In honor of the new year starting, ya know, today, I wanted to take a blog break from travel posts to write about something else I adore: MOVIES!
As I was working on this this, I realized that a lot of these films stand out so much to me because of where I was and what was happening when I saw them. Where I watched them, who I was with, the kind of mood I was in—these factors all play a huge role in the movie-watching experience and shape how you feel about or relate to what happens on the screen. The best movies, of course, make you forget yourself though, and pull you in so tightly that you get lost in the story. The movies I’ve been loving do some of both. They’re all just really and completely incredible, be it because of the characters, acting, message, music, history, cinematography, or everything, all of it—all wrapped into one.
Another realization was that incidentally most of the films that made the list star some pretty badass and independent leading ladies. (They’re not all that way; I do like some pretty random rom-coms and indie flicks. But that seemed to be an obvious and easy thread between the bunch.) Perhaps this is because I always get really invested in these stories, or perhaps there are more and more great ones out there. We always need more strong and fearless women in Hollywood and the world in general. So here’s to the badass queens, both fictional and real, and everything we’ve accomplished over the past year. And here’s to the shaken ground still to come.
Without further ado, here are my favorite movies that I either watched for the first (or millionth) time this year. Here’s to the ones who dream.
La La Land
If you know me at all, duh. La La Land is one of those really special movies that I found on IMDb a million years ago and got super excited about once the stars were cast, but then forgot until further images and songs were released (like Begin Again, another of my favorites). I watched it online, then went to the last screening at the theater simply to see it on a big and beautiful screen. I even went to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and sang along from the nosebleed seats. It has made me laugh, cry, dance, cheer. It’s an anthem to Hollywood, love, and life, and it’s one of my all time favorites.
Before I Fall
I loved this book (by Lauren Oliver) when I read it in high school. When I found out they were making a movie, I freaked out, eager to see one of my favorite stories come to life. I won tickets to a free theater screening in March, a month before it was released, and took a friend who had loved the book as much as I did.
Admittedly, the movie had been advertised in a way that could have led it in a super immature and cheesy YA direction. We were wary, but pleasantly surprised. The story is about a girl who relives the day she died and tries to fix her mistakes, so it could have been repetitive, but the days were constantly interesting and new. The only cringe-worthy moments were some poorly timed Snapchat or selfie references in attempt to appeal to all the cool tweens out there. Overall, it was done really, really well. I also just love the story though.
I watched this Alfred Hitchcock gem after I watched La La Land for the upteenth time and made note of the classic movies Mia sited as being some of her inspirations. (Yeah I know.) I’d seen and loved Casablanca, so the fact Notorious looked like a more exciting Ingrid Berman film by one of my favorite directors? Hell yes. It was like a combination of Rear Window and Casablanca actually. It was slow in some parts, as many of this genre are, but then all s*** would hit the fan, so it was actually pretty consistently exciting. Would definitely recommend.
This movie looked really strange before I finally watched it with my mom, who raved about it even as we were sitting there in front of the screen. She was right, though, and JESUS was it EXCELLENT. It was so funny and sad and empowering. I don’t really know what else to say about it or how else to describe it, but if you need a better reason to watch it than my uber vague recommendation, then it was up for a bunch of awards last year. That was why we watched it, anyway, and I’m sure glad that we did. POWER TO THE PEOPLE, STICK IT TO THE MAN.
Not sure how or where or when I found this one. I think Sam Claflin was what did it. That, or the trailer I watched after finding out that he was in it. It appeared to be (and is) a story about a down-on-her-luck badass queen, fighting for a job and voice in the male-dominated movie-writing industry in London during WWII.
I watched it the week before I left for Oxford, curled up in my friend’s apartment after eating dinner. This film was brilliant; a little bit of Singin’ In The Rain minus the music, a little bit of Notting Hill maybe, or Annie Hall. Another feel-good-meets-real-life sort of thing. Very, very good and sad and underrated.
There had to be an adorable British rom-com in here somewhere because I’m a sucker. I had zero expectations going into this one, and that was probably a good thing. It wasn’t (too) cheesy or predictable, and I had no idea what was going to happen next. It was also freaking HILARIOUS. I watched it with my friend (before leaving for Oxford, the best time to watch incredible British movies apparently). She didn’t like it as much, and I will admit that at times it felt a little slow. But this was definitely redeemed by the smartass sense of (British) humor that I love, share, and adore. If you’ve never seen it, SEE IT, and then go to Notting Hill in London and fangirl like a moron over a BLUE DOOR like I did two months later (<3).
This one I watched with some friends in Oxford, during its final week of theater screening. (Going to the theater quite literally before it’s too late to see something seems to be a terrifying trend of mine.) It made me so, so happy. I wasn’t expected to get Diana’s whole backstory and transformation, so that was cool. I also appreciated how the female superhero with a romantic interest was handled. (I mean, hopeless romantic me was ill towards the end, but still.) There was no question AT ALL who the badass, strong, powerful hero was in any given situation. This year (and I) needed this empowering movie.
The Stepford Wives
THIS MOVIE MADE ME SO HYPE AND SO ILL AND SO STRESSED. It made me want to FIGHT and PUNCH A WALL OF WHITE MEN. I had seen the Nicole Kidman version before (and loved it), but the original 1975 version is so much more complex and creepy. Also it’s so FRUSTRATING and INTRIGUING, two things that the new version very politely fixes. If you want a satisfying version, watch the Kidman one. If you want to be left on your toes and screaming at the tv, watch the heck out of this one.
10 Things I Hate About You
This is also one of my Favorite Movies Ever, so it only made sense to watch it on my birthday with my friends this year :’-) We all hunkered down at my friend’s apartment, and I think I either quoted or sang the entire thing like the annoying movie and Shakespeare nerd that I am. Also, I relate strongly to sassy-as-hell Kat and would marry Heath Ledger in a heartbeat. Just a side note.
On the fourth of July this year, I watched Les Mis onstage in London. I had never seen it before, and had no idea about much of the plot. (Other than a certain death or two.) I was enthralled. The spinning stage, the music…it was so, so perfect. The movie was way less impressive and exciting, unfortunately, but still great. I loved the music and acting and, even though I wanted to punch Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried in the face the whole time, I cheered and sang along sadly. I don’t know how many times I cried, honestly.
If you watch this one (if you haven’t already, feels like I’m the only one that waited so long), I’d split it up somehow, like watching part with dinner, then leaving to do laundry, then coming back and cozying up for part two (which is when everyone sings, somewhere around a certain death and adoption, which the film doesn’t conveniently point out to you). Also, one more note then I’ll move on, but: CAN WE HAVE SOME JUSTICE FOR ÉPONINE AKA MY FAVORITE CHARACTER PLEASE? A huge message of this story is that LIFE HECKING SUCKS MAN. Hope is always present, but JESUS, Victor Hugo come on.
I watched this movie a million years ago (when I was, ya know, of the proper audience age). I didn’t remember what happened at all, though, and sometimes you’re just in the mood for a Disney-esque princess musical! So I rewatched, stopping to do some very important research on one of my favorite parts of Russian history before getting too far. I freaking love Anastasia and the mysteries surrounding her, so the fluffy musical all about it was a treat. Add some romance, girl power, and legit MAGIC and you’ve got this weirdly-animated gemstone. (Hey Disney, this was a MISSED opportunity man.)
It only seemed fitting to begin and end the year with Best Picture nominees. (It was unintentional, but I’m gonna pretend like I meant to do it.) Lady Bird was another one that we barely made it to the theater to see. And, after seeing and fangirling over the trailers and commercials, there was only one person I wanted to go see it with: my mom. The movie was a simultaneous hilarious and bittersweet ode to Sacramento and hometowns, growing up and living, mother-daughter relationships. Lady Bird was extremely well made: written, shot, cast. It was so thought-provoking and interesting. Were there frustratingly unanswered questions? Yeah. But, if you think about it, life has plenty of those too.