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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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2017 Reading List #5: A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf

Another of my many reading goals in 2017 was to read something by Virginia Woolf, who I’ve never approached before. Though I also own Mrs. Dalloway, I decided to start with A Room of One’s Own because it’s a short read.

The length, though, doesn’t say much about the density of the text. A Room of One’s Own is a bit complex in terms of genre because it’s a nonfiction essay, but her narrator is fictional.

Regardless of whether we’re supposed to read the book as fact or fiction, Woolf’s arguments are pointed and complicated and compelling. I’m not sure I understood all of it, but there were moments when I loved her points about the relationship between women and fiction. Woolf takes a chronological historical approach to understanding female writers and has several revelations in the process.

This is the kind of book that will take a while to process, but reading it has given me confidence that I’ll be better prepared to tackle more of Woolf in the future.

With this, another reading goal is crossed off my list in 2017. Hopefully the rest of my winter break can be equally productive.

2017 Reading List #4: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling

It’s probably silly of me to try to objectively review this book knowing my feelings about Harry Potter, but I’ll give it a fair shot.

I received the illustrated edition of Chamber of Secrets for Christmas, and, like last year, my mom and I reread it together, just as we did when first reading the books many years ago.

Again, it was perfect, and the added bonus of Jim Kay’s beautiful illustrations only makes the reading experience more enjoyable. I’m particularly fond of his detailed illustrations of  the Mandrakes and the Phoenix.

These illustrated editions of the series are the perfect way to enjoy some quality time revisiting the series that has forever changed me. Though I am starting to think I need an entire bookcase dedicated to Harry Potter books and their related texts. I guess I’ll have to continue my dreams for a home with a library…

2017 Reading List #2: Lady Windermere’s Fan, by Oscar Wilde

The best thing about attending/working at a university where winter break is 5-6 weeks long is how much reading can get done in that time frame.

I’m doing my best to get off to a good start in 2017, and so far, I feel good about my progress.

I’m currently juggling three reading projects at once—sometimes I don’t know how to stop—but I try to balance various genres and goals when reading multiple things at once.

My mom and I are reading the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets together (which is how we first read them when I was much younger), and after finishing Swing Time yesterday, I started on another book that’s helping to cross off one of my 2017 goals: A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf (I’ve never read her before, so I decided it was time to start).

But, since A Room of One’s Own can be complex and less readable that a typical novel, I decided to throw a play into the mix, which is how Lady Windermere’s Fan happened late last night.Reading two plays by Oscar Wilde is also a goal in 2017, and I’ll soon be able to cross that one off.

Lady Windermere’s Fan shows off Wilde’s characteristic witticism and is entirely enjoyable. Like many of Wilde’s plays, this one has it’s fair share of farcical elements, but it’s also a bit sweeter and sadder than something like The Importance of Being Earnest. The play takes place over 24 hours in the life of Lady Windermere, a young woman led to believe that her husband is having an affair with the new harlot in town. In truth, the relationship between her husband and the woman is more complicated, and all kinds of fun ensues during the play’s progress.

I sped through this play much quicker than I’d expected, so I’m planning to continue my Wilde reading alongside Woolf. I’ve got a collection of Wilde’s plays with three more to read, so I think I may just power through the entire thing before setting it aside.

Look for more reflection on my various reading projects in the coming days.

Happy reading!

2016 Movie List

 

Below is my complete movie viewing list for 2016. Titles listed in bold are those I particularly enjoyed.

  1. 01/01: Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (2016): A
  2. 01/01: Testament of Youth (2014): B-
  3. 01/02: Joy (2015): B
  4. 01/04: Black Mirror: White Christmas (2014): B
  5. 01/05: The Age of Adaline (2015): B
  6. 01/07: Nasty Baby (2015): C+
  7. 01/08: The Big Short (2015): A
  8. 01/08: Sicario (2015): B
  9. 01/17: Jurassic World (2015): C
  10. 01/20: Sundance Shorts Program 1
    1. So Good to See You: C+
    2. Killer: A
    3. Mobilize: B
    4. It’s Not You: B
    5. Speaking is Difficult: B+
    6. Maman(s): A
    7. The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere: A
    8. Catching Up: B+
  11. 01/20: Spotlight (2015): A-
  12. 01/20: Room (2015): A
  13. 01/22: Goat (2016): B
  14. 01/23: Wiener-Dog (2016): C-
  15. 01/24: Manchester by the Sea (2016): A
  16. 01/24: Yoga Hosers (2016): B
  17. 01/25: Lovesong (2016): B+
  18. 01/25: Complete Unknown (2016): C+
  19. 01/26: First Girl I Loved (2016): A
  20. 01/26: The Lobster (2015): A
  21. 01/29: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015): C
  22. 01/29: The Gift (2015): B-
  23. 02/04: Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List (2015): C+
  24. 02/04: The Last Five Years (2015): B-
  25. 02/05: The Revenant (2015): B
  26. 02/06: Bridge of Spies (2015): B
  27. 02/11: The Overnight (2015): B+
  28. 02/13: Mistress America (2015): F
  29. 02/18: The First Time (2012): B
  30. 02/19: Ricki and the Flash (2015): C
  31. 02/19: The Wolfpack (2015): B
  32. 02/21: The Witch (2015): A
  33. 02/24: LOL (2006): C
  34. 02/27: The Maltese Falcon (1941): C
  35. 03/04: Unfriended (2014): B
  36. 03/04: The Gallows (2015): C
  37. 03/04: Magic Mike XXL (2015): C
  38. 03/12: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (2016): B
  39. 03/16: Zipper (2015): C+
  40. 03/17: Ouija (2014): C-
  41. 04/09: The Danish Girl (2015): B
  42. 04/18: The Longest Ride (2015): C+
  43. 04/29: The Jungle Book (2016): B+
  44. 05/23: Everything is Copy (2016): B
  45. 06/04: Me Before You (2016): B+
  46. 06/16: Real Women Have Curves (2002): B
  47. 06/18: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958): B-
  48. 06/23: Rain Man (1988): A
  49. 06/25: Baby Boom (1987): B
  50. 06/28: The Scorch Trials (2015): C-
  51. 06/29: The Fundamentals of Caring (2016): B
  52. 06/29: Elizabeth (1998): C
  53. 07/01: Swiss Army Man (2016): A-
  54. 07/01: Big Night (1996): B
  55. 07/04: 1776 (1972): B-
  56. 07/04: The Hunting Ground (2015): A
  57. 07/04: The Imposter (2012): B
  58. 07/05: Tabloid (2010): B
  59. 07/05: Welcome to Leith (2012): B
  60. 07/06: She Loves Me (2016): B+
  61. 07/13: Miss Representation (2011): B
  62. 07/14: Horns (2013): F
  63. 07/14: Girl Rising (2013): B
  64. 07/25: Hollywoodland (2006): B-
  65. 08/13: The Lady in the Van (2015): B+
  66. 08/27: Florence Foster Jenkins (2016): B
  67. 09/02: The Light Between Oceans (2016): B+
  68. 09/03: Fruitvale Station (2013): A
  69. 09/18: Straight Outta Compton (2015): B
  70. 10/01: XOXO (2016): C
  71. 10/01: Beyond the Lights (2014): B+
  72. 10/01: A Royal Night Out (2015): C
  73. 10/07: The Girl on the Train (2016): B-
  74. 10/07: 13th (2016): A
  75. 10/08: Amanda Knox (2016): B
  76. 10/09: Audrie & Daisy (2016): B
  77. 10/14: Tangerine (2015): B+
  78. 10/14: Love & Friendship (2016): B+
  79. 10/14: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013): B+
  80. 10/15: Holy Hell (2016): B
  81. 10/20: Green Room (2016): A-
  82. 10/20: Midnight Special (2016): B
  83. 10/21: Hamilton’s America (2016): A
  84. 11/06: The Neon Demon (2016): C
  85. 11/12: Moonlight (2016): B+
  86. 11/17: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016): B
  87. 11/19: The Edge of Seventeen (2016): A
  88. 11/19: Morris from America (2016): C+
  89. 12/09: Hell or High Water (2016): C
  90. 12/09: Other People (2016): A
  91. 12/10: Rocky Balboa (2007): C-
  92. 12/11: Sense and Sensibility (1995): B+
  93. 12/12: Taxi Driver (1976): A-
  94. 12/13: The Station Agent (2003): A
  95. 12/14: Moana (2016): B+
  96. 12/15: The Sting (1973): B
  97. 12/16: Captain Fantastic (2016): B
  98. 12/17: Turner & Hooch (1989): B
  99. 12/25: La La Land (2016): A
  100. 12/26: Fences (2016): A
  101. 12/27: Deadpool (2016): A-
  102. 12/27: Hail, Caesar! (2016): B
  103. 12/29: The Fear of 13 (2015): C+

2016 TV List

Here’s the full list of all the shows I completed in 2016.

  1. And Then There Were None (miniseries, 2 episodes)
  2. Call the Midwife (4 seasons, 35 episodes)
  3. Casual (2 seasons, 23 episodes)
  4. Catastrophe, season 2 (1 season, 6 episodes)
  5. The Crown (1 season, 10 episodes)
  6. Difficult People (2 seasons, 18 episodes)
  7. Doctor Thorne (1 season, 4 episodes)
  8. Easy (1 season, 8 episodes)
  9. The Fall, season 3 (1 season, 6 episodes)
  10. Felicity (4 seasons, 84 episodes)
  11. Fleabag (1 season, 6 episodes)
  12. Flesh and Bone (miniseries, 8 episodes)
  13. Game of Thrones (6 seasons, 60 episodes) 
  14. The Get Down (1 season, 6 episodes)
  15. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (miniseries, 4 episodes)
  16. The Girlfriend Experience (1 season, 13 episodes)
  17. Grantchester (2 seasons, 12 episodes)
  18. Inside Amy Schumer, season 3 (1 season, 10 episodes)
  19. Making a Murderer (1 season, 10 episodes)
  20. The Mindy Project (5 seasons, 100 episodes)
  21. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (3 seasons, 34 episodes)
  22. My Mad Fat Diary (3 seasons, 16 episodes)
  23. The Night Manager (miniseries, 6 episodes)
  24. The O.C. (season 3, episode 15-season 4, 27 episodes)
  25. One Mississippi (1 season, 6 episodes)
  26. O.J.: Made in America (miniseries, 5 episodes)
  27. The Office (U.K.) (2 seasons, 14 episodes)
  28. Party Down (2 seasons, 20 episodes)
  29. Pushing Daisies (2 seasons, 22 episodes)
  30. Rick and Morty (2 seasons, 21 episodes)
  31. Sex and the City (6 seasons, 94 episodes)
  32. Stranger Things (1 season, 8 episodes)
  33. Transparent, season 2 (1 season, 10 episodes)
  34. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, season 2 (1 season, 13 episodes)
  35. War and Peace (miniseries, 4 episodes)
  36. The White Queen (miniseries, 10 episodes)