2018: Winter Favorites

From January through March, I’ve been enjoying some incredible books, films, music, shows, and more. Here are some of my favorites:

Books:

  • Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson
    The story of the third-eldest Kennedy child, Rosemary, is heartbreaking. If you don’t already know—it’s history, so there’s no “spoilers” here—she was intellectually disabled and struggled progressing passed a certain age in school. She frequently suffered from “fits” both of anger, frustration, and sometimes seizures. The family—or I should say, the father of the Kennedys, Joe Sr.—had her lobotomized at the age of 23. I don’t normally read non-fiction but I’m endlessly fascinated by the Kennedy family and couldn’t resist. Rosemary—and the thousands like her who suffered with similar issues and underwent the horrific procedure—deserved so much better.
  • Rooms by Lauren Oliver
    I bought Rooms because of the cover, I will admit. It’s incredible. And although I was initially intrigued when I first read the back cover, by the time I started reading it, I’d forgotten what it was about except for the fact that ghosts were involved. I wasn’t expecting to like the book as much as I did. It’s brilliantly written, expertly paced, and bounces between such interesting, unexpected perspectives that I was blown away by. It didn’t take me long to read—and as a slow reader, that’s a high compliment. The more I read, the more I didn’t want to put it down.
  • Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
    Again, I bought this book because of the cover more than the book. I’d picked it up while on vacation at a tiny little bookshop in a tiny little town. The idea of a young girl being told that the world and everyone around her was gone, dead, and that only her and her father were left only to discover that it had been a lie was such a great premise. This book is incredibly written and tough to read because you know that, somewhere out there, it’s happened to a young girl for real.
  • Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman
    I’ve recently been getting into comics/graphic novels. But superheroes haven’t really been on my radar—my favorites are The Walking Dead, Saga, and East of West—even though I love superheroes, and you’d think that I would’ve loved them as a kid. But I was more into the television shows/films about them rather than comics. I was given an e-book of Marvel 1602 for free with a purchase—I had my choice of any Marvel comic, and this one, written by Neil Gaiman and set in the Elizabethan era was a no-brainer. I wasn’t expecting to love it and I didn’t even know what it was about until I started reading. Imagine the Marvel heroes—the X-Men, Spider Man, the Fantastic Four, etc.—being born too soon. It’s great and I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequels.

Films:

  • Lady Macbeth
    I’ve been excited to see this film for almost an entire year after I watched the trailer—which I enjoyed almost as much as a I did the film itself, maybe more—and I bought it on DVD as soon as I could. It’s such a visually appealing film that anything else about it didn’t matter. Every shot looked impeccable, every frame like a painting. Florence Pugh delivers such an incredible performance. It’s dark, it’s brilliant. I loved every minute of it, even the parts I was horrified by.
  • Lady Bird
    Yeah, yeah—I get it. You know this is a great film. It was nominated for several Oscars. I just have to gush about it because writer/director Greta Gerwig is one of my favorites, one of my idols. She’s amazing and Frances Ha, which she starred in and co-wrote is one of my favorite films of all time. Saoirse Ronan is another favorite that gives one of my favorite performances of all time; same for Laurie Metcalf. This movie is a favorite for life. It’s nearly perfect.
  • Get Out
    I don’t think I’ve ever watched a thriller film that is quite as unique as this—not even as a horror film, just as a film in general. It’s brilliant. Jordan Peele deserved every accolade for it. The performances were great—like Daniel Kaluuya is top notch, Betty Gabriel gave one of the most memorable supporting performances ever and she should have been nominated for something, and Allison Williams killed it.
  • The Skeleton Twins
    I love Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader. I never expected to see them in such a dramatic film, especially one as dark as this, and be so incredible. It does, of course, have very funny moments, but ultimately it’s a dark story about two suicidal twins coming together again after ten years of not speaking. It’s really great.

Music:

  • ‘Til It’s Over by Anderson Paak
    I’ve been obsessed with the iHome commercial directed by Spike Jonze and starring FKA Twigs with this song in it. It’s the coolest commercial I’ve ever seen and the song is amazing.
  • Simply the Best by Noah Reid (from Schitt’s Creek)
    This cover of Tina Turner’s song by one of the characters on the show Schitt’s Creek is so so so good. The moment in the episode is so good. I just love it.
  • Make Me Feel by Janelle Monae
    This song is my jam. It is my morning routine song. It is my afternoon pick-me-up. It is the moon, the sun, the stars. Janelle Monae is perfection. The video is bomb. I love it.
  • More by Photocomfort
    A long time ago, I found a band called Photocomfort and downloaded their free EP on Bandcamp. Those songs were super inspirational for me for a long time but I never could find any more about the band and sort of forgot about them—other than listening to the songs I’d already had—and recently, I found them again. The song More is such a different sound from their first EP but I love it.
  • Mystery of Love and Death with Dignity by Sufjan Stevens
    Thanks to Call Me By Your Name and Busy Philipps’ Instagram, I’m in love with Sufjan Stevens and I love these songs in particular. So soothing and beautiful and gentle. Absolutely in love.
  • Mockingbirds by Grant Lee Buffalo
    If you’re a Gilmore Girls fan like I, you’ve heard the town troubadour, played by the lead singer of the band. He plays this song during the Firelight Festival in one of my favorite scenes of the first season.
  • Sober by Lorde
    I’ve been listening to a lot of Lorde lately, her new album Melodrama (okay, not so new, but I’m late, as always) is fantastic. Sober is my favorite song on it.
  • Every Other Freckle by alt-j
    I had alt-j’s album This Is All Yours on my iTunes wishlist after it was recommended to for a long time without ever listening. I’m glad I eventually did. This song in particular is my favorite. It’s awesome.
  • Losing All Sense by Grizzly Bear
    The song is great and I especially love the lyrics here:

“Could I ask of you not to cut into me
Dividing all of my body for me
I was left here to go through all the pieces
Nothing more to spare.”

Television:

  • The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
    This show is not perfect. I would’ve changed a million things about it—telling the story in reverse order was unnecessary; if you’re going to have Gianni Versace in the title, it should probably include him more in the story or at least just call it something else if they didn’t want Andrew Cunanan’s name glorified—but ultimately, it’s really great. Darren Criss is such an incredible actor and I think they told an incredible, if not flawed, story.
  • Queer Eye
    The reboot of Queer Eye is incredible and I cried every episode and I love the new crew and I just want more. There are so many touching moments, hilarious moments, important moments. It’s just such a great show.
  • The Good Place
    Let me tell you, I slept on this show like you wouldn’t believe. I was like “Oh that looks funny” then never checked it out. Never bothered. And then I heard just how good it was, so I decided to give it a shot. I’m almost glad that I never watched from the beginning, because binging it through both seasons was necessary. I almost wish I would’ve waited for the third to already be out because this! show! does! not! mess! around! It’s funny, it’s brilliant, it goes in directions that I never EVER would have thought. It’s wild. It’s fun. I love it.
  • Schitt’s Creek
    I casually watched this show for the first three seasons, seeing one or two episodes but never fully committing for no reason other than forgetting it was on. But now I’ve fully invested myself and have watched all of season four every night it airs. I can’t get enough of this show. It’s got such a subtle comedic timing and pacing that isn’t like other comedies. One of the best.
  • The End of the F***ing World
    This Netflix show is wild. It’s dark and messed up and funny. It’s a weird little show about two messed up teenagers who runaway from home. I loved it and I hope this isn’t just the mini-series it’s been planned to be. I’d love more of it.

Other:

  • Skillshare
    I was given a code to get two months of Skillshare classes for 99 cents. It was well worth the dollar. There are so many classes available for any kind of topic you could want. I’ve done some illustration and design classes, even a few that helped with my getting started with freelancing. It’s a great resource, though I’m not sure how long I’ll stick with it once my two months are up. It’s a bit pricier than I would want to commit to. But it’s something I’ll definitely think about.
  • Diet Coke Feisty Cherry
    Y’all, I’ve been trying to cut down on sugar and I know Diet Coke has terrible things in it and I shouldn’t drink it. I used to hate Diet Coke and only drank regular Coke. I’m a big fan. But when I heard about the new Diet Cokes with new flavors, I was sold. There are four flavors and they are: Twisted Mango (not bad, my second favorite), Ginger Lime (tasted like regular Diet Coke to me, maybe a bit of something extra, but for the most part it was just fine), and Zesty Blood Orange (which is the worst and it tastes like orange Emergen-C). The best one is Feisty Cherry and I’ve been drinking it a lot. It has the sweet cherry flavor of Cherry Coke with a bite of peppery goodness in the after-taste. It’s quite nice.
  • Adam Rippon & the entire 2018 Winter Olympics
    I love the Olympics. Every Olympics since I was a kid, my mom and I would watch everything we could. I especially love the Summer Olympics, but this year, I got really into the Winter Olympics. Figure skating, curling, skiing, speed skating! It was such a fun time and honestly, the best thing to come out of it is Adam Rippon has emerged into the spotlight as America’s gay sweetheart and he’s the best. He’s hilarious and every interview with him is gold.

It’s been a long, cold, depressing winter and I’m ready for spring! I’m glad I had these favorites of mine to get me through. It’s snowing right now, in April, but I’m hoping for some sun soon. I need it.

✌🏼

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Favorite Book to Film/TV Adaptation

The Walking Dead

One of my favorite shows on television is The Walking Dead—I’m a big sci-fi, dystopia fan, and zombies are an always fun, often disgusting time. The show is based off of a series of comics by Robert Kirkman, a series I didn’t start getting into until way after the show. I’ve been reading the comics in the 6-issue bind-ups and I’m only on volume seven, but they’re great. It’s cool to see the differences they’ve made with the show—characters added or taken out, storylines differing—and they’re really quick reads. I’ve been buying them when on sale and picking a weekend to enjoy a few issues. As an adaptation, it’s really incredible. I think the show takes a lot of risks and is incredibly well-made—the effects work alone is worth watching.

The Hobbit

I’m a huge fantasy fan, and though I haven’t yet read The Lord of the Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkien (I’ve seen all the films), I read The Hobbit a few years ago and loved it. Because I never saw the first trilogy in theaters, only later when on DVD, I’m glad I was able to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in theaters (I missed the third movie while it was in theaters, but have it on DVD) because these films were so incredible to watch on a big screen. The adaptation of the book was really well done, though I’m not certain an entire trilogy was necessary—the structure of the book seemed more like a two-parter. At any rate, it’s one of my favorite adaptations.

The Hunger Games

I’ve only seen the first two films in the quartet (for no other reason than neglecting to see them in theaters at the time, always forgetting, and just never remembering to pick them up on DVD), but I’ve read all three books, and The Hunger Games is one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen and certainly the best YA adaptation. It’s so perfectly adapted, getting everything just right, being as faithful as possible to the source material, having a really awesome style, and having some killer performances, especially from Jennifer Lawrence. Though, as a film, I enjoyed the second one more, but as an adaptation, the winner is the first in the series.

A Single Man

After hearing about the film starring Colin Firth, I read A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood one summer day and liked it—but then I saw the film and loved it so much more than the book. The film is very stylistic and Colin Firth’s performance is incredible and heartbreaking and I could watch it again and again. Honestly, it’s the rare occasion where the adaptation is several times better than the original book.

The Magicians

The Magicians is one of the coolest, fun shows on television right now. It’s funny and magical and disturbingly creepy at times—it’s like all the best parts of Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia but for adults. It’s based on a trilogy of books by Lev Grossman, and though I haven’t read them yet, I have the first and plan on reading it this year. This is the only adaptation on my list that I haven’t read yet, but because I love the show so much, I’m assuming I’ll love the books even more.

Atonement

As one of my favorite films of all time, Atonement definitely needs to be mentioned even though I’ve never read the book—though I plan on it! The film is beautiful; every scene, every shot is stunning. And the performances are incredible—Keira Knightly does some of her best work, as does James McAvoy, and Romola Garai gives one of my favorite supporting performances—and of course Saoirse Ronan is so young and so brilliant in the film it astounds me. Everything from the style, the era, the score—which I still regularly listen to—is just perfect to me. And I’m sure the book will be just as incredible.

2017 Favorites: April

Alien: Covenant

Alien is one of my favorite horror/space movies of all time. There’s a special place for it in my heart. Though I’m not such a fan of its sequels, I am a huge fan of the recent connected series that began with 2012’s Prometheus and the sequel to it, the upcoming Alien: Covenant. I don’t know where I’ve been, but the trailer for Alien: Covenant has been released for quite a while, but I just found it online. It looks amazing. I can’t wait to find the connections to Prometheus—I know Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace may be reprising their roles, and that there will be a second sequel, set between the first two films with them in it—and a prologue was just released online with them in it. The film looks great and I can’t wait to see it.

Peak

Peak is an app I saw advertised on Instagram. I usually never click on the ads, but it looks interesting, and I’m all for these kinds of games. The app sets up a brain game schedule for you (I chose to do it every day) where you play four games (or if you go Pro, six, which I think is a little too expensive for what it is, but whatever) that help sharpen your mind a little each day. So far, I’ve been gradually making progress with some of the games, and I’m having a lot of fun. It’s basically just really fun puzzles and number and words games that you play, then it tells you how your improving with different skills, like memory, problem solving, and focus, and compares you with others in your age group to see how your doing. It’s mostly just fun.

So Says I – the Shins

I’d heard this song on an episode of Gilmore Girls a long time ago, and with every rewatch of that episode, I like the song more. The band plays it live in a bar in the show and with my recent rewatch of the episode, I just had to find it and buy it. I’m glad I did, because it’s been on repeat the last few weeks—a new favorite that I’d had all along and didn’t know it.

Beowulf

The epic poem taught in high school is boring—but only boring because it’s in your high school english class, which makes everything, no matter what the topic, boring. But reading it for pleasure is a whole other experience. We only read passages during school, and though I did enjoy it at the time, it’s something completely different reading it all together. Seamus Heaney did a brilliant job translating it to modern english for us to enjoy today.

Top 5 Favorite Films

Since I was a kid, watching movies has been a large part of my life. I’ve wanted to act and direct and write ever since first understanding that it was someone’s job to make films. I watch films of any genre, independently made or major wide-releases, animated or live-action, comedy or drama—I don’t have a “type” of movie I like watching, I love everything. And because of that, my Top Five Favorite Films are just as varied:

Another Earth

A few years ago, I heard of the film Another Earth and later watched the trailer, falling in love before even watching the entire thing. It’s the film I give as an answer to the question “What’s your favorite movie?” Another Earth is a thought-provoking independent science fiction film co-written by Mike Cahill and Brit Marling (who also both directed and starred, respectively) about a woman in her twenties who is released from prison after a drunk driving accident when she was seventeen, which happened on the same night a discovery of a twin Earth was revealed. I instantly became a fan of Brit Marling (she’s seriously awesome) and, as an aspiring filmmaker, Another Earth inspired me more than anything I’d seen before.

Frances Ha

This film is actually a recent find—like, this past month. I’d heard of Frances Ha many times, especially when Greta Gerwig had been nominated for a Golden Globe for it, and always planned to eventually see it. I’m glad I waited. Had I seen this film at any other time, I don’t think it would have spoken to me as it did, I don’t think I would’ve related to Frances as I did at this point in my life. I’m not a dancer and I’m not currently in an apartment hopping phase, but the feel of the film, the arc of France’s character, her maturing, her living her dream, her life during a time of change, is exactly what I feel right now. And because of that, watching at the right time, it will be a favorite for life.

Atonement

Atonement has been my favorite film since high school. Before I saw Another Earth, this is what I’d say is my favorite when asked. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and brilliantly acted—it’s where my love of the young actress Saoirse Ronan first began. I also saw a lot of myself in her character, Briony, as we’re both writers and the worlds of reality and fantasy often blurred—though I have never sent anyone away to prison, I had certainly lied frequently and made up stories as a kid in a similar way. The musical score is still one of my favorite aspects of the film, one of my favorite scores of all time, and I still often listen to some of the tracks, especially when writing.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a dark, thriller, mystery film with an incredible performance by Rooney Mara. I love the aesthetic of the film, the direction by David Fincher, the score (my actual favorite score) by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, everything. The whole film is just cool, it’s dark and intense—there’s a certain scene, however, that I’ve only watched once, the first time I saw the film, and can’t watch again as it’s just too difficult to sit through. I could watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo again and again, despite knowing all the twists, and not get bored.

The Incredibles

To be honest, if you don’t have an animated film as one of your top favorite movies, I don’t trust you as a person. Because not only is The Incredibles my favorite animated film, it’s one of my favorite films of all time. Ever since I was young, I wanted to have special powers—which often pops up in my own writing—and so I love most superhero and fantasy and magical fiction. The style of the film has a 60s vibe and the background story to the characters, how superheroes have to go into hiding, and the whole family with each unique power—it’s all just so good. The Incredibles is funny, brilliantly written, so unique, and I can’t wait to see the announced sequel.

2017 Favorites: March

I usually write up a list of my favorites throughout the month, but I’d forgotten to do that in March. So when I went to write this post, I thought I’d have nothing to write up about—then I remembered all of these and had way more than I thought I did! It’s been a long, weird month that blurred into February in my memory a lot, so I was surprised that all of these things were in one month.

Green Light – Lorde

Lorde had new music out and it’s amazing. She’s one of my favorites and “Green Light” is a jam, a little different from her earlier work, but just as incredible. I, like many, have been listening to it all month on repeat.

Arrival

This is one of the best science fiction films I’ve ever watched and certainly the best alien movie I’ve ever seen—the only other favorite of mine that tops it, is Alien. I did not expect Arrival to be what it was. After hearing it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, I was stunned—“Arrival? That alien movie with Amy Adams that I saw a commercial for that one time and never thought more about? Huh.” And then I watched it and I understood. Amy Adams is incredible—honestly should’ve been nominated for Best Actress, which I’m sure she was close to getting—and the screenplay is just perfect. The visuals, the sound, everything. The only problem I had was the score—though I loved it—often made it confusing to know what was meant to be music and what the characters were hearing. Otherwise, Arrival is an incredible film, as moving as it is mind-blowing.

Feud: Bette and Joan

My mother and I have a weird bond with film and television—we watch Bates Motel every week together (more on that later) and, speaking of Alien, it’s one of our shared favorite movies. Another favorite is Mommie Dearest, the story of Joan Crawford’s abuse toward her daughter…which we watch every Mother’s Day. We love old movies, old Hollywood stars, and especially the drama that happened at the time surrounding them. When we learned about Feud: Bette and Joan, we were all in. Following the infamous feud between actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford during and after the filming of What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? played by Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange, the show is a lot of fun to watch. Though not without its faults, we watch it every week and can’t get enough.

Bates Motel

Did I mention my mom and I have weird taste of things to watch together? Like, Bates Motel is not the best show for a mother and son to watch together, yet here we are, five seasons in, having watched every episode. Season five of Bates Motel is the best yet. The performances by Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga are at a genius level, the writing is perfect, and the entire show has been an incredible ride. In the show, we’ve reached the point of overlapping with the story of Hitchcock’s Psycho which the show is a spin-off/quasi-prequel of, sharing characters and elements, though constantly diverging from the source material to keep it fresh: The show has a 60s style, though it’s a modern setting, and more recently, *SPOILER* the famous shower scene murder isn’t done to Marion Crane, played brilliantly by Rihanna, but her lover Sam Loomis, played by Austin Nichols. Speaking of, the shower scene was an incredible homage to the original, not a perfect shot-for-shot but an inspired, fresh take on it, with many shots being similar but not overly copied. Though the season isn’t over quite yet (most of it aired in March, which is why I’m mentioning it this month) it’s been the best season of the show yet.

A Conjuring of Light

The final book in the trilogy by my favorite author V.E. Schwab, A Conjuring of Light is so so so good. I’m not finished with it, but since I read most of the book in March, I’m adding it here. It’s such a great series and so far, this book is the perfect end to the trilogy.

Monthly Selections: October 2015

Here are some things from October that I dig:

Kangaroo Court (+ Hannah Eleanor)

Hannah Eleanor makes jewelry and while they are incredible, I mostly love her YouTube channel where she talks about her life and small business. In one of her videos about her skin care routine, she used the song Kangaroo Court by Capital Cities. I immediately fell in love with the song.

And the music video…what a gem. I will never be over this moment:

kangaroo_court

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

This past summer, I participated in Book-Tube-A-Thon, which is an annual read-a-thon for BookTubers and watchers of BookTube and everyone who wants to read for a week straight, basically. The goal was to read 7 books – I read 6 and a half, but that’s a win in my book since it usually takes me nearly two weeks to read one.

Anyway, one of the books I read was a graphic novel called Through the Woods, a beautifully illustrated compilations of short stories by Emily Carroll that is by far one of the most eerie, creepy books I’ve read – mostly because of the, at times, terrifying artwork. It’s on the side of cartoonish, but genuinely unsettling. Beautiful, scary stories.

I knew that I wanted to reread it for Halloween, and I’m glad I was able to. It’s just so fantastic – and so quick to read, I know I’ll be able to reread it every year around Halloween for a good ole spooky story to get me in the mood for the evening.

A/B Machines by Sleigh Bells (+ Pride & Prejudice & Zombies)

Another song! Plus a movie! Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is a book that I own and have not read and Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is a movie that I cannot wait to see. It looks good, no? Like, I’m genuinely not worried about it being awful, because the cast is great and the music choice is spot on and the premise is hilarious and even if it IS bad, that will be great. I love so-bad-it’s-good zombie flicks. Win/win.

Unless it’s so bad it’s too bad to be so-bad-it’s-good. You know? But mostly, I’m unworried.

Anyway, the song in the trailer is A/B Machines by Sleigh Bells which is currently one of my Jams of Autumn 2015.

That’s all, folks. Go forth and enjoy life with these new findings.