It took extremely gloomy weather and moods for me to pull another Emily Gilmore and insist upon finding some joy and letting it be satisfying and enough and motivating. I made an indulgent brie grilled cheese for lunch. I played Christmas music while working. I exercised after the workday, which I haven’t done enough in the pandemic world because, gosh darn it, I love and miss my Planet Fitness. I also recognized that I’m still finding joy in certain pop culture that really has made this time more manageable.
Let’s start with the title of this post. I keep playlists for my writing projects that consist of songs that either inspire this particular work or are directly included in it. For my current work-in-progress, I recently stumbled across “For Now” from the musical Avenue Q, which is just a sweet, delightful song reminding us that everything, good or bad, is temporary — for now. Every listen of it always cheers me up.
I’ve recently discovered the Pod Ledom podcast, a recap series of America’s Next Top Model. If there’s anything my 2020 posts might have taught you, it’s that ANTM rewatches will always be my top TV guilty pleasure. Just when I had exhausted my favorite cycles and confirmed that certain seasons are still unwatchable, this podcast came along with its hilarious and insightful trio of hosts. Plus, they’re only up to Cycle 10 of their rewatch, so I have tons of content to look forward to. If you’re a fan of America’s Next Top Best Friend, Pod Ledom is similarly goofy, but it dives a little deeper into ANTM episodes without tangents.
The Plot Against America, which I watched during a week-long free trial of HBO Max, was a little too slow and vague for me, but the finale was particularly good. I loved Zoe Kazan as a terrified Bess trying to soothe a hysteric child over the phone. If anything, the series got me more interested in the work of both Kazan and Anthony Boyle, and the parallels between Philip Roth’s original story and today are startling.
We finally downloaded Disney+ to indulge in the wonder that was Hamilton, but since that inaugural weekend, I’ve traveled down memory lane and watched some of my favorite old DCOMs. Gotta Kick It Up!, Go Figure, and Read It and Weep were still really delightful, and I have viewings of my ultimate favorites — Stuck in the Suburbs, Smart House, and Cadet Kelly — to anticipate. Since the movies are so short, it’s really easy to get through one right before bed.
Since police killed George Floyd on May 25 and an international fight against police brutality and systemic racism began, blogging about pop culture felt highly inappropriate. So rather than writing here, I’ve spent this transformative time after Floyd’s passing trying to educate myself, check my privilege as a white woman, and learn how to do better.
In the past few days, laws have passed that give me hope that we’re living out the same kind of turning point seen during the civil rights movement. But with quarantine still in place in major cities and not much else to distract us from this moment, resting on the belief that change will come doesn’t suffice. You can donate, sign petitions, and protest, but it’s also important to take note of what you choose to consume in pop culture and how it contributes to your knowledge about race.
That’s when books, TV, and movies come into play for me. Sticking to the news cycle can be overwhelming and depressing, especially in this already unprecedented time, but one concentrated source of information at a time can leave just as impactful of an influence. So after taking in plenty of recommendations and consulting my existing TBR list and streaming queues, here are the things about Black lives and experiences or made by Black creators that I plan to read and watch, as well as a few select titles I already love. My list is obviously far from complete, and I recognize that my pop culture choices often have a severe lack of diversity. So if you have more recommendations, please let me know!
Several Lost alums making up for a certain co-star’s extremely selfish opinion. Daniel Dae Kim is forever as valiant and charming as Jin was. Maggie Grace is a steady voice of reason with just the right amount of bite. Harold Perrineau apparently helped Henry Ian Cusick’s son travel home safely. We have to go back…to leave Kate on the island.
Meg Cabot writing about the coronavirus outbreak from Princess Mia’s perspective.
The Broadway community fundraising, performing, and congregating via live-streamed shows. Seth Rudetsky’s “Stars in the House” series and Broadway.com’s “Live at Five: Home Edition” occur daily, and Rosie O’Donnell’s conversation with Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker during her benefit show still delights me (they’re just at home watching Columbo and doing laundry!).
Welp, this is a weird situation, right? Given the current global climate, I hope everyone is safe and taking care of their mental and physical health right now. After a few anxiety-ridden days, I’m aiming to take a break from news coverage this weekend, sit in the yard and soak up some sun, and dedicate this extra time to TV I wouldn’t be watching otherwise.
Most of my TV consumption this week was dedicated to that hot mess of a Bachelor finale, and now fans don’t even have the guarantee of Clare Crawley’s Bachelorette season to anticipate. Obviously, I appreciate the caution that so many industries, including entertainment, are demonstrating in these circumstances, but the possible aftermath of all of these filming delays is definitely interesting. The month-long suspension of all Broadway shows also happened at the worst possible time for theater, as the majority of new, Tony-eligible productions traditionally open throughout March and April. Just thinking about those performers, crews, house staff, and anyone slated to make their Broadway debut soon is heartbreaking. It’s better to be safe than sorry, but the thought of the financial and logistical impacts on certain fields of the entertainment industry hurts my heart a little.
Beyond the Screenplay and IndieWire Filmmaker Toolkit, breaking down films from the perspectives of screenwriters, directors, and editors.
Mamas Talkin’ Loud, covering the lives of mothers working in theater and fueling inspiration for a budding writing project.
Any podcast interview with Greta Gerwig I can find, with favorites including her talks with Scriptnotes and Five Things with Lynn Hirschberg.
I wish for…
Taylor Swift to act in something not horrible.
A Bachelorette over the age of 25.
Amy Adams and Jessica Chastain to play sisters in a project.
I’ve never been one to flow with the crowd. I resist the year’s hot new thing and delve into the hot new thing from five years prior, taking my time with it without facing the pressure to catch up with everyone else. As a result, I’ve only kept up with extremely current culture in recent years, when my job required it of me.
Still, my natural way of action is to explore what I want and not what critics, friends, and the people on the train are watching. Such was the case this year, when I leisurely read whatever caught my fancy and gleefully ignored whatever popular film just seemed unbearable to me. Life’s too short to sit through crappy entertainment.
As always, my favorite books and movies I read and saw this year are not limited to 2019 releases. These are the titles that left an impression on me throughout the year.
1) Man Up (2015) – Seen January 1, 2019
I love a rom-com with an unconventional leading man. Lake Bell’s pessimistic Nancy accidentally ends up on a blind date in London with Jack (Simon Pegg), going along with the case of mistaken identity as she starts to fall for Jack. The film follows their night spent together, eventually detailing their confrontations with their own issues related to love and relationships. Man Up is such a fun romp through London and presents a unique storyline, which is always a plus in the rom-com genre.
What we consider our favorite things says so much about us. While some books, songs, or films may remain lifelong favorites, our tastes may change, and what we once loved might not touch us in the same way.
I wanted to track what I consider my top favorite films for this reason. Some choices were immediate and easy, and others took more consideration. There are movies I love and consider important to how I’ve grown, but if I could only watch ten films for the rest of my life, which ones would pass that test of watchability? Going by this test, some surprises snuck into this exclusive group, but life can’t be all comedy or drama or camp or fantasy. We need silly, inexplicable stories just as much as we need the serious ones.
So these movies are the ones that never fail to delight me, the stories that inspire me and comfort me at this time in life.
Winning a Broadway ticket lottery for the first time.
Finishing and adoring Gavin and Stacey just in time for James Corden’s announcement of a Christmas special.
Soaring through the Morgan Matson books I hadn’t read yet.
Getting the shivers over The Act and reading countless articles about Gypsy Rose Blanchard.