Fargo

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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Favorite TV Shows of 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, it’s time to reflect back on another great year of entertainment, a process I find especially fun and rewarding. As you’re probably aware if you know me via blog or real life, I’m a serious TV-watcher. Like, embarrassingly so. So, in this time of reflection, here are my favorite shows of 2015. My selections include both past and current shows, as well as programs I watched for the first time and those I went back to revisit.

Read on for some recommended viewing for the holiday season!

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW, currently in season 1)

Crazy Ex-GirlfriendI have to say, I was skeptical of this show–I found the title to be a bit of a sexist cliche and the promos made me feel like it was some weird peppy version of Girls, but I’m happy to admit I was totally wrong. First, the show’s title is intentionally sexist (and the theme song makes fun of it). Rachel Bloom is totally deserving of her recent Golden Globe nomination for this smart, sweet, funny show. The fact that it’s also a pseudo-musical also doesn’t hurt. Go watch it!

Fargo (FX)

FargoWithout a doubt, season 2 of Fargo, which wrapped up this past Monday, was one of the best seasons of TV I’ve seen in a long time. The show’s first season which aired in the spring of 2014 was also stellar, but it’s crazy how incredibly perfect season 2 was. With a phenomenal ensemble cast of unexpected actors, Fargo told an interwoven story of some seedy Midwesterners in the late 1970s. Fargo proves it is possible for a show to be both hilarious and tensely dramatic, oftentimes simultaneously (see episode 8, “Loplop,” for several examples of this). I can’t say enough about the show and how sad I am to see it go. Is it possible for season 3 to reach this calibre? After this amazing season, I’d trust Fargo‘s creative team with the unimagineable.

Frasier (11 seasons streaming on Netflix)

FrasierFrasier is undoubtedly my most significant TV accomplishment of 2015; in fact, I watched all 264 episodes in just over 3 months this summer (a fact I choose to be proud of, so deal with it). I grew up with the show and have seen many of the reruns on Lifetime, but the experience of watching it all from start to finish was perfect. It’s hilarious and brilliant. A serious commitment, but absolutely worth the effort.

Game of Thrones (5 seasons streaming on HBOGO and HBONOW)

Game of ThronesIt’s nice to know there are shows you can always count on, like Game of Thrones, to maintain a high standard for TV. Season 5 was no different–fans of the show have come to expect exciting action sequences, thoughtful character development, and surprising twists along the way (as well as an exorbitant amount of nudity and gore, but I digress). Now that the show has officially surpassed the book series in production, I’m quite anxious to see where things go (especially where Jon Snow is concerned).

Jessica Jones (season 1 streaming on Netflix)

After falling in love with Krysten Ritter in 2013 when I watched Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23, I felt it was only fair to give this a go, especially after Jessica JJessica Jonesones was receiving stellar reviews. The show is perfect for people who aren’t totally into superhero stuff–it’s much more a drama than a hero/action show, so the appeal works for a wider audience. David Tennant is a delectably despicable villain as Kilgrave, and, at 13 episodes, Jessica Jones is the perfectly bingeable show for a long weekend at home.

Lost (6 seasons streaming on Netflix)

LostLost carried me though my spring 2015 semester of school, and I really loved every moment of it. I hadn’t revisited the show since the original airing ended in 2010, so it was quite a treat to return. If it wasn’t for Lost, I’m not sure we’d be living in this so-called “golden age of television.” And to top it all off, I wrote one of my final graduate school papers on the show, so it turns out TV-watching can be meaningful after all. You can also read more about my favorite Lost episodes here.

My So-Called Life (full series available on DVD)

My So-Called LifeI first watched My So-Called Life when it was still on Netflix in 2012 and loved it, but haven’t had the chance to revisit it since. After receiving the complete series (which is just a single 19-episode season) for my birthday last month, my roommate and I quickly made our way through what is a truly delightful show (though finishing the show during finals week maybe wasn’t our smartest decision). Claire Danes is perfect as always as is the rest of the show’s ensemble. I was so happy to see that I loved the series just as much a second time around, and, now that I’m home for winter break, my mom and I have already begun our own viewing of the series. My So-Called Life is the perfect answer to a cold, cozy day spent indoors.

Outlander (season 1 available on DVD)

I fell in love with Outlander first through the TV Outlanderseries when it premiered in 2014 and have now read the first two books in the series to combat this loneliness of the show’s hiatus. My roommate and I also made our way through season 1 of the show earlier this fall, an experience that only made me long for season 2. Thankfully, the premiere is drawing ever closer, but for now, I’ll have to satisfy myself with rewatching.

Rectify (Seasons 1 and 2 streaming on Netflix)

RectifyI started Rectify on a bit of a whim late this summer because I’d heard good things about it in the past. I went into the viewing experience a bit ignorant about the story, but was quite pleased with this dark, poignant, and thoughtful show. (Side note: the show has had 3 seasons, so if you’re looking to watch it, consider finding season 3 elsewhere).

UnREAL (season 1 available On Demand)

UnREALOne lazy day this summer, I secluded myself in our basement to watch six episodes of Lifetime’s UnREAL, a show that’s fun and exciting and perfect for mindless viewing. The show follows the production side of a faux Bachelor-style reality dating show and has just as much entertaining drama as you would hope. Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer shine in the lead roles, and despite the show’s campy nature, it’s messages about gender are actually quite interesting and progressive. Here’s hoping season 2 is just as fun as season 1 was.

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And, just for fun, here are a few honorable mentions that I’ve also enjoyed this year:

  • The Last Man on Earth (FOX, streaming on Hulu)
  • Veep (HBO, streaming on HBOGO and HBONOW)
  • Jane the Virgin (The CW, season 1 streaming on Netflix)
  • Broadchurch (2 seasons streaming on Netflix)
  • Empire (FOX, streaming on Hulu)
  • The O.C. (complete series streaming for free on the CW Seed)
  • Bob’s Burgers (seasons 1-4 streaming on Netflix)

And suddenly it’s December

Well, world, I have a strange announcement–I have finished my last semester of coursework for my master’s degree (and managed to pull off an unexpected feat of earning all As!). Since it’s been such a marathon, I think I’d forgotten how nice it might feel to reach this point, and now that I’ve come to it, I’m not really sure what to do with my freedom.

Sadly, the fact that I’ve been less-than-free this semester means I haven’t maintained my blog like I usually do. Now that I have the time, though, I can finally share some of the highlights of my semester.

I’ve made significant progress on my master’s thesis this semester thanks to a fantastic advisor who keeps me on track. I’m loving writing it, which means it’s only a little upsetting to know how far I still have to go before finishing it. As a reminder, I’m writing about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope in indie films. If you’re wondering what those words might mean, I did a post about it this summer that you should mostly certainly check out.

I’ve also had the strangely adult experience of prepping for my very first courses as a college instructor. Next spring, I’ll have 44 students in my very own classroom in the basement of Cherry Hall, and I can’t wait for it. I loved my time shadowing a wonderful instructor this semester who helped me figure myself out along the way. It’s so strange that it’s nearly my time to stand front of a group I get to call my own.

And somehow, in the midst of the chaos, we wrangled up enough students to head back the the Sundance Film Festival next month. I’ll be going along as a TA in pursuit of hands-on research for my thesis project and hope to see some great films along the way. Sundance was the most magical experience of my life thus far, so the chance to head back and do it all again is exceptionally exciting.

Now, for those of you who know me, it comes as no surprise that I simply cannot try to explain what my life has been like lately without also telling you the things I’ve been reading and watching. Here’s a crash course in my latest pop culture feelings.

Books — This semester wasn’t exactly the best for leisurely reading, but I did manage to squeeze in a few fun projects on the way. Just last night my roommate and I finished reading Dracula together, which was a long-term, laugh-filled, wonderful experience. I also recently reread Harriet the Spy, which I hadn’t read in at least 15 years (and I can’t believe I’m old enough to say that). For those of you who haven’t read it, Harriet the Spy is pure joy, so go get your hands on a copy!

Over Thanksgiving break, I rewarded myself by reading Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You, a sweet and sad romantic story that’s perfect for some hours spent in a world that isn’t your own. And as of last night, I started Doctor Sleep, Stephen King’s follow-up to The Shining, though since it’s a long book, I may end up doubling it with something else. We’ll see.

TV — This fall, I decided to be bold and write off several of the shows I’d previously watched, but mostly out of obligation. Turns out my viewing schedule is now much freer, which can be quite the blessing. Without a doubt, the show I’ve most looked forward to from week to week is FX’s Fargo. If you haven’t been watching, you’re crazy and need to change that habit immediately. I’m also loving Sunday nights on FOX with Bob’s Burgers and Last Man on Earth, and I’ve stuck with Empire, though the second season hasn’t nearly lived up to the first. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is another little gem of a TV show that I hope you’re all watching, and the fact that it’s paired with Jane the Virgin on Mondays on the CW makes the viewing experience all the sweeter.

As for side projects, I’ve continued to make my way through as much bingeing as I could hope for. My roommate and I watched the first season of Outlander together on DVD (which I also watched as it aired) and then, just yesterday, finished My So-Called Life together. Both of these shows are now invited to provide me with more episodes ASAP because I miss them dearly.

I also quickly worked through Jessica Jones last week and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Krysten Ritter is a gem and David Tennant is a perfect villain. What more could you want?

My longer viewing project these days is The O.C., which I’ve long been interested in but didn’t have access to until it recently became available on the CW Seed for FREE! It’s a fun, silly teen show, which is totally a guilty pleasure of mine, so I’m enjoying it thoroughly.

Now that my time is freer, I’m hoping to spend some time catching up on shows I’ve missed out on, like USA’s Mr. Robot, especially after today’s Golden Globe nominations. I also imagine my mom and I will marathon through a few things, so stay tuned for updates on that.

Movies — Sadly, I’ve been lacking in the movie-watching department lately. I hit my goal of watching 100 new (to me) movies a few months ago, but I haven’t made tons of progress past that goal. However, I’m hoping to see a few of the Oscar-bait movies before year’s end and catch up on some things I missed earlier in the year. Some recent highlights in my movie-viewing experience have been We Need to Talk About Kevinwhich is disturbing in the best kind of way, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2which was a fitting end to the saga.

So now that this life of mine is freer for leisurely reading and watching, I plan to take full advantage of it (though I’ll also be doing my fair share of academic work during these weeks off). Happy Holidays, everyone! May you enjoy your time to relax as much as I intend to enjoy mine.

2015 Golden Globe Predictions — TV

I always feel a bit better making predictions about TV than film just because I tend to be a bit more informed. I think the Golden Globes might be the start of an interesting TV awards season since it seems like many past big winners (“Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “Modern Family”) have either ended or aren’t nominated.

Best Drama Series

  • The Affair
  • Downton Abbey
  • Game of Thrones
  • The Good Wife
  • House of Cards

So this feels like an odd category this year. As much as I love and enjoy “Downton Abbey,” it isn’t heavy enough as a drama to win here, and I think voters would consider “Game of Thrones” to flashy and fantastical to award it (though this is unfair). My instinct says “The Good Wife” will win. I know many people were upset that it wasn’t nominated for an Emmy, so maybe this will be time to fix that problem. Also, when did people start caring about “The Affair”? I watched the first episode when it happened, but now I’m thinking it’s time to pick back up.

Best Comedy Series

  • Girls
  • Jane the Virgin
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Silicon Valley
  • Transparent

Another odd mix of shows in comparison with times past. I watch three of the five shows here, so I’m not sure who to pick. I imagine “Orange is the New Black” will come away victorious, but I could also see “Transparent,” a show with lots of similarities to “OITNB,” stealing the win.

Best Miniseries or TV Movie

  • Fargo
  • The Missing
  • The Normal Heart
  • Olive Kitteridge
  • True Detective

I’m going to come right out with my bias now: I DO NOT WANT “TRUE DETECTIVE” TO WIN AWARDS. I enjoyed the first season on a lukewarm level; I thought it was over-praised and kind of pseudo-intellectual. Despite this, though, the real reason I don’t want it to win is because it’s flip-flopped so often between Drama Series and Miniseries that I get pissed off. Okay, rant over.

The good news is that there are several worthy options in this category aside from “True Detective.” “Fargo” was wonderful, “The Normal Heart” was very moving, and “Olive Kitteridge” (which I just finished last night) is also great. Right now, my vote goes to “Fargo,” but really, I’ll just be happy if “True Detective” doesn’t win here.

Best Actress in a Drama Series

  • Claire Danes, “Homeland”
  • Viola Davis, “How to Get Away with Murder”
  • Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife”
  • Ruth Wilson, “The Affair”
  • Robin Wright, “House of Cards”

In my mind, this category is really between two actresses: Viola Davis and Julianna Margulies. If I were voting, my vote would go to Claire Danes who never ceases to be fantastic on “Homeland,” but I think her time has passed. Though I’ve only seen one episode of “The Affair,” I’ve been watching “Luther” lately, and Ruth Wilson’s great performance on it makes me sure she’s very worthy of her nomination, but I doubt she’ll win. Since so many people love “The Good Wife,” I think Margulies has a real shot, but I think Viola Davis will ultimately win. People love her and she’s great, even if Shonda Rimes creates ridiculous and campy shows (that I totally watch and enjoy).

Best Actor in a Drama Series

  • Clive Owen, “The Knick”
  • Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”
  • James Spader, “The Blacklist”
  • Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”
  • Dominic West, “The Affair”

I kind of feel like there’s a big question mark floating over my head about this category. I don’t watch any of these shows and none of these people are past winners, so it’s hard to say who will win. Right now, my guess is that James Spader will take home a victory, if for no other reason than to show some appreciation for network TV.

Best Actress in a Comedy Series

  • Lena Dunham, “Girls”
  • Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie”
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”
  • Gina Rodriguez, “Jane the Virgin”
  • Taylor Schilling, “Orange is the New Black”

It’s a crime that Amy Poehler didn’t get nominated after winning this category last year, but I’m very happy to see Gina Rodriguez take her place. My general assumption is always that Julia Louis-Dreyfus will win the things she’s nominated for (because she’s amazingly talented), I’ve seen a few predictions that Gina Rodriguez will win. Since the Golden Globes have a history of awarding first-time nominees, I think this seems quite possible, and I’d be happy for her if it happens.

Best Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Don Cheadle, “House of Lies”
  • Louis C.K., “Louie”
  • Ricky Gervais, “Derek”
  • William H. Macy, “Shameless”
  • Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

I’ve only seen one of these performances, but luckily, I think it’s the one that will likely win. Jeffrey Tambor is wonderful on “Transparent,” even though the show is quite heavy for a comedy. He should (and hopefully will) win.

Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie

  • Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Honorable Woman”
  • Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story: Freak Show”
  • Frances McDormand, “Olive Kitteridge”
  • Frances O’Connor, “The Missing”
  • Allison Tolman, “Fargo”

Another category where I have a hard time picking between people I really like. Allison Tolman was great in her breakout performance on “Fargo,” and Jessica Lange is always perfect on “American Horror Story” (especially in this particularly emotional season). However, I think it seems most likely that Frances McDormand will win for her brilliant, hilarious, heartbreaking performance in “Olive Kitteridge.”

Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie

  • Martin Freeman, “Fargo”
  • Woody Harrelson, “True Detective”
  • Matthew McConaughey, “True Detective”
  • Mark Ruffalo, “The Normal Heart”
  • Billy Bob Thornton, “Fargo”

I don’t think it’s necessary for my “True Detective” rant again, so I won’t go there (though to be fair, I really like these two actors, I just don’t want them to win). I’m hoping Mark Ruffalo wins for his moving performance in “The Normal Heart,” though I’d definitely be happy with more “Fargo” victories.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Uzo Aduba, “Orange is the New Black”
  • Kathy Bates, “American Horror Story: Freak Show”
  • Joanne Froggatt, “Downton Abbey”
  • Allison Janney, “Mom”
  • Michelle Monaghan, “True Detective”

Now come the two weirdest categories at the Golden Globes, in which they shove together supporting performances from dramas, comedies, TV movies, and miniseries for no particular reason. Season four of “Downton Abbey” was certainly most challenging for Joanne Froggatt, whose character was raped early in the season. Though she played in beautifully, I doubt she’ll win. I’m sure this race is between Uzo Aduba and Kathy Bates, both of whom won at the Emmys for the first seasons of their shows. Since Bates’s role on “Freak Show” has been smaller, I think Uzo Aduba seems more likely to win, but we’ll see how things turn out.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Matt Bomer, “The Normal Heart”
  • Alan Cumming, “The Good Wife”
  • Colin Hanks, “Fargo”
  • Bill Murray, “Olive Kitteridge”
  • Jon Voight, “Ray Donovan”

Mostly, I don’t want Jon Voight to win. I don’t really have a reason except I don’t watch “Ray Donovan” and Jon Voight always wears that dumb white scarf to awards shows and I don’t think he should be awarded for that. Anyway. Bill Murray was hilarious and sad in “Olive Kitteridge,” but I imagine his part was too small in comparison to his fellow nominees to get much notice. I imagine this will come down to a choice between Matt Bomer and Colin Hanks, both of whom are deserving. My gut tells me that Matt Bomer will win.

Emmy Hopes and Predictions: Miniseries and TV Movie

As far as these categories are concerned, I think I’m a little out of my league because I’m not as well-versed in the nominees as I am for comedies and dramas. However, it seems inevitable that usually one or two of the miniseries or movies nominated tends to dominate, and I imagine that will again be true this year. So, to the best of my abilities, here are my predictions and general feelings about the Emmy nominees for the miniseries and movie categories.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie

  • Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Coven
  • Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Coven
  • Helena Bonham Carter, Burton and Taylor
  • Minnie Driver, Return to Zero
  • Kristen Wiig, The Spoils of Babylon
  • Cicely Tyson, The Trip to Bountiful

Kristen Wiig Sarah Paulson

I imagine the award in this category will be a real fight between the two ladies of AHS: Coven, but after watching the ridiculous and entertaining The Spoils of Babylon a few nights ago, I’d love to see Kristen Wiig win. That will probably never happen, though. My money’s on Sarah Paulson.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie

  • Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dancing on the Edge
  • Martin Freeman, Fargo
  • Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: His Last Vow
  • Billy Bob Thornton, Fargo
  • Idris Elba, Luther
  • Mark Ruffalo, The Normal Heart

Billy Bob Thornton Benedict Cumberbatch

I think this category could be a bit of a toss up. As far as awards go, I think Sherlock is wildly underappreciated, and I would absolutely love to see Benedict Cumberbatch win here. He’s brilliant in his performance, and there’s nothing more to say on that subject. I think, though, that the two Fargo men are going to be the bigger competitors here, but I’d give the edge to Billy Bob Thornton for his showier performance. Mark Ruffalo was also very good in The Normal Heart, but I don’t think his performance or the movie in general were as good as some of the others in this category.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie

  • Angela Bassett, American Horror Story: Coven
  • Frances Conroy, American Horror Story: Coven
  • Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Coven
  • Ellen Burstyn, Flowers in the Attic
  • Allison Tolman, Fargo
  • Julia Roberts, The Normal Heart

Allison Tolman Kathy Bates

I could see this award going a few different ways. Since half the nominees come from AHS: Coven, I could see these women splitting the vote, but it’s also very possible for one of them to take home the prize. Of these three, I’d say Kathy Bates is most likely to win, and she’d certainly deserve it. I’m also hoping that Allison Tolman has a real shot, because she’s not only adorable, she was also great as Molly Solverson. Also, Ellen Burstyn won this award last year for a really terrible show, so she better not have a repeat.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie

  • Martin Freeman, Sherlock: His Last Vow
  • Colin Hanks, Fargo
  • Jim Parsons, The Normal Heart
  • Matt Bomer, The Normal Heart
  • Joe Mantello, The Normal Heart
  • Alfred Molina, The Normal Heart

Colin Hanks Martin Freeman

I’ve seen all six of the performances in this category, and I’m fairly torn. Like my comments on the Lead Actor category, I think I’d be pretty happy to see most of these men win, but I’m partial to Colin Hanks and Martin Freeman. Sherlock just doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, and Martin Freeman is the perfect complement to Benedict Cumberbatch. I can’t imagine a better pair as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Colin Hanks also gave a great breakout performance on Fargo, and he’s just so likeable (like father, like son, I guess), that you have to root for him. I have a feeling the four nominees from The Normal Heart will split votes, but I think Matt Bomer and Joe Mantello have the strongest chances at winning. Personally, though, I hope it goes to one of the two non-Normal Heart actors.

Outstanding Miniseries

  • American Horror Story: Coven, FX
  • Bonnie and Clyde, Lifetime
  • Fargo, FX
  • Luther, BBC America
  • Treme, HBO
  • The White Queen, Starz

Fargo

American Horror Story has dominated the miniseries categories in recent years, but I think it’s likely that Fargo will upset their record. It seems to me that these two shows are the only two in the running here, and I think Fargo is strong enough to overcome the previous winner.

Outstanding Television Movie

  • Killing Kennedy, National Geographic
  • The Normal Heart, HBO
  • Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight, HBO
  • Sherlock: His Last Vow, PBS
  • The Trip to Bountiful, Lifetime

Sherlock

I’m a bit of a broken record on this subject, but I just really think it would be wonderful if Sherlock won a few things on awards night. Though the show only submitted a single episode as a TV movie (because they all run an hour-and-a-half), it’s a bit difficult to judge it against more conventional movies. I know the only other real contender here is The Normal Heart, which I expect will win. After watching it a few nights ago, I really don’t think the HBO production lived up to the high standards of Sherlock, in terms of writing, performances, or production value. However, I think Sherlock is the underdog here, so I’ll probably be a bit disappointed in the end. Sigh.

And to conclude, let’s all just take a moment to appreciate the fact that Martin Freeman’s face is all over the miniseries/TV movie categories. It makes me very happy.

Stay tuned for my input about the comedy categories!