2017: My Year of 100(+!) Movies

It looked rough for a while but, somehow, I made it! My friend Merrill Kaye came up with the idea for herself at the beginning of the year, and I decided to join in… which led to a LOT of movies with MK (often featuring Sweetgreen, or our favorite place on the Upper East Side, Thai@Lex).

It’s super interesting to see how my movie viewing was spread out this year — you can definitely see evidence of my trip to Australia in March, but there’s also a lull in May too. I’ll have to pay better attention in 2018 to whether movies are just slow that month, or if I probably had something else going on!

January – 8 movies

  1. Jackie  (1/2)
  2. Hidden Figures (1/4)
  3. Hacksaw Ridge (1/7)
  4. 20th Century Woman (1/6)
  5. Singin’ in the Rain (1/15)
  6. Lion (1/21)
  7. The Founder (1/22)
  8. Split (1/28)

February – 5 movies

  1. La La Land (2/4)
  2. Gold (2/8)
  3. 50 Shades Darker (2/11)
  4. Lego Batman (2/12)
  5. Fist Fight (2/19)

March – 4 movies

  1. Get Out (3/1)
  2. Before I Fall (3/3)
  3. Table 19 (3/4)
  4. Beauty and The Beast (3/26)

April – 7 movies

  1. Power Rangers (4/2)
  2. The Zookeeper’s Wife (4/8)
  3. Gifted (4/9)
  4. Going in Style (4/15)
  5. Colossal (4/20)
  6. The Promise (4/23)
  7. The Circle (4/30)

May – 3 movies

  1. Unforgettable (5/3)
  2. Snatched (5/18)
  3. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (5/23)

June – 8 movies

  1. Wonder Woman (6/3)
  2. Everything, Everything (6/17)
  3. Rough Night (6/18)
  4. All Eyes on Me (6/22)
  5. The Book of Henry (6/24)
  6. The Big Sick (6/28)
  7. Baywatch (6/29)
  8. The House (6/30)

July – 10 movies

  1. The Little Hours (7/1)
  2. The Beguiled (7/2)
  3. Despicable Me 3 (7/3)
  4. Captain Underpants (7/4)
  5. Spiderman: Homecoming (7/14)
  6. Landline (7/22)
  7. Baby Driver (7/23)
  8. Girls Trip (7/27)
  9. The Emoji Movie (7/28)
  10. Dunkirk (7/30)

August – 14 movies

  1. Detroit (8/1)
  2. Brigsby Bear (8/9)
  3. Atomic Blonde (8/10)
  4. Kidnap (8/11)
  5. The Dark Tower (8/12)
  6. The Glass Castle (8/13)
  7. Ingrid Goes West (8/17)
  8. The Hitman’s Bodyguard (8/18)
  9. Wind River (8/19)
  10. The Only Living Boy in New York (8/20)
  11. Step (8/24)
  12. Patti Cakes (8/27)
  13. Logan Lucky (8/27)
  14. Polina (8/27)

September – 10 movies

  1. Leap (9/4)
  2. It (9/9)
  3. Home Again (9/9)
  4. Year by the Sea (9/10)
  5. Mother! (9/19)
  6. American Assassin (9/21)
  7. Lego Ninjago Movie (9/23)
  8. Stronger (9/24)
  9. Brad’s Status (9/26)
  10. Battle of the Sexes (9/30)

October – 10 movies

  1. Flatliners (10/2)
  2. American Made (10/4)
  3. Kingsman II (The Golden CIrcle) (10/7)
  4. Happy Death Day (10/18)
  5. Only the Brave (10/21)
  6. The Mountain Between Us (10/21)
  7. Victoria and Abdul (10/22)
  8. Goodbye Christopher Robin (10/22)
  9. Bad Moms Christmas (10/25)
  10. Professor Marsdon and the Wonder Women (10/29)
  11. Little Shop of Horrors (10/29)

November – 10 movies

  1. The Room (11/3)
  2. Thank You For Your Service (11/4)
  3. Lady Bird (11/5)
  4. The Florida Project (11/8)
  5. Murder on the Orient Express (11/11)
  6. Thor: Ragnarok (11/13)
  7. Last Flag Flying (11/16)
  8. Justice League (11/18)
  9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (11/19)
  10. Wonder (11/19)

December – 12 movies

  1. Daddy’s Home 2 (12/1)
  2. Coco (12/2)
  3. Darkest Hour (12/3)
  4. Call Me By Your Name (12/7)
  5. The Star (12/12)
  6. The Shape of Water (12/12)
  7. The Disaster Artist (12/16)
  8. Downsizing (12/23)
  9. The Greatest Showman (12/24)
  10. Pitch Perfect 3 (12/26)
  11. All the Money in the World (12/28)
  12. I, Tonya (12/29)
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The Best Of the Movies NOT on a “Best Of” List

As of a few days ago, I reached my goal of seeing 100 movies in 2017! I plan to keep on going (many more awards nominees to see!), but as I look through my list of favorite movies of the year, there are quite a few that most people (who didn’t spend 200 hrs at the movies) haven’t heard a lot about. Right now the internet is flooded with year-end roundups that all contain the same few movies — but I wanted to share some that I loved that aren’t on those “Best Of” lists, both comedies and dramas. 

So here’s my first post about my experience (I hope to churn out more this week) — my Top 14 Movies You HAVEN’T Heard About This Year. These aren’t necessarily my favorite of the year (although some of them are) — they’re just films I feel deserve some extra attention as awards season sweeps over us. Save this, for when you’ve made it through the list of Oscar nominees, or when you’re stuck on a long flight and looking for something new!

MORE HAPPY THAN SAD

  1. Brigsby Bear
    • Cast Members You’d Know: Kyle Mooney, Mark Hamill, Claire Danes, Matt Walsh, and (Love of My Life) Andy Samberg
    • Quick Summary: This one’s difficult to explain without spoiling, but Mooney plays a young adult man who’s pulled out of the world he knows, and must learn to adjust. In an adorable and hilarious way.
    • My Take: This film had me awwww-ing and laughing at the same time. It reminded me of my high school Friday nights, watching goofy movies with my friends (coincidentially — Kyle Mooney wrote this movie with his 8th grade buddies). The humor fits right in with the SNL-era humor of The Lonely Island, and Kyle Mooney’s touches make this movie one of my most memorable of the year.
  2. Power Rangers
    • Cast Members You’d Know: Becky G, a guy who looks like he could be Zac Efron’s younger brother… and a great secondary cast including Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston, and Bill Hader
    • Quick Summary: Save the World? You know the deal with the Power Rangers
    • My Take: I loved the Power Rangers growing up, so went to see this film primarily for the nostalgia factor… and walked out raving about it. Only one or two of my friends ACTUALLY took my advice and saw it, and they loved it too. This movie was a progressive look at what it’s like to be a teenager today, set to an awesome soundtrack (does anybody NOT get pumped up by Kanye’s “Power”? And the version of Stand By Me used in this movie is hauntingly beautiful). It’s Marvel meets The Breakfast Club.
  3. The Little Hours
    • Cast Members You’d Know: TOO MANY TO NAME. Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Molly Shannon, Nick Offerman, John C Reilly, Fred Armisen
    • Quick Summary: Nuns, witches, lords, and priests. And a donkey.
    • My Take: I would call this a modern day Monty Python and the Holy Grail, with a little more focus on the female perspective. Dumb jokes, general debauchery, completely hilarious.
  4. Table 19
    • Cast Members You’d Know: Anna Kendrick, Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson
    • Quick Summary: Eloise (Kendrick) was set to be maid-of-honor at her best friend’s wedding… until she and the bride’s brother broke up. She is pushed to the spillover table and meets a host of “randoms” who essentially just help her get through the day.
    • My Take: The plot is rather uncomplicated, but as a person so is entering her “Wedding Years” of attending dozens of my friends’ weddings, the quirky characters and awkward interactions were really fun. It’s not unpredictable, but is a fun few hours of character development.
  5. Ingrid Goes West
    • Cast Members You’d Know: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, (others you’ll recognize, but I want to keep this short)
    • Quick Summary: Ingrid (Plaza) becomes obsessed with an Instagrammer/Blogger named Taylor, and tried to “real life” befriend her. Essentially through stalking.
    • My Take: As a person who follows WAY too many people on Instagram and reads WAY too many blogs every day, this movie really hit home. Because YES I do respond to their Instagram stories (as if they ever read my messages). And YES I do talk about them (with people who read the same bloggers as I do) as if I actually know them. Even if you’re not into bloggers like me — anybody with an Instagram account can relate to this movie, and the ridiculousness of the social media-lites it focuses on.
  6. Leap
    • Cast Members You’d Know: (Voice of) Mel Brooks, Kate McKinnon, Maddie Zeigler, Elle Fanning, Dane DeHaan, Carly Rae Jepsen, Nat Wolff
    • Quick Summary: Two friends, Felicie and Victor, escape their orphanage, and must make a life for themselves on the streets. Felicie yearns to be a ballerina, and tricks her way into an academy in the Paris Opera under another girl’s identity.
    • My Take: Yes, this was a cheesy “You can accomplish anything if you’re willing to take the leap!” message. But the illustration was impressive and, as a former dancer, I was just completely sucked in and inspired.

FOR A TOUCH OF DRAMA*

  1. Last Flag Flying
    • Cast Members You’d Know: Steve Carrell, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburn
    • Quick Summary (Stolen from Google, because it was great): Thirty years after serving together in the Vietnam War, Larry “Doc” Shepherd, Sal Nealon and the Rev. Richard Mueller reunite for a different type of mission: to bury Doc’s son, a young Marine killed in Iraq.
    • My Take: I was honestly shocked not to see this movie among Golden Globe nominees — likely due to a lack of campaigning on the studio’s part, I have to assume. All three stars are phenomenal, and this movie had a perfect combination of dark comedy along with deeply moving drama. Fair warning: I cried for pretty much 10 full minutes at the end of this one. BUT it comes with a huge payoff… this was definitely in my Top 10 Favorites of the year (no exclusions)
  2. Goodbye Christopher Robin
    • Cast Members You’d Know: Margot Robbie, Domhnall Gleeson
    • Quick Summary: The true story behind the world of Winnie the Pooh (including the real Christopher Robin)
    • My Take: Another movie that I went into for the nostalgia factor, and felt was way worth it. Great back story that was more touching than I knew I was walking into, and definitely eked a few tears.
  3. The Promise
    • Cast Members You’d Know: Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac
    • Quick Summary: A love triangle set in the war-torn ending of the Ottoman Empire (specifically a half Turk, half Armenian town)
    • My Take: I have a real love for films that tell real stories that I know nothing about. I saw this film mostly because I have a few Armenian coworkers, and I knew little about Armenian history (particularly the Armenian genocide, which Turkey still denies to this day). But I was swept up in the epic-ness of this film. It’s not only historically driven, but also a wonderful plot and love story, set to an excellent score. Definitely would recommend for an history buffs or even romantics.
  4. Step
    • Quick Summary: A documentary following the Senior year of a high school step team in inner-city Baltimore, the members of whom are striving to be the first in their families to attend college.
    • My take: I promise that not all of the dramas on my list made me cry — but this one really did. This documentary was very real and raw, and came about in a time of tension in America. I cheered and cried with these girls as they went through hardships I’ll probably never really be able to understand as a person who grew up in a very secure home with college essentially promised to me. And GREAT NEWS — it’s already available on Hulu!
  5. Detroit
    • Cast Members You’d Know: John Boyega, Will Poulter (the kid from We’re The Millers), John Krasinski, Anthony Mackie
    • Quick Summary: A cinematic re-telling of the 1967 riots in Detroit, specifically the seize of the Algiers Hotel (the occupants of which were primarily black). This movie depicts a time of massive struggle between races, and between police and civilians.
    • My Take: Let me be clear — I’m not recommending this movie for pleasure or for entertainment. This movie was absolutely punishing to sit through and I hope to never subject myself to it again (I watched this one mostly from behind my sweatshirt). However, it was also extremely powerful and emotional. This is another piece of history that I knew little about, and feel like this movie left a huge impression on me. If you can stomach a lot of violence, give it a go, but be prepared to learn about a very dark time in American history.
  6. Wind River
    • Cast Members You’d Know: Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner
    • Quick Summary: FBI agent Jane Banner (Olsen) enlists the help of local wildlife officer Cory Lambert (Renner) to solve the murder of an American Indian woman found barefoot in the middle of a Reservation, miles from any shelter.
    • My Take: Another movie I wouldn’t have been surprised to see included in the awards circuit this year. I really appreciated the movie’s mission to draw attention to a story and statistics not often told — the difficulty of being an American Indian (this Refinery29 article is a great deep dive). Trigger warning: fairly graphic scenes of sexual abuse.
  7. Polina (or Polina, danser sa vie)
    • Quick Summary: We follow the journey of Polina, a young girl in Russia, as she studies classical ballet, and eventually turning to contemporary ballet.
    • My Take: This one’s for all the fellow dancers out there. The music and choreography were absolutely exceptional, and the ups and downs as Polina searches for her place  were something that will tug at any dancer (or fan on the arts)’s heartstrings. I may have never yearned to be a professional dancer, but this film absolutely sucked me in and made me feel emotionally attached to the world of professional artists. So beautiful, I cried for the last few minutes of the movie, and a good amount of the credits. Prepare for subtitles though — the entire movie alternates between French and Russian.
  8. Stronger
    • Cast Members You’d Know: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany
    • Quick Summary: The story of a man who lost both legs above the knee, as a result of the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013.
    • My Take: Another true story brought to light on the silver screen. Emotional and touching, without actually being a tear-jerker, with excellent performance from Gyllenhall and Maslany. This movie breaks up the dramatic moments with some real Southie (South Boston) humor — lovingly poking fun at Boston in the same way Silver Linings Playbook poked fun at my dear Philadelphia.

 

*I promise I don’t typically cry at the movies — the ones in which I did just happened to really move me this year!

 

What’s Making Me Happy This Week (1/15)

Written on the way home from Benihana, because when your best friend is in town, you do spontaneous hibatchi

This week has been ridiculously busy, with work holiday and going away parties, and my friend Jenny coming into town this weekend! But I’ve still had time to get some reading done, watch the winter premier of a few (OK, one) of the shows I actually keep up with, AND go to see one of my favorite movies in theaters. Which brings me to…

WHAT’S MAKING ME HAPPY THIS WEEK: Fathom Events.

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Often times the previews for Fathom events are for cultural events, like the Bolshoi Ballet, or Metropolitan Opera. But I’ve just recently started noticing the other things that they broadcast in theaters, such as classic movies and Broadway shows. A few months ago I went to see The King and I, and this weekend Jenny and I saw Singin’ in the Rain — and both are two of my FAVORITE movies. As soon as the music swelled at the beginning of the King and I, I swooned. And to see Singin’ in the Rain with a live audience, who clapped together after every number and guffawed over Debbie Reynolds was a very cool experience. Next up: Dirty Dancing (another personal fave — can you tell I love dancing and musicals?).

What ‘classic’ movie do you wish they would bring back to the big screen?

 

 

What’s Making Me Happy This Week (1/8)

Written while watching the Golden Globes 2017, fangirling over La La Land*

One of my favorite podcasts, Pop Culture Happy Hour, has a segment every week in which they discuss a piece of pop culture that is, as the title would suggest, making them happy that week. I’ve realized over the course of 2016 that pop culture – or more specifically, entertainment – is one of my passions. I’ve read more books and seen more movies (52!) in 2016 than in my entire life, so my goal in 2017 is to do a better job of documenting them. So as I learn to be more observant about elements of entertainment that are new to me, I want to document my favorites throughout 2017 here, to share with my friends, and also to look back on at the end of the year. And if you have suggestions, reading this — feel free to let me know!

WHAT IS MAKING ME HAPPY THIS WEEKHidden Figures (not related to “Hidden Fences”, which was brought up multiple times on tonight’s Golden Globes…)hf-gallery-02-gallery-imageThis movie made me think about how many untold stories must be out there! Anybody have suggestions for some great buried historical stories that I can read up on?

It reminded me so much of Argo because of it’s periodic feel, and suspense during the high moments of the film, despite the fact that it’s based on historical facts. While I knew that no harm could fall to John Glenn (whose mission in 1998 is probably the first major news event I remember seeing happen live), I was on the edge of my seat. Also — many praise emojis for that phenomenal cast and fantastic soundtrack additions by Pharrell Williams. Note to self (and all power ladies out there): put your name on everything, and get your credit where credit is due.

Honorable Mentions (aka other things I’ve seen and read lately):

  • The Sun is Also a Star (Book): I literally read this book in two days… both of which were workdays… when I worked at least 10 hours. I honestly just couldn’t put it down once I got home. It all centers around two characters who have a chance encounter in New York, and takes place over the span of one day. The book really points out the importance of random meetings, and makes you want to know the story of every person you meet on the street.
  • 20th Century Women (Movie): Funny with a variety of delightful characters. These characters are a true family, with romantic feelings for each other, without the movie really focusing on romance. Plus — a fantastic soundtrack.
  • Jackie (Movie): Portland was extremely believable as Jackie and really morphed into the role perfectly (accent, composure, and facial expression), however I found this film rather boring. However, I’m not one of those people who really idolized Jackie O, so don’t take my word for it. I was pleasantly surprised by how much the movie focused on just Jackie. Obviously, she is the titular character, but I expected a good amount of focus on JFK, which only has one or two lines that weren’t directly lifted off of exact speeches.

*Note: because I saw La La Land in 2016, I’ve decided it can’t officially be featured in this post. However, I am THRILLED with it’s sweep of the Golden Globes tonight.

Happiness Project, 2016

the_happiness_project_book_by_gretchen_rubinGuilty little secret about me: I sometimes turn to Lauren Conrad’s suggestions for reading materials. One of the reading lists on her site suggested a book called “The Happiness Project” in which the author, Gretchen, aims to find a happier life throughout the course of one year by focusing in on one topic or resolution per month. Some of these focus areas include saving money, being a better parent, finding God, being a better friend.

Although Gretchen, at the time she wrote the book, was in a different life stage than I am in now (she being happily married, twice published, and mother of two) I’m finding nuggets of inspiration throughout the book:

“In a virtuous circle, being happy energizes you and at the same time, having more energy makes it easier for you to engage in activities – like socializing and exercise – that boost happiness” – Chapter 1 (January): Boost Energy

This small statement hit me – I need to stop treating sleep like something that I should feel proud that I’m able to abate. Getting less sleep than the person next to me isn’t a badge of courage. It just makes for a less productive and less happy day.

“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself” – Chapter 6 (June): Make Time for Friends

The first half of this statement is something that I’ve believed in for a long time (one of my earliest memories is being in “double time out” because I snuck out of my first punishment to give my sister some toys to play with during her time out) however the second part of this sentence got to me. I spend a lot of time spinning my wheels, trying to guess what other people want to do, see, eat, etc. Maybe to make them happy, I need to go with what would make me happy sometimes. It’s ok to have preferences and suggestions sometimes and actually may make my friends and family happier – just because I’m happy.

I could include more quotes like these, but for now I’ll leave it there.

I’ve decided to start a similar project for myself – how lucky for me that I stumbled upon this book in January! I’ve always disliked New Year’s Resolutions, but this can be a way for me to observe the things that are sucking up my time and money, and see how my happiness increases when I make small self-improvements. While I may not feel the need just yet to revamp my entire life like Gretchen has (I’m sure there will come a time when I’ll find it refreshing), I do think there are little experiments that I could do to make small changes in my life. Some of my ideas include: going a month without buying a new article of clothing or shoes, a “dry” month (of alcohol), a month where I bring my lunch to work at least four days a week.

I’ll track my progress via this blog, if only as a reminder to myself of thoughts or productive actions taken as a result of these miniature self-experiments. Although I expect only my mom is reading this (Hi Brenda!), any suggestions as to other projects I can spend a month on or resolutions of your own?

#SNL40

I don’t remember exactly when I started watching SNL, but I know that it was a cornerstone to my growing up. It was discussed at 8th grade lunches, and before the first bell of high school. It was the focus of countless sleepovers, quoted thousands of times. It was the reason I started paying attention to politics, the news, and part of my drive to be involved in journalism.

I won’t ever forget watching Lazy Sunday for the first time on my best friend’s couch, or watching the SNL “Best Of” DVDs in her basement. Watching with my dad on Sunday mornings was a ritual, as was watching in my mom’s bed on Saturday nights before falling asleep. I am a Phi Mu because they recreated SNL on Skit Day, and couldn’t even begin to count the number of people who I’ve watched SNL with, or talked about it with on a Sunday or Monday morning.

Tonight I laughed, cried, sang, screamed and flat out “fan-girled” through the 40th Anniversary. I may have watched alone in a room, but I was sharing everything along with about a dozen of my friends who were texting me along the way. SNL brings together talented weirdos and makes them into inspirational heroes, giving America laughs. Not every week is a hit, but SNL is an important institution to New York and America, and a constant presence in my life. Thank you to Lorne and the cast that feels like my actual friends for the memories, inspiration, and all of the feels. Here’s to 40 more.

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Words into Action

Having only spent 3 days at home over the holidays, I decided to go home this weekend to relax, spend time with my parents, and have a few lazy days. Luckily for me a few of my friends are home and were free to grab a quick drink on Saturday night at a new bar in Holland. Catching up with my friends I find is always a great time, especially when I can focus on one or two of them at a time. My friend Erica, as she told me on Saturday, is working on applications to graduate programs in the area. She was telling Jordan and I about her applications, and the essays causing her to think.

She brought up one application that asked the question What outrages you, and what are you doing about it? We went around the table discussing possible answers, and realized that we were seeing a trend. The first part of the question was rather simple: we could come up with plenty of things in life that annoyed and even outraged us: disrespectful people, feeling trapped by our young ages, etc. But the second part of the question was extremely difficult. What are we doing to combat the wrongs we see in our lives?

This question got me thinking about taking action, rather than being passive. As I’m getting more independent and thinking more about the things that are important to me, this is something I need to be thinking about day to day.