Music

I went to Sundance again and it was great

I have sadly neglected my blogging duties of late, but I’m working to correct that issue by blasting through a few important bits of news concerning my current life.

Two weeks ago, I returned from my third trip to the Sundance Film Festival, and as my title might tell you, I enjoyed my time. The weather was the worst it’s been in my experience, but a few feet of snow hold no power against my will to see films and celebrities.

Without going into unnecessary detail about all parts of the trip—if that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for, I’m more than happy to share at another time—but I’ll fill you in on some of my favorite bits.

To begin, here’s the full list of the films I saw during our eight days:

  • Lion (seen in Salt Lake City)
  • Jackie (seen in Salt Lake City)
  • Dayveon
  • Lady Macbeth
  • The Discovery
  • Ingrid Goes West
  • Thoroughbred
  • Colossal
  • Lemon
  • Walking Out
  • Marjorie Prime
  • Band Aid
  • Burning Sands
  • Novitiate

So, over the course of the festival, I saw twelve films, attended three panels, and waited in a lot of lines. Below, I’ve given you some basic information about the films I most enjoyed and some other weird highlights of what happens when you go to a film festival in the mountains during some major snow. Enjoy!

The Films

First of all, I’m happy to say I had a very positive viewing experience at Sundance this year. Though I wasn’t completely blown away by any single film (like I was with Whiplash in 2014 and Manchester by the Sea in 2016), I also didn’t have any excessively negative reactions (I’m looking at you, Listen Up Philip and Wiener-Dog).

So here were my general favorites of the festival:

  • Dayveon, a realistic and quiet film about a young boy in Little Rock joining a gang. This is one to look for if you’re a fan of Moonlight.
  • Lady Macbeth, a Thomas Hardy-esque story of a young woman who marries a wealthy older man and has no qualms about using her new wealth and comfort to get exactly what she wants (featuring murder, sabotage, and a cute cat).
  • The Discovery, a film in which sci-fi and indie blend perfectly to create a world in which the Afterlife has been proven, and the national suicide rate has skyrocketed. This one will mess with all your expectations and leave your head spinning.
  • Thoroughbred, a dark comedy à la 90s classics like The Craft or Jawbreaker in which two wealthy high schoolers conspire to murder a parent. It’s all kinds of fun.
  • Lemon, a truly inexplicable film about a struggling actor and his odd life, featuring a song about matzoh balls that you will honestly never forget.
  • Band Aid, a quirky little comedy about a young married couple who decide, when counseling doesn’t help, to start a band and turn their fights into songs.

Overall, I’d say Lady Macbeth, The Discoveryand Band Aid were my real favorites. Thankfully, The Discovery makes its way to Netflix on March 31, and Lady Macbeth is set for a summer theatrical release.

Other Sundance Happenings

As I mentioned, I attended three panels during the festival, one of which provided me with a free copy of the first season of the Sundance TV drama Top of the Lake (I’m still very proud of winning this, if you can’t tell). But the real fun of Sundance for me—which I’m sure you know by now—is the people-watching, specifically since the people of Park City tend to be of the famous variety. This year, I again saw/met/stood awkwardly next to about 70 people of note. I won’t recount all of those sightings for you, but here are some of the best experiences. Check out the slideshow below for evidence.

  • I got to speak to Abbi Jacobson of “Broad City” and she was wonderful.
  • I was trapped outside a bathroom and nearly lost my spot in the waitlist line because Sam Elliott was standing next to me and I was apparently a threat to his well-being.
  • I was twice in close proximity to Robert Redford.
  • Laura Dern is a beauty and has great hair.
  • Standing next to Matt Bomer is like being next to a living Ken doll, except he’s nicer and more attractive and eats apples on-the-go.
  • I watched Dianna Agron get a severe scolding from a police officer because she didn’t use a crosswalk.
  • Laura Prepon is kind of scary and looks alienesque close-up.
  • Height-related matters: Jason Segel walked past me on the street and wasn’t as tall as I’d imagined. Tim Robbins is crazy tall. And Nicholas Hoult is taller than expected. Important facts!
  • Though traffic was too bad to arrive to the Women’s March on time from a film screening, I did get to rally with the remaining marchers. It was an emotional and encouraging experience.
  • I saw Gael García Bernal more days than I didn’t see him. At least five different days. And he is incredibly beautiful, though I have no photographic evidence to prove it. He wears cute glasses and a little headband and sits very still while watching movies. Maybe I’m too involved?
  •  I was very upset I hadn’t seen Peter Dinklage and was doing my best to find him. Then, for my last two film screenings, I literally sat right behind him. I defended him from a weirdo who kept hitting him with her coat. It was very exciting.
  • I stood in a waitlist line near Ryder Strong from “Boy Meets World” and caught him talking about me to his friend. It was weird and fun.
  • I ran into Nigel Barker several times because he was just, like, around (???), and I can say there’s significant reason he was a male model.
  • And finally…on my last night of the festival, I attended a concert featuring none other than Tony winner Daveed Diggs (of Hamilton fame), and on his thirty-fifth birthday, no less. And he was kind enough to take a picture with me.

I’m not sure I ever really thought I’d attend the Sundance Film Festival, but to have attended 3 times as a 25-year-old is not something I take for granted. Again, I am incredibly grateful for the people who have helped me get there (multiple times) and for the festival living up to my magical memories year after year. I hope to return many more times and share it with the people I love.

Until next time, Park City…

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2016 Reading List #23: Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

I feel slightly ashamed that it’s the first of May and I’ve only completed 23 books this year. I guess I should preface that by saying I’m a fairly accomplished reader, but the need to teach freshman English and finish my MA thesis and take an oral exam kind of got in the way of my normal reading time. My lack of literature classes is also a player in this–no required reading means fewer books read, but freer time to spend.

Since finishing my thesis defense about 5 weeks ago, I’ve been working my way though Voyager, the third book in the Outlander series. I’ve hit the 500 page mark, but since the book caps out at 870, I’ve still got plenty to read. And since this is such a long book, I think it fair to supplement my reading with other things, which is why this post is even happening.

Since I’ve been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack repeatedly for months now, I figured preordering Hamilton: The Revolution was a smart idea. The book contains the show’s libretto accompanied by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s annotations and supplementary interviews and text detailing the preproduction process and insight into the show and the people who’ve made it happen.

I made an odd decision (not sure if I’d call it a mistake, but I was annoyed with myself) to send the book to my home address, where I wouldn’t be going for nearly 2 weeks, so the poor book lay untouched. Once I got home to it, though, we instantly bonded, and I set aside all other reading projects in favor of this one.

The book delivers everything you could ask for in terms of the behind-the-scenes knowledge of the show (it could only be more perfect if it was accompanied by a DVD of the full Broadway production). For whatever reason, I cried like every five minutes of reading. There are certain times when such a reaction is expected (like from the middle of Act Two to the curtain call), but I was oddly emotional for the whole experience.

And experience really is the right word for what this book offers. We don’t all have the luck (or money) to attend the hottest-ticketed show on Broadway, but offers like this one give a glimpse into the world of Hamilton. Now that I’ve finished reading it, I’ll resume my enjoyment of the soundtrack, and continue to hope I’ll win the lottery and afford great seats to this show.

When the only things in life that matter are Hamilton and Manic Pixie Dream Girls

Hello, world.

It’s March. What? I haven’t written anything very substantial here since my Sundance reflection, but I can’t believe more than a month has gone by since then. Apparently teaching and writing a thesis require more of my attention than blogging.

Speaking of those things… yes, my life these days is about scrambling through the last bits of writing on my thesis (defense is March 24 and I’m currently sitting on 101 pages, no biggie) and teaching English to two classes of college freshmen. Both are at times infuriating and exhilarating. I’m incredibly thankful for a semester that allows me two things to focus on that inspire me, but boy, do I yearn for a day to just watch TV without feeling guilty.

Thankfully, I’m enjoying a bit more free time this week with spring break. Since I pride myself on my reading and watching skills, here’s a quick update on the things I’ve been enjoying lately.

Books–Because I’ve been preparing for my oral exam that comes with defending my thesis, lots of my reading this year has just been rereading. I’ve also done a pretty significant number of plays lately. I love reading plays anyway, but I think this choice is more representative of my short attention span as I start to worry about the other things I should be doing rather than recreational reading.

As for things I’ve really liked, I completely loved reading the Collected Sonnets of Edna St. Vincent Millay for my oral exam. I’ve never been a poetry reader, so the fact that I enjoyed this so much feels like real character development. I also really loved reading Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play ‘Night, Mother and definitely bawled my way through the final 10 pages when I finished it yesterday morning. I have plans to read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go now, which I’ve already started, but I’m having a hard time concentrating with the other things floating in my head. Hopefully I’ll make more progress soon. As of today, I’m 20 books into 2016, so I think I’m doing okay regardless.

TV–Since finishing Pushing Daisies and season two of Transparent in February, I haven’t started a new streaming show (again, too many other things to be concerned with). I’m also in a happy place with the TV that’s currently airing–I’m keeping up with Bob’s Burgers, Girls, Last Man on Earth, Jane the Virgin, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Broad City, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson. The upcoming returns of Outlander, Veep, and Game of Thrones also have me ridiculously excited, so I’m hoping time moves a little quicker in April.

Movies–Starting the year at Sundance certainly helped my film-watching this year; I’ve already seen 36 new (to me) films so far. Nothing recently has been too exceptional except for The Witch, which is just so fun and weird you can’t help but enjoy it. I also rewatched Room last week after first seeing it in January and enjoyed it even more the second time. I’ve been thinking about it often since, and I think that says a lot about its quality.

Now that I’ve written this, I’m realizing that life has been pretty quiet for me lately–except when I’m blaring the Hamilton soundtrack in my car, which is often. If all goes well, I’ll be writing again in a few weeks, having finished my thesis (!!!) and enjoying the downward slope toward graduation.

See you soon!

1989 Nashville hopes and wildest dreams (ah, ah)

My dearest taylorswift,

I’ve never missed one of your tours. I’ve screamed and cried and danced through 9 of your shows since 2009, when I attended the Fearless tour in Louisville with my mom and high school history teacher. What a journey it’s been.

I came to love you first because I loved the Jonas Brothers (so glad you’re all friends again, by the way). Suddenly there was this ethereal blonde girl who sang country songs that somehow resonated with my life. I saw you as someone who could perfectly express all these feelings I’d had or somehow knew even if I’d never been in your situations. Your songs made my normal, small town life feel bigger somehow.

Fearless was the album of the end of high school for me. Love Story was riding to an away football game on one of the first chilly September days. Fifteen was (and still is) the song that brought tears to my eyes when I thought about how tragic and beautiful adolescence can be. Change was the song that made me want to spin around and jump and feel ready to take on the world. The Best Day was the song I sang in front of 300 of my peers at a summer camp when I really missed my mom.

Speak Now was my freshman year of college. Sparks Fly was dancing around my dorm room with my best friend who was just as excited and freaked out by college as me. Dear John was the song I blasted and belted along to on long car rides. Never Grow Up was like the hug I needed when I felt homesick.

Red was all the stress and craziness of the end of college. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together was the song I danced to through the aisles of the bookstore where I worked before going back to school. 22 was (obviously) the anthem of my 22nd birthday. All Too Well was the song that gave me chills the first time I listened to the album. It’s still my favorite you’ve ever written.

1989 is the album of the beginning of my adult life. It’s getting me through grad school and applying to PhD programs. It’s the only CD that’s been in my car since October 2014. Welcome to New York was the sparkly song that accompanied my roommate and me on a visit to New York last December. Blank Space and Bad Blood are the songs I’ll probably still be dancing to by the time album six rolls out. Shake It Off gets me through the days when I think school might kill me. You Are In Love is everything I hope to have in a relationship.

Your songs have made me me. Your music has been the soundtrack of my life for six years. When I’m feeling especially overwhelmed or sad or tired or lonely, you’re always the person I can turn to for comfort, a crazy dance party, or anything in between.

This weekend will be a weird one for me. It’s the first time you’ll be in town and I don’t have tickets. My status as a lowly grad student means I haven’t gotten a paycheck for five months (which is just the worst, right?) and my budget hasn’t exactly been big enough for concert tickets. One of my best friends and I have been desperately trying to figure out how to get ourselves into one of the Nashville shows just to be part of the audience. Any chance you could help us out?

lovelovelove,

Brenna

November.

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Though November is pretty much my favorite month of the year, it’s also an undoubtedly busy time. I’m eleven weeks into the semester, which means that things are generally winding down, but also that finals and exams and presentations and papers are all happening. This is really the first time I’ve been behind in any classes, which is a pretty good accomplishment (and probably a reason why I shouldn’t be sitting here writing this instead of reading Hamlet). Sometimes you just need a break.

 

TV  — Thankfully, I’ve still managed to keep up with my pop culture fun to a certain extent. On Monday, I finished my viewing of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” because Netflix was kind enough to add the ninth season just a few days after I finished season 8. I thoroughly enjoyed myself watching thisshow, and I’m very excited FX is already showing a preview for next season.

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As for my other TV viewing habits, I’m just trying to keep up with the influx of fall shows. I’ve only added two new shows to my schedule this season: ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder” and The CW’s “Jane the Virgin.” “How to Get Away with Murder” provides the same melodramatic fun that I love about “Scandal,” and “Jane the Virgin” is adorable and funny and totally worth watching. I’m also keeping up with returning shows like “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” “Scandal,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “Reign,” and “America’s Next Top Model.” I’m waiting until Thanksgiving/Christmas break to binge the new season of “Homeland” with my mom. We’ve seen the first two episodes, but decided it would be easier to wait than to try to catch up little by little, so don’t spoil things, please!

Movies — As of yesterday, I’ve completed my goal of watching 125 new movies in 2014! I haven’t seen many in theaters recently, apart from Gone Girlwhich you really all should have seen by now because it’s wonderful. I’m definitely looking forward to the onslaught of awards season movies that are starting to roll out now; I’m specifically excited for Birdman, Nightcrawler, The Imitation Game, Foxcatcher, Wild, Into the Woods, and seeing Whiplash again. As for the movies I have seen recently, some favorites have included Obvious Child, In A World…, and Scream 1, 2, and 3. Netflix doesn’t have Scream 4 right now, which is fairly frustrating. I also had the distinct pleasure of watching the notoriously bad Showgirls recently which was certainly an experience.

Books — Most of my reading has been focused on completing my reading assignments for class, which is pretty understandable considering I’m in an English Master’s program. My biggest projects there have been Hamlet (which I’m behind on) and Antony and Cleopatra (which our professor removed from the reading list, but since I’m already three acts in, I want to finish it). I’m also working away at reading lots of Edgar Allan Poe short stories since I have a class specifically dedicated to Poe. For my final class, most of my reading has been from a very helpful book called Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide that goes in-depth on various critical theories used to analyze literature. It’s great for lit nerds, not so great for the casual reader.

For my own funIMG_0667.JPG reading, I’ve only done three noteworthy reading projects of late, but all of them are worth mentioning. Early in October I bought and read Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, which I enjoyed (if you’re interested, I’m on Dunham’s side in this “sexual abuse” situation, but I also don’t want to start a debate). Though it wasn’t my favorite read ever, there were many laugh-out-loud moments and I thought it was a very true representation of what Dunham has always claimed to be. I also read Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot in October in my quest to read all the important drama literature. The play is frustrating and sad, like lots of those written in the absurd style. Currently, I’m reading Amy Poehler’s Yes Pleasewhich is of course entertaining and funny. I expect to finish it this weekend, so look out for a post with my review.IMG_0683.JPG

And to cap it all off, Taylor Swift’s newest album, 1989, was released last week, meaning that I won’t really be listening to any other music until at least January. My favorite songs at the moment are “Blank Space,” “Style,” and “I Wish You Would.” But I basically adore the entire album because Taylor is a goddess and I’ve worshiped her for six years.

Now, back to the real world. It’s the weekend and after spending the afternoon at our homecoming football game, I know I should be thinking about completing the homework that’s been accumulating on my to do list. Right now, though, the idea of curling up in a blanket on the couch watching movies for the rest of the night sounds so, so much better. A girl can dream, I guess.

 

 

 

 

 

Let me indulge — the end of the Jonas Brothers

Okay, readers, it’s highly likely that this post will be uninteresting to you, but I kind of don’t care. This is more for me than it is for anyone else because I’m feeling sentimental and emotional and I need to put it somewhere.

The Jonas Brothers announced yesterday that they’ve officially split as a band after canceling a tour a few weeks ago just days before it was meant to begin. This announcement wasn’t altogether unexpected, but to those of us who’ve stayed (Nick Jonas and the Administration, anyone?) since the beginning, it’s still a heartbreaker.

I first saw those Jonas boys on February 24, 2008 with my best friend and two other good friends. I bought tickets to the concert knowing enough about the band that I went out bought the CD “Jonas Brothers” and listened obsessively until the show. I called myself a fan, but that night changed things. It became a real thing in my life. I cared about these boys. I knew them. I never picked a favorite because I felt that it would be unfair. I suddenly became an expert on Type 1 Diabetes because Nick has it (yeah, it’s weird, I know). They changed me.

That first concert (and the planning leading up to it) brought my best friend and I together. We’d been good friends before then, but this bonded us in a new way that I’ve never shared with anyone else. We spent far too many hours discussing the Jonas family, imagining what it would be like to meet them, how we would fall in love and everything would be perfect. We were the craziest of sixteen-year-old fangirls, and we loved every minute of it.

Katie and I also suffered because of our devotion to these boys, but I think it only served to bring us closer and make us more loyal to the band. We quickly became ostracized when we started wearing skinny jeans and talking about the Jonas Brothers all the time (yeah, I think we were probably kind of obnoxious, but we also were totally on top of the skinny jean trend, so take that, bullies). As far as I’m concerned, other people could hate us all they want to if their only justification was our infatuation with a boy band. High school is a cruel place, but we had something that made being made fun of totally worth it.

Our second Jonas show was July 23, 2008, when I was fortunate enough to win a meet-and-greet pass. Katie didn’t get to come with me, which is probably the biggest regret of this whole experience, but it was a magical moment. It all happened so quickly but I loved every second of it. I have a hard time imagining that there will ever be a time when my photo with the Jonas Brothers won’t be on display at some location in my home.

From that point on, we were just known as the Jonas girls, which was totally fine. We flipped out any time the boys had new girlfriends (sorry, Selena, we totally hated you) and obsessively watched their live chats and YouTube videos. We spent hours on Jonas secrets. We hung their posters on our walls. We bought and memorized their new albums immediately. We even went to school on the day “A Little Bit Longer” was released wearing the exact same outfits (Jonas concert Ts, skinny jeans, and green converse — sorry, world).

It seems like 2008 and 2009 were filled with Jonas moments, whether in our own discussions or going to concerts or watching them on TV. In 2010, we saw Nick on his solo tour and the Camp Rock 2 tour, after which the boys took a long break to pursue different aspirations. But fear not, world, we didn’t give up on them; Katie and I drove to New York City last summer with my mom to see Nick on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and we finally got to live out our fantasies by sitting with the H2$ softball team at a game and going backstage after the show to meet Nick. Obviously, our dedication didn’t falter.

When the boys announced this spring that they’d be doing another tour together, I was ecstatic. Because we’re growing up, though, Katie spent the summer across the country interning, so I bought myself a ticket to see the tour in Indianapolis where I could join up with friends I’d met thanks to my beloved band. Being in that environment again after three years brought all those old emotions back; I was once again the crazy fangirl I’d been at sixteen, but I was disheartened to see the venue so empty compared to the shows of a few years ago. Most fans have stayed loyal, but there was definitely something lost in their years away.

The worst part of that show, though, was experiencing it without Katie. Before then, we’d been to six Jonas-related events together, and considering all we went through together for this band, it felt a bit surreal to be doing it without her. For the first time I cried at a Jonas concert, multiple times. I’ve never been a crier, but seeing them again coupled with missing my best friend brought out my emotions. (I was kind of a hot mess during “When You Look Me in the Eyes.” I don’t want to talk about it.)

Despite my emotions, it was so exciting to see the boys performing together again, and the promise of an upcoming album made it seem like I could relive some memories that have been the best experiences of my life. The announcement of the band’s split killed those hopes, though I don’t blame the Jonases for this decision. It makes sense that they’d go their separate ways, but did it have to happen at such a promising time? The sixteen-year-old in me is still hurt.

With the knowledge that these boys are done (for now) making music together, I just have a few things to say. First, thank you to my mom, who spent far too much money helping me live out these dreams. You never acted like I was crazy for wanting to follow a boy band around the country, so thank you. I absolutely wouldn’t be the same person without these experiences.

Katie, thank you for being my best friend and experiencing this all with me. Sometimes I can’t believe all the embarrassing things we did for these boys (remember the scrapbook? And the “green” photoshoot?), but I’m so glad we did. When we celebrate our best friend-iversary on February 24, we must toast to all those crazy decisions we made for this family. These boys will always be what connects us, and for that, I’m very grateful.

Finally, to Kevin, Joe, and Nick, thank you thank you thank you. You boys gave me my best friend and some of the greatest time we’ve ever had together. You inspired a sense of adventure in me that has changed the way I live and allowed me so many life-changing experiences. My memories of you may fade, but the feeling I get when I look back on all of this will never go away. Thank you for shaping who I am and giving me the best childhood I could have ever asked for.