Daniel Radcliffe

2016 Sundance Film Festival: Another Magical Adventure

Hello, world! I started writing this post one week ago, as I sat in the Salt Lake City airport waiting for a flight to bring me home. This week has been the perfect time for reflecting on the magic of the 8 days that I spent in Utah. What a journey it was!

Between January 19 and January 27, I saw 10 feature films, 8 short films, watched a season of television, attended 4 panels, and basked in the presence of more than 70 celebrities.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is life at the Sundance Film Festival.

Now that I’ve returned home, where I’m in the thick of my final semester of grad school and my first semester as a course instructor, I’m excited to share with you a bit of insight into the joys of returning to Sundance.

So, without further ado, here are the highlights of my second Sundance adventure.

We flew out on Tuesday, January 19 and arrived to Park City amid a snow storm (thanks to our MVP Le Bus driver, Larry, for delivering us safely) that evening. The real adventuring didn’t begin until the following morning, when we ventured to Main Street in Park City, the unofficial hub of Sundance. We also made this journey in more serious snow, but it at least made for some lovely photos of the Egyptian theatre.

IMG_1880.JPGFor the rest of Wednesday, we made our way back down the mountain to Salt Lake City, where we had the freedom to roam and enjoy a movie and meal on WKU’s dime (which is now officially my favorite activity). We spent time in a great, cheap little theater run by the Salt Lake Film Society where I was able to see both Spotlight and Room over the course of the day. I also wandered past the monstrous Mormon temple and through a bit more of downtown Salt Lake before we went back up to Park City. I was so happy for the chance to squeeze in another couple of the Oscar-nominated films, and it felt like the perfect way to pre-game for the festival.

Thursday, January 21

Thursday the 21st was the first official day of the festival. I began the day with an early trip to the box office, where I had the bad fortune of being the first person in line not to get tickets to the festival’s opening night film, so that was a big bummer. That’s one I’ll have to catch later, and based on others’ recommendations, it’s well worth it (the movie is Other People, for reference).

However, Thursday wasn’t a total bust. After attending the festival in 2014, I felt a little disappointed at never having seen Robert Redford, who founded the festival 32 years ago. Luckily, a few of us caught sight of him leaving the festival’s opening day press conference and were able to say a quick hello before he left (my mom’s comment on this occurrence: “you got to see him smile?” because we all know what a gift that is).

That evening, after being unable to purchase tickets earlier, I attempted the e-waitlists for both of the opening night films: the documentary Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You and the feature film Other People (no luck in either case, sadly). However, for the second film, I happened to arrive at the theater just as its cast did, so I was able to begin my favorite hobby of stargazing. At the allowance of a very kind festival volunteer, I was able to sneak into a very close spot, but I’m going to blame my crappy and/or nonexistent photos on my excitement at the revelry.

My favorite moment of the night, though, was witnessing a lovely little Friday Night Lights reunion between Jesse Plemons and Jurnee Smollett-Bell. There was lots of excited yelling and hugging and discussion of upcoming jobs. And no one but me (and those involved) seemed to appreciate it! What a nice moment.

Celebrity sightings: Robert Redford, Adam Scott, Jesse Plemons, Judd Apatow, Maude Apatow, Molly Shannon, Jurnee Smollett-Bell

Friday, January 22

Since I was unlucky in screenings on Thursday, Friday was my real start to the festival, and I began my time attending the Shorts Package 1 screening at the Egyptian in the morning. During my previous experience, I neither attended a shorts package nor any screening at the Egyptian, so this was a great way to build my Sundance experiences, and the shorts themselves were quite enjoyable overall. My favorites were Killer, a story about a boy who masturbates for the first time with some unexpected and serious repercussions, Maman(s), a beautiful Senegalese film about a young girl facing the reality that her parents are imperfect, and The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere, a joyful (and weirdly weepy) documentary about a winless Japanese racehorse.

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Norman Lear and Lena Dunham during the first Cinema Cafe panel

A big part of my reasoning for attending this screening specifically was my desire to be close to Main Street to get a good spot in line for the first of the Cinema Café panels: a conversation between Norman Lear and Lena Dunham. Thankfully, my plan was successful, and I got to spend a delightful hour in the company of two of TV’s most influential figures.

Later on Friday, I happened to run across the cast of Other People again, and got to have a lovely little chat with Jesse Plemons, who, after I told him how much I loved his season of Fargo, stopped and walked over to me to talk about it. We agreed that Kirsten Dunst was wonderful and discussed his reunion with Jurnee from the previous night. And as he started to walk away, he turned back and asked my name, shook my hand, and said how nice it had been to meet me. So, we’re friends now. Definitely.

I also spent a weird minute or two following Nick Jonas up Main Street, because, as a long-time Jonas Brothers fanatic, there’s really no other appropriate response to finding one of them. I was also lucky enough, that night, to get into the world premiere of Goat, the movie Nick was there to promote. Goat is both a physically and psychologically brutal portrayal of fraternity hazing that speaks to larger issues of masculinity and male identity. Nick Jonas and Ben Schnetzer both gave stand-out performances as the film’s lead actors. After seeing this film, I think it’s safe to say Nick will continue to surprise the entertainment world with his talents. Also, in a weird turn of events, I ended up exiting the screening of Goat with Lena Dunham and the Apatows (because somehow we were always in the same places), so I told Lena quickly about my thesis project. She vocalized her support and gave me a friendly arm rub, so I think I’m on the path to success.

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Director Andrew Neel, stars Nick Jonas and Ben Schnetzer, and the ensemble from Goat

Though Friday was an all-around great day, the undisputed highlight goes to… My third encounter with Daniel Radcliffe. I don’t know what I’ve done in life to be so utterly lucky, but, after failing to secure a spot in the premiere screening of the controversial Swiss Army Man, I hung out at the back of the Eccles theater, the biggest of Sundance’s venues, to see the cast depart. We first watched U.S. Dramatic Competition jury members Jon Hamm and Lena Dunham leave the screening and act like the weirdos they are, which was particularly entertaining. And then Daniel came out, started taking pictures, and after we got a photo, I was able to thank him for being so kind each time we’ve met. He was (of course) gracious, asking where we’d met before, and told me he’s likely returning to Broadway soon (which I think is very important information), and shook my hand and said he was happy to have met me again.

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As evidenced by this photo, sometimes lightning strikes thrice.

There’s a specific joy in meeting such a person as him, who’s been such an important part of my life, and I can’t believe I was fortunate enough to do it a third time.

Celebrity sightings: Abigail Spencer, Norman Lear, Lena Dunham, Adam Scott, Judd Apatow, Maude Apatow, Jesse Plemons, Molly Shannon, Nick Jonas, Ben Schnetzer, Jon Hamm, Daniel Radcliffe, Paul Dano, Julianne Nicholson

Saturday, January 23

Saturday was both a great day and a bummer. I only saw one film Saturday, and it was my least favorite of the festival: Todd Solondz’s Wiener-Dog, an unfunny and bizarre story of the lives through which one dachshund weaves. The film is told in vignettes of sorts, but the only one really worth watching is the third in the film, which stars Danny DeVito. Tracy Letts and Julie Delpy give awful performances in the opening scenes, Greta Gerwig is an unbelievable nerdy vet tech with a long-lasting crush on Kieran Culkin, and Zosia Mamet gives a sweet performance as Ellen Burstyn’s burn-out granddaughter. For anyone considering this movie, let me just warn you: despite how the film is advertised, it’s not meant for animal lovers. Even if you enjoy it (like many of my fellow audiences members seemed to), the ending shots undo any joy you might experience. This is a film with unnecessarily gratuitous and vulgar shots that make me more disgusted and annoyed the more I think about it.

Okay, rant over.

So, the good part of Saturday was that it’s the best day during the festival for celebrity following, so I was in my glory. After attending the morning’s lackluster screening, I traveled to Main Street to practice my favorite hobby, and ended up being quite successful.

Though it’s always fun to see a celebrity walk by, I had a couple favorite experiences of the day. First, seeing Kyle Chandler up close and personal was, you know, okay. Even better than seeing Kyle Chandler alone, though, was seeing another Friday Night Lights reunion with Jesse Plemons. Upon their exit from the studio, things got weird. First, Kyle Chandler came out and immediately started discussing The Simpsons with someone. Then, when I asked Jesse for a photo since I’d missed that opportunity the day before, he agreed, but as he leaned in for the photo, Casey Affleck came around the corner, saying, “yeah, take a picture with Jesse,” and proceeded to grab my wrist and wave my hand around.

Because I don’t know the proper etiquette when a famous person touches you and acts like a (well-intentioned) weirdo, I’m pretty sure the only thing I said in response was “thank you, Casey Affleck.” Not my smoothest moment.

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My friendship with Jesse Plemons is very real.

Later than afternoon, I was able to connect with another person of interest for my thesis project: Zoe Kazan, who also wished me luck and thanked me for using her as a source.

Other fun highlights from the day: pushing a timid fan to meet Viggo Mortensen and seeing her cry happy tears when he hugged her; arguing with a dumb guy who was convinced Abigail Spencer was actually Evangeline Lilly; watching Kate Beckinsale float around like the beautiful angel she is; standing next to a confused Jared Harris for a few minutes while he checked his phone

Celebrity sightings: Bradley Whitford, Nick Jonas, Rebecca Hall, Tracy Letts, Michael C. Hall, Judd Apatow, Maude Apatow, Timothy Simons, Chelsea Handler, J. Smith-Cameron, Kyle Chandler, Casey Affleck, John Legend, Gilbert Gottfried, Charlie Day, John Krasinski, Josh Groban, Don Cheadle, David Giuntoli, Jesse Plemons, George Mackay, Margo Martindale, Chloë Sevingy, Kate Beckinsale, Rose Macgowan, Abigail Spencer, Viggo Mortensen, Bryce Dallas Howard, Abby Elliott, Chris Elliott, Greta Gerwig, Jena Malone, Adrian Grenier, Paul Dano, Jared Harris, Zoe Kazan

Sunday, January 24

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The cast and crew of Manchester by the Sea

Thankfully, Sunday morning’s screening was my favorite of the festival and very much made up for my Wiener-Dog annoyance. I attended Manchester by the Sea, a film that’s been the clear festival favorite (it wasn’t in competition, so it wasn’t eligible for the Grand Jury or Audience awards) and one that will almost certainly be on the awards circuit next year.

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Being friends with Kyle Chandler

The film tells the story of Lee Chandler (played wonderfully by Casey Affleck), an isolated man who becomes guardian of his teenage nephew after his brother’s death (Kyle Chandler plays the brother in flashbacks). This is the kind of movie that emotionally wrecks you, but it’s totally worth the temporary turmoil.

After the screening, I managed to nab a quick (and not so great, sadly) photo with Kyle Chandler, and we bonded over how great the movie was.

After the screening, I went back to Main Street to pass some time before hopefully attending an afternoon panel. In the meantime, I saw several people come and go, including Anderson Cooper and the cast of Kevin Smith’s Yoga Hosers (more on that film in a minute). Also, while walking to go get a bagel, I passed Chrissy Teigen on the street, and the beautiful bombshell you’ve all been imagining.

I was happy to attend a panel on the controversial film Swiss Army Man Sunday afternoon, but sad that the panel didn’t even last 30 minutes. Though the film had a significant number of walk-outs during its premiere on Friday, hearing the cast and crew talk about it–and the motivation behind the “farting corpse” everyone’s been talking about–made it seem a bit more understandable.

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Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano during the Swiss Army Man panel

After returning to my hotel for a late evening nap (only at Sundance do you take a nap from 8-10 PM), I made my way to the Library theater for the premiere screening of Kevin Smith’s latest film, Yoga Hosers. The film itself is bizarre and mediocre, but being part of the premiere screening and sitting directly in front of the film’s cast made it a great experience. Yoga Hosers stars Smith’s daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, and Johnny Depp’s daughter, Lily-Rose, as self-obsessed teenage store clerks forced to take on an unexpected enemy. Smith himself described the movie as “a superhero movie without the superheroes.” It certainly isn’t great, but it’s fun and silly and entertaining if you’re in the right mood. After a long and emotional introductory speech and Q&A by Kevin Smith and the cast, I arrived back to my hotel room around 2:45 AM, ready to crash.

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The cast of Yoga Hosers during the film’s post-screening Q&A

Other fun highlights of the day: making Justin Long laugh when I told him he’s a good Hollywood Game Night player, physically bonding with Sam Neill as we stood back-to-back while he was hounded for autographs, eavesdropping on Lily-Rose Depp while she talked about her dad

Celebrity sightings: Kyle Chandler, Casey Affleck, Lena Dunham, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Allison Brie, Nick Kroll, Anderson Cooper, Justin Long, Tyler Posey, Austin Butler, Kevin Smith, Harley Quinn Smith, Lily-Rose Depp, Sam Neill, Timothy Simons, Tracy Letts, Jason Mewes, Chrissy Teigen, Daniel Radcliffe, Paul Dano, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Matthew Gray Gubler, Natasha Lyonne, Chloë Sevigny, Sasheer Zamata

Monday, January 25

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The cast and crew of Lovesong

After a very late night, I let myself sleep in and attended a 12:15 screening of the premiere of Lovesong, a lovely little movie starring Jena Malone and Riley Keough (though the daughters of the film director who have small roles totally steal the show). One of the film’s nicest surprises was a time and location jump that shifted to Nashville. It’s always nice to see an unexpected and familiar landscape.

Following the screening, a friend and I made our way to the theater’s back entrance and took photos with Jena Malone, who was sweet and cute and very pregnant. Since we have the same birthday, I assume we’re soul sisters or something.

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Another new friendship!

We also hung around a bit as the cast and crew of Nate Parker’s Grand Jury and Audience Award-winning The Birth of a Nation arrived, but it was apparently very difficult to get into the screening. While we walked back to the bus stop, this picture happened (please excuse my mitten fuzz as I was staring into the sun and couldn’t see what I was doing while I took this).

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Park City is pretty.

After relaxing a bit in my hotel, I ventured out again with a good waitlist number for the premiere of Complete Unknown, which left me less than impressed. I was very excited by the cast–the festival guide listed Rachel Weisz, Michael Shannon, Kathy Bates, and Danny Glover as leads–but the film itself annoyed me for many reasons, and the more I’ve thought about it since, the more I find to be annoyed about (Have you ever known someone to apply to an elite jewelry school? Yeah, me neither). As it turns out, this was one of the most Manic Pixie Dream Girl movies of the festival, which I certainly didn’t expect. While it seemed like plenty of people enjoyed the film, this one wasn’t for me.

Celebrity sightings: Jena Malone, Riley Keough, Brooklyn Decker, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley, Armie Hammer, Gabrielle Union, Nate Parker, Michael Shannon

Tuesday, January 26

On our last day at the festival, I tried to make the most of my time. The morning began with an early screening of First Girl I Loved, which turned out to be another of my very favorites. This is a very real story of Anne, a high school student who’s realizing she has a crush on a girl for the first time. Dylan Gelula and Brianna Hildebrand both give great performances as the film’s leads.

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The cast and crew of First Girl I Loved

Perhaps the most emotional moment of the screening was during the Q&A when a teary audience member said she wished a film like this had existed for her while in high school and asked about getting queer representation in screen. Needless to say, the whole room was in tears after that.

After eating a free brunch (thanks, Chase Sapphire on Main!), I attended two panels on Main Street. The first featured the creative teams behind the films Morris from America and White Girl, neither of which I saw at the festival, but I hope to see them in the coming months.

After seeing another batch of celebrities leaving the Variety studio (hey again, Jason Ritter and Melanie Lynskey!), I attended my final panel of the festival: a discussion of the film Mr. Pig, featuring director Diego Luna and actors Maya Rudolph and Danny Glover. The film hadn’t yet premiered, but it definitely sound like one worth seeing. Who doesn’t want to watch those two costar with a giant pig?

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Panel on Mr. Pig

My final screening of the festival was thankfully another great one: Yorgos Lanthmos’s bizarre The Lobster. This film premiered at Cannes in 2015 and was just as joyfully strange as I’d hoped. A chubby Colin Farrell stars as David, a recently single man who must check into a singles hotel where he has 45 days to find a mate or be turned into the animal of his choice and released into the wild. The film is darkly comic and strange, but one I totally enjoyed (though I imagine it’s not for everyone).

Then, after a class dinner, I returned to my hotel for a quiet night before getting up early for our flight home (weird airport moment: seeing Moises Arias from Hannah Montana who looks like he may or may not be a murderer).

Celebrity sightings: Dylan Gelula, Lewis Black, Jason Ritter, Ben Schwartz, Melanie Lynskey, Clea Duvall, Diego Luna, Danny Glover, Maya Rudolph, Keith Stanfield, Samm Levine, Mateo Arias, Moises Arias

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Needless to say, Sundance 2016 was another magical whirlwind, an another joyous experience I’ll treasure forever. Thank you SO much to the wonderful people at WKU for allowing me to return to Park City. Though I’ve always followed Sundance coverage, I never imagined I’d be able to attend the festival twice before turning 25. Thank you to everyone who made this experience possible.

Until next time, Sundance.

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Books I Read in 2015

I’ve been a bit all over the place with my reading the last two years. In 2013, I set a goal of reading 40 books and beat it, and in 2014, I seriously surpassed my goal of reading 52 books by reading 91 (my numbers have been greatly bolstered by reading plays, in case you were wondering).

Since I’m in an English Literature graduate program, I obviously do plenty of reading, but I think I went back to my goal of 50 books in 2015. Though this number might be a bit low based on 2014’s results, I stay plenty busy with my school reading and don’t always have lots of time for recreational reading. I ended up exceeding that goal by reading 69 books in 2015, an achievement I’m pretty proud of. Here’s my full list of reading from 2015–for reference, the titles listed in bold are those I particularly enjoyed.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  2. Live From New York, James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales
  3. Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green and David Levithan
  4. Looking for Alaska, John Green
  5. Sanctuary, William Faulkner
  6. It’s Only A Play, Terrence McNally
  7. Brother to Dragons, Robert Penn Warren
  8. On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan
  9. Paddle Your Own Canoe, Nick Offerman
  10. The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, William Inge
  11. Come Back, Little Sheba, William Inge
  12. Bus Stop, William Inge
  13. The Basic Eight, Daniel Handler
  14. Tobacco Road, Erskine Caldwell
  15. My Ideal Bookshelf, Jane Mount and Thessaly la Force
  16. Fallen Too Far, Abbi Glines
  17. Wait for You, J. Lynn
  18. The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle
  19. Dead as a Doornail, Charlaine Harris
  20. In Our Time, Ernest Hemingway
  21. Child of God, Cormac McCarthy
  22. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
  23. Love, Rosie, Cecelia Ahern
  24. Airships, Barry Hannah
  25. Crimes of the Heart, Beth Henley
  26. The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
  27. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
  28. Joe, Larry Brown
  29. Wolf Whistle, Lewis Nordan
  30. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
  31. Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
  32. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Jesse Andrews
  33. In the Unlikely Event, Judy Blume
  34. Angels in America Part One: Millennium ApproachesTony Kushner
  35. Angels in America Part Two: Perestroika, Tony Kushner
  36. The Complete Stories, Flannery O’Connor
  37. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, J.K. Rowling
  38. Quidditch Through the Ages, J.K. Rowling
  39. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  40. Paper Towns, John Green
  41. White Teeth, Zadie Smith
  42. Shame, Salman Rushdie
  43. Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee
  44. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien
  45. The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
  46. Vita Nuova, Dante Alighieri
  47. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  48. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
  49. Dragonfly in AmberDiana Gabaldon
  50. We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  51. Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih
  52. Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, Aimé Césaire
  53. Divine Comedy Vol. I: Inferno, Dante Alighieri
  54. After the Fall, Arthur Miller
  55. Murder in Retrospect, Agatha Christie
  56. Divine Comedy Vol. II: Purgatorio, Dante Alighieri
  57. The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Phoebe Gloeckner
  58. Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, Doris Pilkington
  59. Divine Comedy Vol. III: Paradiso, Dante Alighieri
  60. The Grownup, Gillian Flynn
  61. Me Before You, Jojo Moyes
  62. The Book of Mormon, Trey Parker and Matt Stone
  63. Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh
  64. Dracula, Bram Stoker
  65. Doctor Sleep, Stephen King
  66. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, John Boyne
  67. This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  68. The Cripple of Inishmaan, Martin McDonagh

Book #68: The Cripple of Inishmaan, by Martin McDonagh

My first encounter with The Cripple of Inishmaan was in 2014, when I saw the play on Broadway starring Daniel Radcliffe. It doesn’t take much more than his name for me to become interested in something, so when my mom and I saw the production in May, we didn’t know much about what we were getting into.

Turns out, the play was more than a pleasant surprise–it was a delight, or at least a delight of the truly dark comedic kind.

The Cripple of Inishmaan takes place in 1934 on the Irish isle of Inishmaan and stars a quirky ensemble of characters in this small town. The lead character, Cripple Billy, is a seventeen-year-old orphan (aka the type of character Daniel Radcliffe knows well) being raised by two pseudo-aunts. Billy is the butt of most jokes on the island, especially from Helen, the girl he naturally has a crush on.

The biggest plot element in the play is that the characters have heard a Hollywood film is being made in neighboring Inishmore about a crippled boy, so Billy and a few others go to audition. We also learn early in the play that Billy has apparently been given a terminal diagnosis from his doctor, so to keep from upsetting his aunts, he hopes to travel to America to die.

The play is hilarious and terribly sad at the same time. If the British are famous for black comedy, this is a perfect example of what that means–snarky, rude, sweet, and depressing all at once. The Cripple of Inishmaan was the first of the books I received for Christmas that I’ve delved into, and it was a perfect (if not bleak) way to end 2015.

Homework and pumpkin candles — I guess that means it’s fall

It’s a bit hard to believe we’re already nearing the end of September. Unfortunately, this time of year is when homework and classes always seem to shift into high gear, a truth that is taking shape in my life these days. In fact, writing this is my reward for power reading through a big chunk of Moby-Dick, half of which I have to have read by tomorrow evening. Let’s just say that there are several more hours of reading ahead of me before that’s crossed off my to do list.

My life generally has been pretty good, as of late; for the most part, I’m staying on top of my homework and work load, and I still have some time to do fun things. The first hints of fall are in the air, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve been burning fall-scented candles all weekend, and I bought my first Reese’s pumpkins on Friday. Tis the season, and all that jazz.

Here’s a quick overview of what I’ve been reading and watching lately. If fall isn’t the best time to cuddle up to watch movies and read, then I don’t know what is (just kidding, I do this all year).

TV — Despite having lots of homework this weekend, I managed to squeeze in some quality TV-aydnwatching time. Friday night, I watched the first season of “A Young Doctor’s Notebook,” a quirky dark comedy starring Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm as the titular Young Doctor (Radcliffe plays the younger version. Hamm the older) in early 20th century Russia. It’s a very strange little show, but highly entertaining, and sometimes sad. The first season is on Netflix for anyone who’s interested, and it only lasts about 80 minutes in total, so give it a watch! I’m waiting to start season 2 until I can watch it with my mom, but I’m excited to see what the new season brings.

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I’ve also started watching “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” a show that comes highly recommended from several of my friends. As I write, I’m just starting season 2, so I feel like I’m accomplishing a lot (even though I’m really only on the eighth episode). I’m excited to get into season 2 since Danny Devito joins the cast. My goal is to finish season 2 by the end of this week, so I’m hoping I can find some moments of free time to devote to watching TV, rather than reading about whales.

OutlanderLast on my TV radar is “Outlander,” which I’ve been thoroughly enjoying since it premiered last month. The fact that there’s only one episode left before the midseason hiatus begins is very upsetting to me and I don’t want to talk about it. Last night’s episode (“The Wedding”) provided the long anticipated marriage between Claire and Jamie, and let’s just say that I was more than happy with the outcome. In fact, I don’t really see why Claire is still so conflicted over her time travel problem; as far as I’m concerned, the choice between staying with Jamie or trying to get back to Frank is a no brainer (I mean, have you seen Sam Heughan?). I don’t think many people are watching “Outlander,” but I am happy to recommend it to anyone looking for a new TV project. Plus, I like having people to talk about TV with, so join me!

Books — Like I mentioned, I’m spending lots of time reading Moby-Dick these days. I’ve got about 120 pages to make it through before my class tomorrow night, so hopefully I’ll make a big dent in that before the end of the day. The second half of the book (which thankfully is a slightly shorter reading assignment) is due next week, so I’m planning to be a bit better and not procrastinate all my reading to the day or two before the assignment is due.

My next reading assignment for my Shakespeare class is Much Ado About Nothing, which I (unintentionally) started and finished Friday afternoon. I saw the play at the Globe Theatre while visiting London in 2011, which definitely helped me understand the plot of the play. I’ll be watching Joss Whedon’s recent film adaptation of the play in class Tuesday, so I’m excited to see how it differs from the written play.

As long as I can keep afloat this week (amidst reading, a presentation, a conference, and meetings), life should go back to normal for a week or two. In fact, next week is my fall break, a very welcome opportunity to relax for a day or two. The best news is that by the time I’m on fall break, Gone Girl will be in theaters, and that just might be the highlight of the month of October (at least I hope so).

Now, back to work. Enjoy your Sunday, everyone!

NYC 2014: The Magic Continues

If you’ve read many of my personal blogs or follow me at all on social media, you probably you I like celebrities. A lot. It’s kind of an issue. But (as of about two weeks ago) I have a degree in Pop Culture Studies, so who can really blame me for this fascination? It’s really just an academic pursuit. Or that’s what I tell myself, anyway. Last week, my mom and I ventured on another whirlwind trip to New York City, a jaunt we planned as a celebration of my college graduation, as well as an excuse for us to shamelessly stalk the stars. We booked our trip about a month ago and purchased tickets to see two plays: Of Mice and Men, the stage adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic novel, and The Cripple of Inishmaan, a revival of Martin McDonagh’s 1996 dark comedy. Our first day got off to a rather unexpected start: when boarding our very small Delta plane leaving Nashville, I did a bit of a double-take upon realizing that, sitting in the front row of first class, was Kesha. I have a knack for celebrity-spotting, I just didn’t expect to exert my talent before landing in NYC. By an odd twist of fate, my mom and I happened to be seated in the very last row on the plane, and our seats were literally the furthest possible from Kesha. Figures. She did come back to the bathroom near the end of the flight and brushed against my arm, so I guess I’m practically famous. Now, onto the real stuff. After a death-defying cab ride to our hotel (Hotel Mela in Times Square, which I would totally recommend), we decided to wander around a bit and get our bearings before attending a show that night. On our walk we passed John Tartaglia, an original leading cast member from Avenue Q, so that was fun. But the real magic happened later.

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Tuesday night, we headed to the Longacre Theatre to see Of Mice and Men, a play that has stuck with me since that night. I find it a bit astounding to know that this show only received two Tony nominations — Best Actor in a Play and Best Lighting Design — because I thought it was a truly spectacular show. Chris O’Dowd gave a haunting and beautiful performance as Lennie Small, a mentally-challenged gentle giant. James Franco also gave a great performance as stalwart George Miller, Lennie’s companion who attempts to keep him out of trouble. I’m in the (very slow, for some reason) process of reading Steinbeck’s book, and the chapters I’ve read were basically recreated word-for-word on stage. The show also featured great supporting performances by Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl) in the play’s only female role, and Jim Parrick (True Blood, James Franco’s As I Lay Dying) as Slim, one of the other men working on the ranch with George and Lennie. Without spoiling anything, the play’s final scene is packs the necessary power and sorrow, and will almost certainly leave audiences thinking. Though I realize I’m biased, I would really love to see O’Dowd walk away with a Tony award next week.

Now, onto happier things. I was very pleased to see that, despite the tragic contents of the play, the actors all seemed happy and content during the curtain call, and James Franco, in true James Franco fashion, was very excited to be selling a signed handkerchief he used during the show for charity. We left the theatre to join the crowds outside the stage door, which were much calmer than I’d anticipated. We heard more than one person saying Chevy Chase had also been in the audience, but I never got visual confirmation. Chris O’Dowd came out first, all smiles and niceties. He was totally gracious about signing autographs and taking pictures with fans before casually walking away to the Subway or wherever with his backpack. I loved it.

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There was more mayhem when James Franco exited. An assistant or someone came by and said that everyone should turn around and take selfies with James when he came by, because he’s James Franco and obviously he would want everyone to take selfies. He was also so nice about signing for people — he even grabbed by program out of my hand and signed it before I could ask — but he seemed to be in a bit of an off mood because there were paparazzi. He continually said, “if that guy keeps taking pictures, I’m leaving, and it will be his fault that I didn’t sign stuff for everyone.” Leighton Meester snuck out the front door and into an SUV as Franco came out the stage door, but she rolled the window down and smiled and waved at everyone as she rode away. All in all, it was a pretty fantastic night.

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The following day, I really had only one thing on my mind: I would be seeing Daniel Radcliffe again. In my world, this is really big, you guys. We decided to walk around a bit and sort of unexpectedly stumbled into the line for rush tickets at The Cripple of Inishmaan, so I decided to pay to get better seats for the performance. We then walked to 30 Rock and met with a high school friend of my mom’s for lunch before returning to the Cort Theatre for our matinee performance.

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Again, in a moment of sheer luck, we were standing outside the theatre for all of two minutes when a black SUV pulled up, a body guard got out of the passenger seat, opened the door to the backseat, and Daniel Radcliffe got out (at which moment I slapped my mom’s arms and uttered a few profanities. Whoops.). Daniel rushed in the stage door, but not before kindly smiling and waving at those of us standing around, mostly super old people who probably had no idea who he was. Perfect.

The show itself was absolutely wonderful. I was a bit disheartened to see that it was a rather empty audience; apparently Daniel isn’t enough to draw huge audiences, but I promise, you’ll love it if you see it! The play is a very dark comedy set on the island of Inishmaan off the coast of Ireland in the 1930s. Daniel plays the titular character, Cripple Billy, a young man who becomes determined to make it as a Hollywood actor when he learns that a film crew in working in a nearby town. Daniel Radcliffe was again looked over for a Tony nomination, but the show itself is the most nominated play overall. Sarah Greene is very deservedly nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Play, and I’d love to see her win. The ensemble is made up of a fantastic team of British actors (I believe Daniel is the only Englishman of the bunch), and I totally recommend people to this show before it closes in July.

After the performance, we exited to join the stage door crowds. A few of the lesser-known cast members exited quickly, though Sarah Greene and Conor MacNeill did take time to sign autographs and take pictures. I got an autograph from Sarah Greene, who couldn’t have been and nicer or more adorable. Here are a few shots I managed to get of them from my somewhat smooshed location amongst the crowds.

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As you’d probably expect, the real insanity ensued when Daniel came out to sign. Unlike when I met him three years ago, this time he made his way through the crowd at a very leisurely pace, stopping to take pictures with anyone who asked. He was totally great the last time I met him, but I think it’s safe to say I appreciated this too. Though I didn’t get my moment with him (yet), I did get a few photos of him as he made his way around.

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We left the stage door crowd to meet up with a friend for dinner, but returned to the Cort Theatre fairly promptly so we could stake out prime spots for evening performance stage door situation. Though we were rather frustrated with the stage door man’s rather inadequate abilities and I was fairly certain I was going to have a throw-down fight with the old woman in front of me, all was well. The first signature I got belonged to Pádriac Delaney, who seemed genuinely surprised and appreciative when I told him I enjoyed watching him on The Tudors. We also got an autographs from Conor MacNeill and Sarah Greene for my mom’s Playbill, and Sarah Greene took a selfie of the three of us because she’s adorable and lovely and was happy to do such things. Here’s the photo for reference:

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Perhaps the most entertaining moment of the evening came when the show’s three older female cast members — June Watson, Ingrid Craigie, and Gillian Hanna — exited. They all gave stellar performances in the show, and I’m currently working on figuring out how to adopt any or all of them as my grandmothers. The funny part: when June Watson signed my Playbill, she signed directly on top of Pádriac Delaney’s signature, and she did this not just on my Playbill, but on every person’s around me. Not really sure what that was about, but I enjoy it. Old people are great.

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And finally, we come to the true joy of the trip. Daniel Radcliffe again exited to stage door and graciously made his way around the crowds, chatting, signing, and taking pictures. When he was near us, the woman in front of me left, and I said, “Dan, could we take a picture?” Looking into his giant blue eyes is a very odd experience, and one that I’ve been fortunate enough to have three separate times. He responded, “Of course! Would you like to pass me your cell phone?” because he’s Daniel Radcliffe and he’s genuinely the nicest and most polite person in the world.

On a side note: let me tell you how completely and strangely cathartic and surreal it is to hand Daniel Radcliffe your iPhone that is protected by a phone case with a Deathly Hallows on it after having spent over a year writing an honors thesis project about the Harry Potter series. There were far too many feelings wrapped up into that one tiny exchange for to even really understand myself, let alone verbalize to anyone who might care to read this or ask me about it.

 Okay, back to real time. I handed Dan my phone (because I totally called him Dan because we’re besties FOREVER AND ALWAYS NOW), which was already on selfie mode, though he didn’t realize this and did some unnecessary switching around. This was totally fine though because it gave us some extra time to get settled and it also gave my phone more time to process the magic of being held by such a wonderful human. Then he asked who we needed to get in the photo, so I made sure he knew it was both my mom and me, and he took not one, but three pictures of us, because again, he’s wonderful and perfect and all that.

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Before taking the pictures, my mom said to him, “You’re so nice! You’re so good!” to which he seemed so humbly and sweetly said, “oh, thank you!” In case you can’t tell, I think he’s perfect. For a second I tried to get him to sign my Playbill since he hadn’t yet, but I’d made a promise to those around me that I’d leave once we’d had our moment, and I felt like keeping my word was more important, so I forced my way through the crowd to meet my mom.

And then I burst into tears for a second.

I’ve never, ever cried after meeting a celebrity, including the first time I met Daniel. But like I said before, it was a cathartic release to have this experience after just finishing my undergraduate career and a Harry Potter thesis on top of that. Meeting the person who brought Harry Potter to life after dedicating myself to that project for so long was the perfect way to finally let it go.

We took in a few final glances of him as we walked away, and then were lucky enough to be right next to his car as it drove him home. We waved and such, and though I have no idea if he was paying us any attention, I’m glad we could express another tiny piece of gratitude.

So, another wonderful, perfect trip came to a close the next day, which was fairly uneventful (though I did meet someone whose family is from my hometown and graduated from WKU, so that was weird). All I can hope is that I might be able to experience this all again in the near future.

I couldn’t be more thankful to live such a magical life.

May 17: A Day to Remember

As I’m writing this, I realize my title sounds like May 17 is some important historical day of remembering, but that’s kind of wrong. Actually, I just had two of the most amazing days of my life on May 17 of 2011 and 2012. Here’s a quick recap on this loveliest of anniversaries.

May 17, 2011

On May 17 of both 2011 and 2012, I was fortunate enough to be in New York City to see How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying on Broadway. Because of a family friend, attending these shows was much more than just a fun audience experience — I was able to go backstage both times. Not only was standing on a Broadway stage a great new experience, I was able to meet some of my very favorite celebrities. Here are a few photos of the 2011 experience:

    DSCN6599   How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Tony winner John Larroquette.

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Standing backstage meeting Daniel Radcliffe (!!!!!) the first time.

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May 18: back at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre to stand at the stage door to meet Daniel again since I forgot to have him sign anything or take a picture with me. (I was flustered.) Standing at the stage door also allowed us to meet/see Daniel’s parents, Chandra Wilson of Grey’s Anatomy, Matthew Broderick, and Sarah Jessica Parker.

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The most insane of surprises: standing on a sidewalk to see Ralph Fiennes (aka Voldemort) exit a car to go see a Broadway play. The play happened to be next door to How to Succeed where Daniel was performing. I still have trouble wrapping my head around this.

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And finally, a document of one of the greatest moments of my life. If I could ever travel back in time, it would be to this moment. Daniel Radcliffe was one of the nicest celebrities I’ve ever met, and this was absolutely a childhood dream come true.

May 17, 2012

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A quick flashback to May 16, 2012: we waited at the stage door of Death of a Salesman which was directly across the street from our hotel to see Andrew Garfield. He couldn’t have been nicer. We also saw Laura Linney entering the stage door to go see Philip Seymour Hoffman who was also starring in the show.

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Back to May 17: We first attended the Broadway Show League baseball game to see the How to Succeed and Once/Death of a Salesman teams play each other. Nick Jonas was captain of the How to Succeed team, as he was the current lead in the show. We somehow managed to sit on the bleachers with the team to watch the game, which was a really, REALLY fun experience.

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Unfortunately, we had to leave the baseball game early, but it was for a good reason: we got tickets to attend The Late Show with David Letterman! Waiting in line to go in wasn’t fun, but the show definitely was. The guests were Conan O’Brian and Regina Spektor, and John Mayer was there to play with the house band. Definitely a worth-while experience.

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And again, the best moment of the trip: standing on stage meeting Nick Jonas. I have no shame in saying that I’ve been a HUGE Jonas Brothers fan for many years, so once we found out about Nick taking over the lead role in this show, we knew that making another trip was necessary. I’ve been amazingly lucky.