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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My Favorite Movies of 2017

This year, I found myself flying through books but struggling to sit down and watch movies, particularly after I graduated in May. I had even more strange aversion to watching new movies, and I feel like many of the films I watched in 2017 were repeats of old favorites. I mean, I’m not the only one who just gets in the mood to binge Nora Ephron movies, right?

That being said, I definitely didn’t watch as many movies this year as I normally do. I even took a full year of film studies classes my senior year, but I managed to get away with not watching some of them in full (I know, I’m awful). If anything, I’m proud of the amount of reading I finished in 2017, and while my favorite films weren’t necessarily standouts, I always need to remind myself that it’s fine to just be indulgent with my book and movie choices and not get too wrapped up with the high-brow picks everyone’s talking about!

After checking out my favorite movies from this year, read about my favorite picks from 2014, 2015, and 2016! And just a reminder: these are films I watched for the first time this year and not necessarily ones that debuted in 2017.

1) Hidden Figures (2016) – Seen January 10, 2017

I saw this so long ago that I genuinely forgot that the viewing was still this year. After seeing Manchester by the Sea, which was nothing like our usual movie picks, earlier last Christmas break with my grandma and sister, we needed to revert to our typical selections of girl-power, historical movies. Hidden Figures was the perfect solution, telling the true story of the African-American women who worked through a major chunk of calculations on NASA projects in the 1960s.

I was so blown away by the performances of the three main actresses, and I’m still shocked that Taraji P. Henson didn’t really get award recognition for her role. If you need any further proof that women played key roles in some of history’s greatest events, Hidden Figures is for you. With it being an Oscar-nominated film, I also love how it didn’t have to rely on nudity or gore to be noticed—the story as is was more than enough.

The actor who played John Glenn was also briefly a contestant on one of my favorite childhood showsEndurance, and he grew up good. 

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The Christmas Pop Culture Blog Survey

I love getting to roll out the Christmas movies and specials every year. After seeing other bloggers’ end-of-the-year book surveys, I was inspired to create my own Christmas pop culture survey focused on the TV episodes, movies, and specials associated with this time of year. If you’re compelled to try out the survey on your own blog, please feel free to do so! I’d love to see your answers, so link back to this post so I’m in the know!

1) What is your favorite Christmas TV episode?

The most memorable one for me has always been Full House‘s “A Very Tanner Christmas,” which I basically grew up watching every year. Something about the holidays in the ’90s just makes me feel so warm and fuzzy inside, no matter how cheesy the episode is. Also, watching that clip, I’m reminded of one of my favorite sitcom tropes – where do all of the guests at main characters’ house parties comes from? Suddenly they all have great friends outside of the recurring cast? These are the little details that haunt me, guys. 

In recent years, I’ve loved the Season 3 Christmas special of Call the Midwife (although all of its specials are just delicious) and, being another show that does great holiday episodes, The Middle‘s “Not So Silent Night” from two years ago. While it’s not distinctly a Christmas episode, How I Met Your Mother‘s “False Positive” also gets a special shout-out.

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10 Favorite Pop Culture Moments of 2017

2017 was a bit of a mess politically and socially. Trump’s tirades, several terrorist attacks, and an onslaught of sexual assault allegations were just some of the difficult moments we faced on a global scale this year. Although it’s important to find a balance between caring enough for the world’s struggles and taking note of your own self care, I’ve always loved entertainment and pop culture because of the relief they provide from sad or negative things.

Despite all of its negativeness, 2017 had plenty of moments that made me happy. I wanted to share my favorite pop culture moments of the year, so get ready to go down memory lane!

1) Prince Harry and Meghan Markle get engaged

Guys, this love story is a made-for-TV movie come to life! But, seriously, I’m hoping for another perfectly cheesy Lifetime flick about them a la William and Kate. Until recent months, I never knew much about Meghan Markle, but I definitely liked the sound of her and her relationship with Harry. After watching their adorable engagement interview, it’s clear that they’re truly in love and that Meghan has already begun a seamless-looking transition into royal life. Try not to smile watching that interview.

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