5 Celebs I’d Want On My ‘Dinner List’

Rebecca Serle’s new book The Dinner List introduces the concept that the main character has a birthday dinner with Audrey Hepburn and three important people from her past. The book is on my TBR list, but hearing about this idea spurred on my own thoughts about which guests, living or dead, I would invite to a dinner party. To fit with the theme of my blog, I narrowed down my list of most desirable guests to five celebrities I’d most want to invite for a meal.

Although I’m sure I could compose an endless list of writers, historical figures, and musicians I’d love to talk with over wine, the simplest solution for now was to pick those who fit within the most traditional idea of celebrity to me. As a result, I have a TV reporter and an actor/composer on my list, but I picked these top five based on what combination of people would create the most enjoyable environment.

My top dinner guests also came about because I would also want my grandfather there. He passed away more than seven years ago, and there’s no doubt in my mind that if miracles happened and this kind of opportunity was feasible, I’d want him right there with me at this table of stars.

Jimmy Stewart

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You know I love me some Jimmy Stewart. I’d inevitably be so starstruck and flustered about him at my dinner table that I’d be a little shy to talk to him. That’s when my grandpa comes in — I think they’d get along so well! Jimmy Stewart was more than 20 years older than my grandpa, but I feel that they would bond over many generational and personality similarities. Both fought in World War II, and, just like my grandpa, Stewart always came across as an old school gentleman.

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Yes, More ‘If These Books Were Movies’…

These are some of my favorite posts to write. As seen by all of the posts filed in my ‘If These Books Were Movies’ tag, I love talking about a certain actor who appeared almost instantly as a character in a book I was reading. I’m attempting to write a novel now, and I’ve loved putting together a secret Pinterest board of the actors I envision as my characters. The dream castings mentioned in this edition were particularly strong and quick to materialize — Hollywood producers, take note!

1) Julia Roberts and Rachel McAdams as Birdie and Cady (Campaign Widows, by Aimee Agresti) 

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“Talent could protect and insulate you against the world in so many ways, she had always thought.” 

A lot of the characters in this ensemble novel actually appeared very clearly to me, but Julia Roberts as a D.C. socialite whose marriage is failing and Rachel McAdams as the plucky TV producer who has moved her life to D.C. for her fiancé’s career were utter no-brainers. Birdie is an older woman whose fabulous campaign parties make up for the personal turmoil she often faces in regards to her philandering husband, while Cady makes the best of her producer job at a local, lowly ranked morning talk show as her fiancé jets off as a staffer on a prospective presidential campaign. Cady reminded me a lot of McAdams’ Morning Glory character, while Birdie just had the composure Roberts has in so many roles.

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My 5 Most Influential Moments From Mary-Kate & Ashley Movies

I grew up loving all of the Mary-Kate and Ashley movies, and I think the twins’ movies about international travel particularly gave me the wanderlust bug early on in life. Of course, the movies totally gave me the false expectation that boys would fall in love with me whenever I went on vacation (this piece sums that theme of the movies up hilariously), but by now, it’s safe to say I’ve recovered from that disappointment.

Looking back at these movies (which are somehow still not available to stream anywhere), I’ve realized they’ve influenced me more than one would initially think. Whether it was a fashion moment, a certain vacation boyfriend, or something that felt dated even when a movie was new, I thought it’d be fun to share my most influential moments from the Olsen twins’ movies and why they’ve always stuck out in my mind.

James taking Chloe to the Peter Pan statue in Winning London, but really just the entirety of Winning London

I feel like I underestimate my love for this movie until I start thinking about it. I loved Anglophiliac stories from an early age via exposure to Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Mary Poppins, and my love of British culture only increased as I grew older and explored the United Kingdom through books. I’m pretty sure my memory of Winning London, my favorite Olsen movie, predates my relationship with Harry Potter. I couldn’t explain why it appealed to my younger self, a version of me whose dream wasn’t London yet, but looking back, I see how this shaped so much of my enthusiasm for the city.

When I studied abroad there, I legitimately had a moment of reflection the first time I visited the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens, on an amazing day I had spent crisscrossing the city on my own. Looking at the statue and slowly walking around it just like Mary-Kate Olsen does in that clip, I thought, You did it. You made it here. You’re in London. Through the way the statue is featured in this movie, it had become the ultimate symbol of London for me. When I came home that Christmas, I even rented this  movie on Amazon to watch with the perspective of a Londoner, feeling giddy about being able to say, “I went there.”

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An Ode to Black-and-White Movies

For me, it started with Shirley Temple movies.

In childhood, my local library was tucked away in a school district building, limited to a long stretch of a hallway and two cramped children’s rooms. The library has since become a sprawling, gorgeous building a block away from this old location, but my formative memories as a reader rest within visions of that confined space, its dirt-brown carpet, the holiday season’s glass case display of a wintry village, and the chapter book alcove’s solar system mural.

At the end of the long hallway were the shelves of VHS tapes, when DVDs were still a novelty, when your main hope for a movie selection was that the person who checked it out before you had rewound the tape. In a time when our movies now start within a short series of clicks, I marvel over how foreign rewinding seems to me now. God forbid you check out a dramatic epic that was split between two VHS tapes.

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My Movie Romance Is…

1) Lady and the Tramp being serenaded over a spaghetti dinner, but especially when accompanying the 102 Dalmatians twist of two human actors, an eventual real-life couple that’s still together today, connecting over that sweetly shared meatball.

2) A couple’s everyday jaunt through a London tube station in About Time, capturing the stresses and the wonders of the mundane yet magical.

3) Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed huddled around a telephone together, just barely balancing between being calm childhood contemporaries and passionate, loving partners.

4) Jimmy Stewart’s slow, twinkling grin in any movie.

5) Captain von Trapp straightening his gloves before stepping in to teach Maria how a man dances.

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More “If These Book Were Movies…”

My “If These Books Were Movies” posts are some of my favorite to write. Books have always played like movies in my head, and I love when a certain actor immediately comes to mind upon the introduction of a book’s main character. The books I’ve gravitated toward lately have led to particularly vivid characters, which made the following “dream cast” selections some of the most “right” picks in awhile.

The downside of these kind of blogs is that I’m often so set on these actor portrayals that any chance of me enjoying an actual future adaptation is slim. But then again, some books are best lived in your head, right?

1) Matt Lanter as Jack Holland (In Your Dreams / the Blue Heron series, by Kristan Higgins)

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“The driver was a teenage boy, Jack guessed, because there was no one on earth who believed in his driving skill and immortality more than a teenage boy.”

Blame it on the #RenewTimeless mission dominating my mind for two weeks now, but I immediately pictured Timeless’s Matt Lanter as Holland golden boy Jack. In Your Dreams is the Blue Heron story centering on him and stoic local cop Emmaline (who I may have pictured as Timeless leading lady Abigail Spencer, but let’s not get too cutesy). I like that on the surface, Jack is seen as a protector, but he has some intense personal demons that In Your Dreams explores. I’ve only seen Lanter in Timeless, but Jack definitely has overlapping personality traits with his soldier character Wyatt, which made this casting choice obvious.

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What I Wish I Hadn’t Missed

Distance not only gives nostalgia, but perspective, and maybe objectivity.

~ Robert Morgan

1) Simon & Garfunkel’s Central Park concert

2) Newsreels played before movies

3) Wearing a hat and gloves for your daily errands

4) Midnight releases of the early Harry Potter books

5) The original Broadway productions of My Fair Lady and The Music Man

6) Experiencing high school without text messages

7) A television world with only three main channels

8) The heyday of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire movies

9) Nights that ended with watching Johnny Carson

10) The prime era of drive-in movies

11) The hair and fashion of the 1940s and ’50s

12) Sitting with loved ones while watching the very last episode of M*A*S*H 

13) Nora Ephron’s New York

14) Baggy flannels and wide-rimmed glasses being ’90s men’s go-to fashion

15) The Tina Fey-Amy Poehler era of SNL‘s Weekend Update

16) Watching new Friends episodes on Thursdays

17) Gene Shalit’s TODAY Show segments

18) The novelty of the first few seasons of Real World

19) Swaying to Glenn Miller at USO dances

20) Needing to watch TV in real time at risk of never seeing a certain episode

21) Consciously living through the height of the Spice Girls’ fame

22) Big, wavy hair being in style, a la Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally

23) Being able to avoid feeling engulfed by the news or that I’m missing the next best thing, and knowing that we can disconnect without realizing we’re doing so

One of the virtues of being very young is that you don’t let the facts get in the way of your imagination.

~ Sam Levenson

5 Favorite Musical Moments in TV & Film

For an entertainment writer, I’m sorely uninformed about the world of music. I don’t know what Cardi B is famous for, I’d blast Taylor Swift’s old-school country music over Reputation any day, and I can’t even go a minute of watching the Grammys without saying, “Who’s that?.” Sorry, guys – my beat is TV and film, but if you want to give me a Music 101 course, let me know.

But when it comes to music’s role in TV and film, I think some of the most standout moments are amplified by song. Depending on how powerful a certain movie or TV scene is, I can forever equate a certain song with those fictional moments. Whether those scenes be sweet, romantic, or victorious, music tends to convey the natural mood of that instance, and I wanted to share five of my favorite of these kind of TV and film moments.

“Forever” — Jesse and Becky get married on Full House

I know it’s cheesy and gimmicky and that everybody of a certain age got bored of the revival after about half a season, but Full House was like the sitcom for my sisters and me when we were much younger. It was one of our first true forays outside of Disney Channel and PBS Kids, and because of the role “Forever” played in the series and particularly in Jesse and Becky’s relationship, I still find the song one of the most romantic ever. I love the Beach Boys’ original version of it.

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January 2018 Watch: ‘Moonstruck’

Each month, in an attempt to keep up an active feature on the blog, I’m going to highlight a film I watched for the first time and, well, talk about it. Did it resonate with me? Was it over-hyped? Was it worth a watch? I’ve also kept a list of movies I watch in a year since 2011, so I thought this would be a fun way to highlight films that may have stuck out to me in a special way.

Moonstruck has been on my watchlist since it became available on both Hulu and Amazon Prime a short while ago. It wasn’t until the movie started that I recognized how familiar the characters and their cultural quirks were to me. Three of my grandparents were born and raised in New York City boroughs as the children and grandchildren of immigrants, and the fourth, from upstate New York, went to nursing school in Brooklyn. I’m half Italian, and my Italian grandfather grew up in Brooklyn, where the 1987 movie Moonstruck takes place.

In addition to that familial connection, growing up on Long Island exposes you to plenty of older people who grew up in Brooklyn or Queens apartments, watching their fathers renovate their homes on their own and one day becoming frequent DIY patrons of the Home Depot near their suburban homes. I’ve had an understandable fascination with mid-to-late 20th century New York for a long time, and this movie was the perfect dose of familiarity and discovery for me. Several weeks after I watched it, John Mahoney, whose character Perry I couldn’t help but grow fond of, died, which made this viewing feel even more coincidental.

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Even More “If These Books Were Movies…”

Dream-casting characters in books I’ve recently read has become my favorite kind of blog post to make. It’s so funny how within just a few pages of some books, an actor’s face will permanently slap across one of the characters for me. For today’s post, I picked books that I’ve read within the last two months or so, thus these “portrayals” are still very vivid in my mind!

For my previous “If These Books Were Movies” posts, check out the category’s tag!

1) Zachary Levi as Joshua Templeman (The Hating Game, by Sally Thorne)

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“Shyness takes so many different forms. Some people are shy and soft. Some, shy and hard. Or in Josh’s case, shy, and wrapped in military-grade armor.”

After seeing other bloggers rave about this book, I had such high hopes for it, but it fell a little flat for me. The “romance” stories I gravitate towards are usually more innocent books written by authors like Sophie Kinsella, and they have a well-rounded narrator with an entertaining personality and plenty of fun friends and family around her. This narrator was…fine. The book was just a little dull because I didn’t feel like I knew the main character Lucy very well, and it didn’t help that she lost her only close friend through work drama before the story started and her parents were only seen via Skype.

However, the highlight of the book was seeing Lucy chip away at the tough exterior of her work rival and eventual love interest Joshua. Joshua is a sarcastic guy who plays tough but proves to be a caring softie when Lucy grows more attracted to him. I almost instantly saw Zachary Levi as Josh. I totally fell in love with him after watching him in the live broadcast of She Loves Me last year, and his character in that musical is similar to Josh in that he loves to rile up the people he clashes with. From what I’ve seen, Zach is a genuinely charming and friendly guy, and I think he could pull off Josh’s icy exterior and his succeeding kindness.

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