now seen and crossed off our list.

Now I’m off to make more progress in my quest to read and watch all the things. Happy weekend!

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