films

Entertainment in spring

Hello, world. It’s spring, which mostly means I get a lot of crippling headaches while I try to appreciate all the new blooms from a distance.

Since the weather is usually topsy turvy at this time of year, I see no problem spending most of my free time enjoying things from the indoors (which, to be fair, is true year-round).

So, in an attempt to stay true to this blog that I sometimes neglect, here’s a quick update of all the entertainment I’m enjoying these days. Feel free to share your recommendations!

TV Most of my viewing time of late has been devoted to television, largely because I have a hefty list of currently-airing shows to keep up with. While the rest of the world adored HBO’s Big Little Lies, I found it both exhausting and infuriating. I loved the book when I read it last fall, but I think the show lacked all the book’s charms. Thankfully, Sunday nights have also been providing the perfect antidote to Big Little Lies in the form of FX’s Feud. I spend most episodes giddy with delight, and if you ask me, the Big Little Lies team could have taken some serious pointers on how to develop complicated, flawed, and lovable female characters from Feud. If, for some crazy reason, you’re on the fence about watching this show, watch this clip of Bette Davis singing and your decision will be made. Then feel free to watch it many times a day for years to come as I plan to.

As far as streaming shows go, I’ve also done my fair share, though I’m currently in a lull. About a week ago I finished a marathon viewing of Malcolm in the Middle, which was a delightful little jaunt. Though I don’t think it’s one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, it was a joy from beginning to end. I also spent the last week watching Netflix’s newest hit, 13 Reasons Why, which is far better than typical teen shows. I loved the book when I read it in high school, but the TV adaptation does a great job of developing the story further. The characters are complex and the story is moving from start to finish. I also knocked out season 2 of Chewing Gum after watching the first season in January, and I may just go through it all again any day now. Michaela Coel’s creation is delightful and ridiculous and generally upsetting because there are so few episodes. And finally, I fell completely in love with The Great British Baking Show while on spring break and fully believe I am a baker now. What a joyful and entirely un-American approach to reality TV.

I’m planning to watch Part 2 of The Get Down this week since I watched Part 1 in 2016, but after that, I don’t have much of an idea of what my next big streaming project will be. Suggestions?


Movies — My movie watching has taken a bit of a hit since I’ve had so much TV to keep up with. To be fair, though, my film list for 2017 is already at 64 new (to me) films for the year, so I don’t really feel bad about slacking. Though I haven’t seen anything that I’ve loved lately, I did really enjoy the new Beauty and the Beast and Nocturnal Animals, which I missed out on during awards season. While I’m in this in-between of TV shows, I’ll probably use the empty time to up my moving viewing in an effort to shuffle through the many films waiting on my Netflix list.


Books — After knocking out Diana Gabaldon’s Drums of Autumn at the end of March, I’m feeling free and motivated with my reading projects. I’ve gone through three books so far in April—The Hate U Give, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Romeo and Juliet—and I’m hoping to keep rolling through my bookshelf.

Since I finished Romeo and Juliet just moments ago, I’ve grabbed Carson McCullers’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, which I’ve been intending to read since at least 2014. I’m hoping I really enjoy it and haven’t accidentally just over-hyped this book for three years. Otherwise, I’m also planning to read Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies soon, and will likely also knock out Liane Moriarty’s Truly Madly Guilty. I sped through Big Little Lies in no time, so I’m hoping her newest novel is equally motivating.

So while the rest of you spend some time enjoy the spring weather by being active outside, I’ll continue to enjoy with a book in hand.

Reading and Watching in 2017

In my Sundance reflection I posted over the weekend, I promised to catch up on my recent pop culture ventures since I’ve neglected my duties of late (full-time jobs really just hinder this whole recreational blogging thing).

So, in an effort to stay true to my word, here’s a quick glimpse at all the popular stuff I’m consuming these days. Spoiler alert: I’ve become kind of savage with things I don’t like, so you’re in for a treat.


Books

At the moment, I’m on my sixteenth book of 2017, but I doubt I’ll be finishing it any time soon. I’ve returned to the Outlander series with the fourth installment, Drums of Autumn. I’m at the 200-page mark in an 880-page saga, so who really knows when I’ll finish or what shenanigans I’m in for along the way. Thankfully, Diana Gabaldon doesn’t let me down and keeps things entertaining and unexpected, unlike many books I’ve started and stopped recently.

I’ve given up on two books so far in 2017, which generally provokes a sense of relief, while also being a big ol’ bummer. I don’t like to dislike books, especially when I spend 100 pages of effort on something I end up tossing aside. My rejected novels were Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked, which I bought on a whim at a used book store, and Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. I didn’t have harsh feelings about The Poisonwood Bible—the same cannot be said of the former—but I just didn’t feel it going anywhere. To be fair, I started the novel and read a good chunk on my way to Sundance and didn’t really pick it up again until returning, so I was struggling to readjust. But at over 500 pages, I wasn’t feeling compelled enough to trudge through, so I put it aside. This is one I could see myself returning to in future, just not any time too soon.

Other quick reading notes: I’ve already crossed off 3 of the authors I planned to read in 2017, have made progress on 2 others, and have completed 2 other reading goals for the year. I read Rupi Kaur’s poetry collection milk and honey in about 12 seconds over the weekend and enjoyed it. I read a collection of Emily Dickinson’s works and consumed something like 700 poems in a week. I also recently read the Russian novella The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk after seeing the film adaptation at Sundance. The novella is fun, but the film is far better.

I’ve basically been reading Drums of Autumn exclusively, but fairly soon I’ll double up with something else, likely Romeo and Juliet in my goal of reading four of Shakespeare’s plays this year. I don’t want to pair Drums of Autumn with another novel, so I’ll keep the balance with other plays or short story/essay collections for a while.


Movies

I’ve seen a fairly ridiculous number of movies in 2017—forty-three, to be precise, which is just two short of the number of days in the year thus far. To be fair, I did start the year at a film festival, but I’m also just in the kind of mood that basically involves at least one movie a day.

You can read my Sundance post to hear about what I liked there, but there have been plenty of other fun things I’ve seen on my own time. Arrival was the most recent Best Picture nominee I saw (I still haven’t seen Hidden Figures or Hacksaw Ridge) and I loved it way more than expected. Other things I’ve really liked include Sing Street (2016), Grey Gardens (2009), Y Tu Mamá También (2001), Temple Grandin (2010), The Handmaiden (2016)and Fifty Shades Darker (2017). Yes, the last one is kind of embarrassing, and yes, the last two have something very specific in common, but I’m fine with that.

Here’s hoping I reach 50 films—which is 1/2 of my goal for the year—by the end of the month (but honestly, it will probably happen by the end of this week).


Television

TV has been unexpectedly complicated for me in 2017. TV tends to be my breeziest medium, but I’m having a very difficult time finding something that clicks for me this year. To be fair, I’ve still completed 7 series this year, but each of those has been under 20 episodes, so I haven’t had to really commit.

My biggest surprise was my lack of interest in The Americans, a show I started expecting I would love it and planned to catch up before the new season comes later this spring. I watched the entirety of season 1 and the premiere of season 2, and just kept finding myself underwhelmed. This is the show every critic says is totally underrated and deserves nominations it rarely receives, but nothing about it really hooked me. I kept watching in the hopes that would change, but I finally decided to stop. It was a decision accompanied by a surprising amount of turmoil, but I really haven’t thought about the show at all since, so I think I made the right decision.

I’m finally committed to a new project with Flight of the Conchords, though this show is only 22 episodes overall, so again, it’s fairly temporary. It’s silly and strange and I like it. Same goes for Moone Boy, which I watched very quickly a few weeks ago.

There is a handful of shows currently airing/soon to return that I’m keeping up with, including: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Mindy Project, Girls, Legion, and Bates Motel. It’s nice to have a few things to rely on, especially when I’m not particularly inclined elsewhere.

And speaking of my lack of interest, my roommate and I have developed an exciting and cut-throat habit of “canceling” movies and books and TV shows (aka we deem things “canceled” when we stop liking them, and they cease to exist). So The Americans? Canceled. Together we tried to start back on Penny Dreadful, having both watched the first season when it aired, but that only lasted 14 minutes before cancelation. I also canceled The Leftovers after watching 19 minutes and feeling like I never needed to return. I have a lot of random things on my TV list for the year, and I expect some of them to be canceled as well. At least I’m giving them all a shot.

Of the things I have actually watched, I would most highly recommend A Series of Unfortunate Events because it is just delightful, and I also had fun watching Chewing Gum, Looking, and Glitch in January. And seriously, Moone Boy is super sweet and charming if you’re looking for that type.


Now I’m off to go finish a movie I started this afternoon and enjoy some quality reading time. Next time I write, I fully expect to have canceled a few more things.

I can’t wait.

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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Favorite Books of 2016

I know there are many people in the world who rarely read, which is probably one of the most depressing things to know about our society. I feel no shame in the time I spend daily reading or thinking about reading or discussing reading with my roommate.

In 2016, I read 92 books and plays, which is a personal record (I was determined to out-do my 2014 total of 91, so congratulations from me to myself). Unlike past years, I set a few goals at the beginning of the year other than reading a total of 52 books, which included reading works by specific people. By Thanksgiving, I’d accomplished all of those goals, so I’m upping the ante for 2017 (see my new reading list in a day or two if you’re curious about how nerdy/obsessive I can be).

Below, in the order I read them, is a list of my favorite books I read in 2016, followed by some honorable mentions. This list contains books both new and old, some of which have even achieved favorite status. You can consult my full 2016 reading list here.

What books did you love in 2016? Maybe I’ll add them to my shelf.


Brooklyn, Colm Toíbín

Both as a book and a film, Brooklyn has taken deep root in my soul. I adore this coming-of-age story (they tend to be my favorites anyway, but this one is especially great). The novel, which tells the story of a young Irish immigrant Eilis who moves to New York City to start a new life in the 1950s, is just as profound and beautiful as its Oscar-nominated film adaptation. This is a perfect book to enjoy on a cozy winter afternoon.

Collected Sonnets of Edna St. Vincent Millay

I grabbed this book at a used bookstore to help fill out my reading list for my master’s comprehensive exams in the spring and was fortunate enough to love it as a piece of literature. I quickly became obsessed with Edna St. Vincent Millay herself (this girl was crazy progressive and hip in the 1920s) and her poetry doesn’t make me feel like an idiot as most poetry does. She’s witty, hilarious, and heartbreaking in equal parts.

‘Night, Mother, Marsha Norman

It’s strange that I only read ‘Night, Mother earlier this year because the story feels deeply engrained in me already. My mom has loved this play for a long time, and I finally understood why when I read it myself this spring. Norman’s play is sparse and simple but still incredibly profound. It’s impossible as a reader not to share the characters’ anxiety as the story progresses in real time toward a potential suicide. I can’t wait to share this play with my students this spring.

Hamilton: The Revolution, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

This may come as a surprise to you, but I’m a fan of Hamilton (okay just kidding I haven’t listened to any other music in a year). Since annotating is one of my favorite pastimes, reading the annotated edition of the complete musical, accompanied by beautiful photographs and behind-the-scenes information, was a dream. Hamilton: The Revolution is a must-have for fans of the musical. Though it’s a little pricier than the Chernow biography upon which the show is based, it’s far less likely to sit untouched on your bookshelf.

Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed

My only prior encounters with Cheryl Strayed came from seeing the film adaptation of Wild  and reading a few nonfiction essays in a writing workshop, but after my roommate loved this one and gave it to me as a graduation gift, I too fell in love. I intended to bring this as my reading material on a long drive to Nebraska over the summer, but I got so into it I breezed through the entire book before our departure. Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of Strayed’s Dear Sugar letters, a column she wrote for The Rumpus. Strayed clearly answers each person with deep thought and tenderness, but she isn’t afraid to answer with honesty. Each entry makes you feel understood and valued. I have a feeling this book will be one I continue to share with friends and family.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy Schumer

After solidifying my love for Amy Schumer in 2015, I of course had to read her memoir when it was released this summer. Schumer doesn’t disappoint in this book that is equally laugh-out-loud funny and sweetly sad. Though I read this book months ago, there are still stories here that I think of and laugh about often.

The Book of Other People, edited by Zadie Smith

The Book of Other People is a collection of short stories written by several famous authors whose sole prompt was to create a character and write a story about them. As with many short story collections, the end result is a bit of a mixed bag, but the general feeling I had was a very pleasant one. When my roommate and I read this aloud together (now one of our favorite and cutest habits), we sometimes had difficulty stopping ourselves from reading indefinitely. Though many of the stories are great, see if you can get your hands on “Magda Mandela” by Hari Kunzru. It’s a quick read and you will not be disappointed.

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness

I haven’t even seen A Monster Calls yet but I’m already guessing this will be the #1 tearjerker of 2017. The book tells the story of a young English boy named Conor whose mother’s cancer is continually worsening. Conor is visited nightly by a tree monster, a clear manifestation of his frustration and grief as he watches his mother fade. This is a beautiful story about love and loss. Just maybe skip the eye makeup before reading.

Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty

I’m very rarely a reader of mysteries, especially contemporary ones. However, once I saw the trailer for the upcoming HBO miniseries adaptation of this novel, I was too intrigued not to read it before the February air date. Who knew I’d be such a fan? The book rounds out at over 500 pages, but I couldn’t put it down in the 2 days I spent reading it. I think Moriarty does a great job of telling a dramatic story in a way that still feels authentic (something I’m a little worried about based on the footage from the miniseries). It was refreshing to see a story about women who come from various backgrounds, aren’t all about competition, and keep cattiness to a minimum. Though this was my first encounter with Moriarty, I’ve already purchased her latest book, Truly Madly Guilty, and look forward to enjoying it early next year.

State of Wonder, Ann Patchett

2016 was a year of Ann Patchett for me. I’d never read her previously, but my roommate and I read Bel Canto together in the fall and I became a fan. Though I generally try not to be too easily distracted by my book purchases, when I bought State of Wonder in October, I couldn’t resist starting it almost immediately. The story is clearly inspired by Joseph Conrad’s classic Heart of Darkness, but differs in that it follows a woman sent to retrieve her female boss from the depths of the Amazon where she’s developing a fertility drug. Though I was—and still am—frustrated by the book’s conclusion, it features beautiful writing and some great twists that make for a worthwhile read.

The Penguin Arthur Miller

In my 92 books read this year, this one feels like the biggest accomplishment. In fact, it’s one book that contains 18—this is the complete canon of Arthur Miller’s dramatic works. Miller and I go way back at this point, but before 2016, I’d only read 3 of his plays. This edition isn’t exactly an easy one to travel with—note its comparative size to my cat in the featured photo—but now it has a stately position on my bookshelf made all the more grand by the fact that I’ve read all the words in it. Miller is an undeniable master of American drama, and I loved spending so much time with him this year. If you remember, think of him on February 10—the date not only of his death, but also the anniversary of the Broadway premiere of Death of a Salesman.

Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling

My general relationship with Mindy Kaling over the past month has gone from casual fan to actively seeking friendship (so, Mindy, if you’re reading, let’s hang out!). When I bought this book in the airport a few weeks ago, I was just looking to be mildly entertained on my journey home, but many times I was made to laugh aloud. Then I watched the entirety of The Mindy Project in just a few days, and I became even more enamored. Though it would be wrong to call Why Not Me? a page-turner, it’s still the kind of book you have a hard time putting down.


Honorable Mentions: The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, Voyager by Diana Gabaldon, At Fault by Kate Chopin, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy

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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Book #32: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, by Edward Albee

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

During the course of my Modern American Drama class, there have been several benchmark plays that I’ve been most excited to read, particularly those that are renowned as classics. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? obviously has a spot on that list; the play and 1966 film adaptation are both modern classics. After finishing the play, I had a hard time really deciding how I felt about it. It’s incredibly l0ng for a play and it feels repetitive and bizarre on the page. After watching the film, though, the story makes much more sense, and I had a much clearer understanding of the play as a whole.

In comparison with Albee’s other works, Virginia Woolf is a more mild form of Theatre of the Absurd, but that also doesn’t mean that it’s a “normal” play. Suffice it to say that I really, really wouldn’t want to find myself stuck in the lives of these characters. It would not be pleasant. If you don’t know anything about the plot (like me before reading it), the play takes place in real time as George and Martha invite Nick and Honey over at 2:30 in the morning for a drink after they’ve all been at a party together. Martha’s father is the president of a university where George teaches History, and Nick is a new, young member of the Biology department. This all may sound a bit mundane, but the play moves quickly and is much more shocking that you might imagine.

I also got to kill two birds with one stone by watching the film adaptation since I’ve set a goal of watching ten films from the AFI Top 100 list this year. I’m not sure I’ve ever really seen Elizabeth Taylor in anything before, but she’s absolutely amazing in her portrayal of Martha, a performance for which she won an Academy Award. There are a few small changes to Albee’s version, but the film is almost an exact representation of his work. Even though it’s nearly fifty-years-old, it’s still very modern and one you should definitely watch if you’re a fan of classic films.