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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.

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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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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

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!

Summer Entertainment Update

Since I’m in this weird in-between time of having graduated but not started the next phase of my life (a.k.a grad school), I’ve had a lot of free time on my hands. Since I have a degree in Pop Culture Studies, however, it’s not too difficult for me to find ways to occupy my time; there are plenty of books and movies and TV shows to keep me quite busy. I posted a similar entry like this recently, but enough has changed that I thought it would be fun to update again. Here we go!

TV — I have been on a roll of TV binge-watching. Since my last post, I’ve started and completed two separate series, and almost completed a full season of another show. My first TV project was Enlightened, the HBO dramedy that ran from 2011-2013 and starred Laura Dern. I enjoyed the show to an extent, but it really doesn’t surprise me that the show was canceled. Laura Dern gives a fantastic performance as the narcissistic do-gooder Amy, but the show in general felt a bit confused at times. The pacing is rather slow, and I often found the voice over narration to be  annoying and slightly incompatible with the reality of Amy’s character. The three episodes of the show’s eighteen that follow three of the supporting characters were also pretty annoying in my opinion, though I did enjoy getting Tyler’s (Mike White, who also co-created the show and wrote/directed most of the episodes) back story. I felt like the concept of the show was good, but it wasn’t entirely flushed out.

As of just a few minutes ago, I also finished Showtime’s Penny Dreadfulan show that takes an interesting approach to representing a combination of the supernatural and famous literary figures. Among the show’s primary characters are Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and his Monster, and a version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, though this is more obvious in the characters of Mina and Van Helsing. I really enjoyed the first two episodes of the series, but it definitely had its ups and downs overall. Personally, I dislike Frankenstein’s character (I also kind of hate the novel), so I didn’t find his story very interesting. Like Enlightened, the plot moves rather slowly at times, and overall, the progress of the plot across the first season’s eight episodes is very minimal. I’m intrigued enough, though, that I imagine I’ll tune in for season two whenever it happens.

As for my other TV projects, I’m just a few episodes short of finishing season seven of Seinfeldso just two more seasons to go before I’ve completed it (hooray!). I’m a really big fan of crossing things off my list, so it feels important to make significant progress on a long project. My mom and I have also picked back up with Showtime’s Masters of SexI watched all but the final two episodes during season one, but I’m backtracking to get her caught up too. Once we’re caught up on that I’m sure we’ll return to The Sopranossince I’m rather embarrassed to say that we’ve still only watched the pilot episode.

Books — My reading projects haven’t been too eventful since my last post, but that’s probably because I’ve dedicated so much time to watching TV. After finishing The Marriage PlotI reread Gone Girlwhich was once again a thrilling experience. After that, I started reading Jane Austen’s Emmawhich I’m about one-third of the way through. I’m slowly realizing that I’m not a huge Jane Austen fan, and since I watched the film adaptation of this novel a few months ago, I’m having a hard time motivating myself to keep reading. I’m trying to meet a goal of reading 20 pages of it a day; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. To keep myself reading, I also started The Scorch Trialsthe second book in The Maze Runner trilogy. Of course, my problem now is that I’m getting more into this book and not spending as much time reading Emma. This week, though, I want to do my best to make good progress on them both, and I’m sure I’ll finish The Scorch Trial in the next day or two.

Movies — All my TV-watching kind of means that my movie-watching has been neglected. My goal of watching 125 movies this year is starting to be a bit more challenging; I need to watch 10 movies a month to stay on track, and I’m still 9 movies ahead, but I’m usually better off than that. Since my TV projects aren’t so numerous now, I’m going to try to get through some of my Netflix list to raise my movie quota. The last movie I watched was Happy Christmasanother of my Sundance favorites. Unfortunately, the fact that I saw it in January didn’t really help me keep my movie list growing. (Obviously these are really silly things to worry about since this is a self-inflicted kind of issue that has no real consequence, but I take this stuff seriously.)

Anyway, I’m setting myself a few pop culture goals for the week: finish one of my two books, finish season seven of Seinfeld, catch up on Masters of Sex, and watch two movies. Here’s to another productive week of entertainment!

Book #38: Six Degrees of Separation, by John Guare

Book #38: Six Degrees of Separation, by John Guare

I was anxious to read this play because I’d known a bit about the plot and film adaptation for a while, without ever having seen or read it. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but it’s a very compelling and strange story that’s sure to keep audiences hooked.

The story generally centers around the lives of Ouisa and Flan, a very wealthy couple living in New York City, whose lives are interrupted when Paul, an African American peer of their children’s at Harvard, appears at their apartment after being mugged. Paul claims to be the son of actor Sidney Poitier, and the relationship between Paul and Ouisa and Flan sets off to a quick and memorable start. However, as the action continues, the play gets more and more disturbing and strange, delving into an unexpected realm of social standards.

One thing I really enjoyed about Guare’s writing is that it doesn’t create a caricature of any stereotypical person. Ouisa, who could seem a flighty, self-centered woman is much more compassionate and giving than you might expect, and Paul could inspire a very serious character study. I appreciated the fact that the most important characters in this story were quite three-dimensional when Guare could have taken an easier route and used archetypical characters. Coincidentally, I think the film adaptation did a successful job of effectively capturing the essence of the play. Stockard Channing is fantastic as Ouisa, and Will Smith gives a strong performance as Paul in what I imagine was one of his first roles post “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” If you like literature that takes you on a journey, this play (or movie) is for you.