2016 has been a fairly successful one at the movies so far. I’ve been to the movies 13 times but most of that was catching up on some late 2015 releases. (Top 25 blog now available for dissection!) Of the 7 new releases I’ve watched, I’ve loved two (10 Cloverfield Lane and Hail, Caesar!), was pleasantly surprised by another (How To Be Single) and liked a few a great deal (The Witch, Zootopia, Midnight Special). And I also saw a giant stinker that I’ll be holding over my brother’s head for the rest of eternity (Deadpool, obviously). My actual anticipated list for this summer is uncharacteristically short but don’t mistake that for apathy or disinterest. While there’s a lot of movies I’m on the fence about this summer, the ones I am excited for, I am absolutely hysterical over.
I actually completed this year’s Top 25 by mid-January but then I was so hyped about movies that I couldn’t stop watching them long enough to actually write this post. (The struggle is real.) As usual, I didn’t make my goal of publishing this before Oscar season ended and this is all woefully irrelevant now but I’m continuing on. You can call me tardy but never a quitter.
According to my adorably painstaking Letterboxd score-keeping, I went to the theatre 45 times to see 39 different films. Of those 39 films, 29 were new releases; other trips included 5 holdovers from 2014 (Into the Woods, Top Five, Inherent Vice, Selma and American Sniper), special anniversary screenings of Home Alone and the three Back To The Future films and a test screening of the 2016 unintentional comedy masterpiece The 5th Wave. The rest of my trips were encores of Avengers: Age of Ultron (my first IMAX 3D splurge!), Mad Max: Fury Road (two encores, technically), Magic Mike XXL, The Night Before (I saw a test screening and went again when it was released) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Through the magic of modern viewing habits, I obviously saw way more than 29 films from 2015 (a Top 25 would be ridiculous in that case); listed below are my favorites of the year along with a few other categories, just for fun. Spoiler-free unless otherwise marked, because what am I, a monster?
David Letterman was never “my” late night guy, he belonged to my parents. Late Night with David Letterman debuted in February 1982 and my parents were married in October 1983. Unsurprisingly, TV nerdom runs in the family and many stories of the early days of their marriage involve them ordering pizza at midnight so they could properly enjoy watching Late Night. We also have boxes upon boxes of VHS tapes filled with Late Night and Late Show episodes that were recorded when my Dad missed the show because he had to work late. They even saw the show live in 1985 when Late Night did a week of shows in Los Angeles. (I guess technically I was there too because my mom was about 2 months pregnant with me. So, hey I’m cool too!)
My parents’ enjoyment of Late Night and later, the Late Show gave Letterman an air of credibility in my young eyes. The stars I grew up loving didn’t really make it until they appeared on Letterman. Even as an adult, if Dave (yep, in our household, he’s just “Dave”) liked one of my favorite celebrities, that made them even cooler. My heart was inexplicably warmed in 2012 when he straight up fangirled to Amy Poehler about how much he loved Parks and Recreation and he was so tickled by Billy Eichner’s first Late Show appearance that he asked him back a few months later and they taped a remote segment together, something he hadn’t done in ages. Jennifer Lawrence was always in rare form whenever she visited Dave and it was always a toss-up whether I was more amused by her antics or his bemused reaction to her antics. Likewise, Dave was so admiringly bewildered by Amy Sedaris she made a staggering 34 appearances on the Late Show. (And to be honest, it didn’t really “hit” me that Dave was leaving until Amy said goodbye.)
I’ve been uncharacteristically absent from the 2015 movie scene so far (only 4 new releases and 9 theatre trips!) but I’m hoping to more than make up for lost time this summer. Last summer’s movie crop turned out surprisingly well (at least in my opinion) so hopefully this year follows suit.
A long, long time ago (May 2012) in a galaxy far, far away (YouTube) I made a life-long (again, it’s been 3 years) friend (we’ve never met) in Grace Helbig. Under the banner of “Daily Grace,” Grace’s daily (duh) videos ranged from the helpful to the not-so-helpful to the delightfully stupid and always maintained a healthy balance of cleverness, absurdness and just plain weirdness. Though she never truly had a viral hit, she was still considered one of YouTube’s premiere players and accumulated over 2 million subscribers. Early last year, Grace moved her operations from the corporately owned “Daily Grace” to her own channel, “It’s Grace” (it was honestly like a mini-NBC vs. Conan thing, look it up, damn the man etc.) and while starting over from scratch was a risky move, “It’s Grace” hit the one million subscriber mark within two weeks of launching. (And a year and change later, “It’s Grace” has even surpassed “Daily Grace” in total subscribers.) 2014 also saw the release of an independent film starring Grace and fellow YouTubers Mamrie Hart and Hannah Hart (Camp Takota, currently streaming on Netflix!) and Grace’s first book, “Grace’s Guide: The Art of Pretending To Be A Grown Up,” a New York Times Bestseller!
“Cool history lesson, Crystal, but what’s your point?” Well, impatient blog bully in my mind, Grace has gone and got herself a TV show that premieres tomorrow on E! and I’m pretty darn excited about it. Described as “a curious introvert’s nighttime talk show,” The Grace Helbig Show is taping inside a house as opposed to a studio and promises extensive collaboration with her internet audience and oddities like celebrity interviews conducted while Grace runs errands. And for those in the YouTube know, it’s especially exciting because Grace’s frequent collaborator (and overall queen) Mamrie Hart appears in (at least?) the premiere episode. So basically it sounds like “It’s Grace” with a longer runtime and bigger budget so I can’t wait.
And on the semi-serious side, for whatever reason (probably because I watch the majority of web videos in bed with my phone three inches from my face) being a fan of a YouTube star feels a lot more personal than a regular star. When you watch someone on a daily basis for years, you feel weirdly connected to them, like you know them. I’m excited for Grace as an artist and creator to have this new platform but I also feel strangely proud and excited for Grace as a person? It feels like one of my own has been called up to the big leagues and I genuinely hope this show does big things for her.
Oh the films of 2014, it’s safe to say that we got along quite well. I made 56 trips to 10 different movie theatres to see 47 different films: 41 new releases, 5 hold-outs from 2013 (Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Her, the R-rated super-cut re-release of Anchorman 2 and Frozen) and a 10th anniversary screening of Saw. The rest of my 56 trips were comprised of one encore each of The Fault In Our Stars and 22 Jump Street, 2 return visits to Captain America: The Winter Soldier and an admittedly ridiculous 5 repeat viewings of Guardians of the Galaxy.
Thanks to the modern marvels of VOD, the ever-shrinking theatrical window and the fact that it’s March (ha), I ended up seeing 70 total releases from 2014. I was feeling extra opinionated this year, so alongside my Top 25 is some new categories. (Presented with jump links because we fancy now that we moved to WordPress!) (And all spoiler-free because I’m nice like that!)
I briefly told this story last night on Tumblr but when Parks and Recreation began its run in April 2009, I couldn’t have been less interested. I absolutely worshiped Amy Poehler from her Upright Citizen’s Brigade and Saturday Night Live days but I knew the show was specifically designed to be a companion piece for The Office, one of the few shows that I’ve ever actually just flat out given up on watching. (I loved it intensely for about three years and as the quality waned, so did my interest and eventually I just had to abandon ship. To protect my fond memories. The show produced OVER 100 MORE EPISODES after I stopped watching.) The pilot of Parks was made available on iTunes before it aired and I decided to give it a shot. It was exactly what I thought it was going to be (just like The Office but not The Office that I fell for. The current, cartoony Office). I felt like I gave it a fair chance but it wasn’t for me and I moved on.
When the show returned that fall, I was surprised to hear friends and critics say that there had been a clear uptick in quality. I saw the fourth episode of the second season, “Practice Date,” literally by accident: Community was set to record but somehow the recording ran long and also picked up Parks. As soon as Community ended, the cold open of Parks started (Councilman Dexhart’s birthday cave sex press conference) and my brother and I couldn’t help but giggle. We didn’t know the entire episode had recorded so we kept watching and giggling and before we knew it, the entire half hour had passed! I caught a few more episodes here and there that season and ended up Netflix-binging both seasons later that year.
And here we are roughly 5 years later. I would’ve loved to have had the time (not to mention emotional tenacity) to do a proper series retrospective (in the vein of my OC send-off that I bring up way too often) but perhaps someday. (I owe 30 Rock and Parenthood tribute posts as well.) For now, I’ve made a list of my 10 favorite episodes. And I’ll just say this: there were definitely peaks and valleys but from the moment I got onboard, Parks and Recreation never failed to make me smile. I’m a TV fanatic, I couldn’t begin to estimate how many shows I’ve seen through to the end, and yet Parks always felt special. For some reason, it feels rare to see a TV show where everyone gets along, everyone likes each other, everyone just wants everyone to have everything they want and that’s the driving force of the show. Parks and Rec was like a ray of sunshine in a dark TV world and that positivity is what I’m going to miss; that positivity is what made Pawnee feel like home.