Nicole's Personal Film Awards

In honor of the Oscars, I thought that I would share my own personal film awards. I thought about calling them The Gretas, but wasn't sure if that was too on the nose. I decided to do a combination of the traditional "above-the-line" Oscar categories and some more creative awards that are all my own. There are still a handful of 2019 films that I want to see ("Official Secrets" and "The Lighthouse" are at the top of my list), but I didn't want to hold off on posting these forever.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Laura Dern, Little Women
Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers
Billie Lourd, Booksmart
Florence Pugh, Little Women (WINNER) 
Zhao Shuzhen, The Farewell

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Timothée Chalamet, Little Women
Chris Evans, Knives Out
Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy
Rob Morgan, Just Mercy (WINNER)
Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Ana de Armas, Knives Out
Awkwafina, The Farewell
Scarlett Johannson, Marriage Story
Saoirse Ronan, Little Women (WINNER)
Tessa Thompson, Little Woods

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Timothée Chalamet, The King
Roman Griffin Davis, Jojo Rabbit
Adam Driver, Marriage Story (WINNER)
Taron Egerton, Rocketman
George McKay, 1917

Best Adapted Screenplay
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Jojo Rabbit
Just Mercy
Little Women (WINNER)
The Two Popes

Best Original Screenplay
Knives Out (WINNER)
Marriage Story
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
The Farewell

Film that Made Me Cry the Most
Avengers: Endgame
Frozen II
Just Mercy
Little Women (WINNER)
The Farewell

Film that Made Me Laugh the Most
Downton Abbey
Jojo Rabbit
Knives Out (WINNER)
Marriage Story

Actor Who Showed the Most Range Across Projects
Timothée Chalamet (The King, Little Women)
Laura Dern (Marriage Story, Little Women)
Adam Driver (Marriage Story, The Report, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker)
Scarlett Johannson (Avengers: Endgame, Jojo Rabbit, Marriage Story) (WINNER)
Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Fighting with My Family, Little Women)

Best Overlooked Film
All is True
Blinded by the Light
Just Mercy (WINNER)
Little Woods
The King

Most Rewatchable Film
Blinded by the Light
Downton Abbey
Little Women
Spider-Man: Far from Home
Yesterday (WINNER)

Best Ensemble 
Downton Abbey
Jojo Rabbit
Knives Out
Little Women (WINNER)

Best Tiny Role
Alan Alda, Marriage Story
Noah Galvin, Booksmart
Jayne Houdyshell, Little Women
Keanu Reeves, Always Be My Maybe
Andrew Scott, 1917 (WINNER)

Best Design
Downton Abbey
Knives Out
Little Women
Rocketman (WINNER)

Best Transformation
Taron Egerton, Rocketman (WINNER)
Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy
Charlize Theron, Bombshell
Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit
Renée Zellweger, Judy

Best Youth Performance (under 21 years old)
Dean Charles Chapman, 1917 (WINNER)
Roman Griffin Davis, Jojo Rabbit
Noah Jupe, Honey Boy
Thomasin McKenzie, Jojo Rabbit
Eliza Scanlen, Little Women

Best Comic Book Movie
Avengers: Endgame (WINNER)
Captain Marvel
Spider-Man: Far from Home

Best Use of Music in a Film
Blinded by the Light
Little Women
Rocketman (WINNER)
The Two Popes

Best Director
Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story
Greta Gerwig, Little Women (WINNER)
Sam Mendes, 1917
Céline Sciamma, Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit
Lulu Wang, The Farewell

Best Picture
Jojo Rabbit
Little Women (WINNER)
Marriage Story
The Farewell

Obviously, I love "Little Women" quite a lot. What were your favorite films of 2019? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter. x

My Top Ten Shows of 2019

I saw forty-six shows in 2019, which exceeded my goal of thirty shows by far. Of course, it's not anywhere close to the amount of theatre that I saw in 2018, but New York prices are a lot higher than London prices. I saw a few West End Shows, a good number of Broadway shows, some off-Broadway and even off-off-Broadway (while reviewing for BroadwayWorld), a few US Tours, and some great theatre here in Raleigh, North Carolina.

I realized that my favorites this year are very musical heavy, with only one play featured. I did see quite a few plays, but they didn't leave as much as an impact as many of the musicals did.

And yes, I realize that I'm a bit late in sharing these as it's already February, but January seemed to fly by. Without further ado, here are my top ten shows I saw in 2019 in no particular order.

The gender-swapped London revival of "Company" was without a doubt my favorite show that I saw all year. In fact, I saw it twice in a two week period because I loved it so much. I think "Company" has some of Sondheim's best songs in it ("Marry Me a Little" is my personal favorite) and this new production was so well-acted, well-designed, and well-directed by visionary Marianne Elliot. I loved the gender-swapped version so much and I think the show works so much better centered around a woman that I never want to see a traditional production again. I'm very much looking forward to seeing the production on Broadway this spring, though my heart belongs to the London cast.

The Lightning Thief - Review
I was obsessed with the Percy Jackson books in middle school, so when I found out the tour of the musical was coming to New York, I had to go. This plucky little show far exceeded my expectations. The album is full of bops (I especially love "Good Kid" and "My Grand Plan") and Chris McCarrell was the Percy Jackson of dreams. It almost feels unfair to compare this to the horrendous movie adaptation, but I'll just say that this is the adaptation of "The Lightning Thief" that I wanted for so long.

Burn This 
Sometimes I think about how I met Adam Driver at the stage door of this play and want to pinch myself. "Burn This" is a really fascinating four-person show and while the play itself wasn't my favorite, the production was amazing. The whole cast was great, but Driver was really magnetic and I totally understand why he was nominated for a Tony for it.

This was definitely my biggest surprise of the year. I went to its very first performance in New York and it blew me away. It has one of the best and most original scores I've heard on Broadway in a while and it's one of the few movie to musical adaptations where I think the musical actually improves upon the movie. Plus, Alex Brightman and Sophia Ann Caruso are both otherworldly.

My Fair Lady - Review
I ended up seeing this show three times because I fell so head over heels for it. I loved "My Fair Lady" as a kid, but was disappointed by its sexism as an adult. Well, this beautifully designed production definitely subtly updates it for a modern audience and Laura Benanti's strong Eliza is the stuff of dreams. Plus, Harry Hadden-Paton's Henry Higgins broke my heart while never losing what makes him the antagonist of this show.

In the Green 
I love a show based on a historical figure, I love a show that takes risks, and I love a show written by a woman. So "In the Green" was pretty much a perfect fit for me. This was the last show I saw in New York before I moved and it was such a perfect match for the intimate theatre at the Lincoln Center. Powerhouse Grace McLean is doing really exciting and fresh things both narratively and musically.

Hadestown - Video
Apparently I just love shows about Greek mythology? "Hadestown" is not just one of the best shows I saw in 2019, but one of the best shows I've ever seen. It's a gorgeous and moving story about Orpheus and Eurydice, Hades and Persephone. The music by Anais Mitchell is absolute perfection and the direction by Rachel Chavkin is every bit as incredible as you would expect from the woman who directed "Great Comet." Plus, Amber Gray's Persephone might be my favorite Supporting Actress performance I've ever seen.

Oklahoma - Video
If you'd told me last year that a production of "Oklahoma" would be one of my favorite shows of 2019, I would have laughed. But the recent revival completely reinvented the show, illuminating all of the faults of the characters and how the show can speak to Trump's America. The performances from the whole cast were incredible, but Patrick Vaill's Jud was truly something special. And they served cornbread and vegan chili at intermission! It doesn't get much better than that.

The Bridges of Madison County - Review
I actually didn't know much about "The Bridges of Madison County" going into it, although I knew that my mom (who went with me) liked the movie. The production by Theatre Raleigh directed by Lauren Kennedy was stunning. It absolutely blew me away both in its interesting exploration of difficult topics and the gorgeous songs crafted by Jason Robert Brown. The costumes were great and the whole cast (especially Janine DiVita) were spectacular.

Ragtime - Review
"Ragtime" has been one of my favorite shows since I saw it at Elon University my freshman year. It was very exciting to get to see it done by a local theatre company with a fellow Elon alum as Coalhouse Walker Jr. The production was a really interesting updated version that showcased how relevant it is to our country's politics right now.

What are your favorite shows you saw in 2019? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter. x

My 2019 Oscar Predictions

Can you believe that the Oscars are this Sunday? With this shorter season and the earlier ceremony date, it's felt like time has just flown by. I'm very excited to watch them, especially as some of my favorite people (Taika Waititi! Mark Ruffalo! Oscar Isaac!) are presenting. How do you all feel about not having a host again this year?

You'll be able to find my full predictions, along with the rest of the team's on the Next Best Picture post, but I wanted to share them here as well. If you want to hear why I've chosen these, you can check out our predictions podcast. I'm definitely not sure that I'm right....but these are what I've gone with.

Best Picture
Prediction: 1917
Alternate: Parasite

Best Director
Prediction: Sam Mendes, 1917
Alternate: Bong Joon-ho, Parasite

Best Actor
Prediction: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Alternate: Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Best Actress
Prediction: Renée Zellwegger, Judy
Alternate: Saoirse Ronan, Little Women

Best Supporting Actor
Prediction: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Alternate: Joe Pesci, The Irishman

Best Supporting Actress
Prediction: Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Alternate: Florence Pugh, Little Women

Best Adapted Screenplay
Prediction: Little Women
Alternate: Jojo Rabbit

Best Original Screenplay
Prediction: Parasite
Alternate: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Cinematography
Prediction: 1917
Alternate: Joker

Best Costume Design
Prediction: Little Women
Alternate: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Film Editing
Prediction: Ford v Ferrari
Alternate: Parasite

Best Makeup and Hairstyling 
Prediction: Bombshell
Alternate: 1917

Best Production Design
Prediction: 1917
Alternate: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Sound Editing
Prediction: 1917
Alternate: Ford v. Ferrari

Best Sound Mixing
Prediction: 1917
Alternate: Ford v. Ferrari

Best Visual Effects
Prediction: 1917
Alternate: Avengers: Endgame

Best Score
Prediction: 1917
Alternate: Joker

Best Original Song
Prediction: "(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again," Rocketman
Alternate: "Stand Up," Harriet

Best Documentary Feature
Prediction: American Factory
Alternate: For Sama

Best Animated Feature
Prediction: Toy Story 4
Alternate: Klaus

Best International Film
Prediction: Parasite
Alternate: Pain & Glory

Best Animated Short
Prediction: Hair Love
Alternate: Kitbull

Best Documentary Short
Prediction: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone
Alternate: St Louis Superman

Best Live-Action Short
Prediction: The Neighbors' Window
Alternate: Nefta Football Club

Let me know what you think will win the Oscars in the comments below or on Twitter. x

My Top 10 Albums of 2019

In past years, I've shared lists of my favorite books I've read and shows that I've seen. (My top ten shows list is coming soon, worry not.) This year, I really enjoyed listening to a lot of new music so I wanted to share some of my favorite albums. I've gotten into folk pop and indie folk music and even started using Spotify finally. (Here's one of my favorite Spotify playlists.) 

But I wanted to share some of my favorite albums that were released this year with you all. It's a mix of cast albums, movie soundtracks, EPs, and new releases from favorite artists. I've presented them here in no particular order.

Lover (Taylor Swift)
Track I have on repeat: "I Think He Knows" 
It will likely be a shock to no one to hear that Taylor Swift's latest album, "Lover," is undoubtedly my favorite album of the year. When Taylor releases a new album, it's not just new music for me to listen to; it tends to open a new era in my life. This album is really special to me because for the first time, Taylor seems so genuinely happy both in her relationship and in who she is. I'm not sure if I'm willing to relinquish "Red" as my favorite TS album, but this one is certainly close.

Beetlejuice cast album 
Track I have on repeat: "The Whole Being Dead Thing" 
I'll be talking about "Beetlejuice" more in my top shows I saw this year post, but suffice to say it was one of the biggest surprises of this year for me. Alex Brightman and Sophia Ann Caruso are easily two of the brightest talents on Broadway right now. This album captures the essence of the show really well, is perfect for singing along to, and has a couple of lyrics specifically for the recording.

Rocketman soundtrack 
Track I have on repeat: "I'm Still Standing" 
"Rocketman" was another surprise for me this year; I've always liked Elton John's music, but I loved this film. It was everything that I wanted "Bohemian Rhapsody" to be. I've actually returned to this album quite a bit. While I, of course, love hearing Elton sing his own music, I also love to hear Taron Egerton sing it. Plus...Richard Madden singing "Honky Cat." Enough said. 

Company cast album 
Track I have on repeat: "Marry Me A Little" 
As soon as I saw "Company" last January in London, I was eagerly awaiting the release of a cast album. The musical was great in its original form, but it's transcendent in this new gender-flipped production. So many of my favorite performers were in this show from Rosalie Craig to George Blagden to Jonny Bailey and it's such a treat to be able to listen to their incredible vocals over and over. I lost count of the number of times I cried while walking through the streets of New York listening to Rosalie sing "Being Alive." 

January to June (Zach Adkins) 
Track I have on repeat: "Dexter Hall" 
I love discovering newer singer-songwriters and Zach Adkins's music is something really special. Fans might know him from Broadway's "Anastasia" and I was lucky enough to see him in North Carolina Theatre's production of "West Side Story" earlier this year. He has a beautiful voice to complement his songwriting skills and I look forward to more music of his in the future. If you like indie folk type music or Ed Sheeran's albums, you'll probably love Zach's.

The Clockmaker's Daughter cast album 
Track I have on repeat: "Spindlewood" 
What's not to love about a musical concept album that sounds like you combined an Irish and a Disney fairytale? I wrote a full review of this album, but I continue to love it just as much as I did when it was released. It has gorgeous vocals from the likes of Fra Fee and Ramin Karimloo and a lovely mix of ballads and uptempo songs. I would love to get to see a production of this show someday. 

RH-2: Live at Summerhouse Studios (Rob Houchen) 
Track I have on repeat: "More" 
Rob Houchen is one of my favorite songwriters and singers and I've loved all of the music he has released thus far. I love the rendition of "More" that he has on this album; it's the perfect song to listen to if you need to pump yourself up.

Oklahoma cast album 
Track I have on repeat: "Lonely Room" 
I've been very outspoken about my love for this radical new production of "Oklahoma" on Broadway that unfortunately closes this month and I'm so grateful to have a cast album for it. If you'd told me I'd be jamming out to "Oklahoma" last year, I would have thought you were crazy. But with exciting new folk-y orchestrations and fantastic vocals, it's an obvious choice for one of my favorite albums of the year.

Amidst the Chaos (Sara Bareilles) 
Track I have on repeat: "Orpheus" 
This was the year that I properly discovered Sara Bareilles who had sort of been in my periphery for years. Not only did I finally see "Waitress" on Broadway, but I also fell head over heels for Sara's newest album. I had the hardest time choosing just one song to list above! It's the perfect album for when I'm chilling in my apartment because I find Sara's voice to be very soothing but the lyrics and the artistry on display are so inspiring.

Hadestown cast album 
Track I have on repeat: "Livin' it Up on Top" 
I love listening to this album on my way to work in the morning because it's so fun to sing along to. I love the folk influence. From Reeve Carney and Eva Noblezada's beautiful ballads to Andre de Shield and Amber Gray's upbeat bops, each song feels more perfect than the last. And can we talk about Patrick Page's voice?

Honorable Mention: Dove Cameron's singles 
Track I have on repeat: "Out of Touch" 
In the past few months, actress and singer Dove Cameron has started releasing her own music. It's exciting to see her flourish as an artist post-Disney Channel life and get to have more freedom over her work and her image. I've loved each of the four tracks she has released: "Waste," "Bloodshot," "Out of Touch," and "So Good." They're perfect songs to dance around to or blast in the car. I can't wait for Dove to release more of her music in 2020! 

What were your favorite albums of 2019? Do you have recommendations for me to listen to? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter. x

My Goals for 2020

Now that my goals for 2019 are (mostly) done, it's time to share with you all my goals for 2020. As I've said before, I prefer goals to resolutions are they're more concrete so it feels easier to work towards them.

One. Watch 100 movies.
This is one goal that I'm carrying over from last year. For this challenge, I only include films that I haven't seen before or that I haven't seen in at least ten years. (AKA rewatching Joe Wright's 2005 "Pride and Prejudice" twelve times does not count.) It was a bit of a struggle at the end to try to hit one hundred, but I think that it will be easier for me this year as I won't have a big move getting in my way and I get screeners sent to me now because of being a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. It's one of the challenges I've enjoyed most in 2019 as I've discovered some new favorites, fixed blind spots, and rewatched things I haven't seen since I was a child.

Two. Visit five new historic sites. 
This is another that I'm carrying over, but demanding five instead of three. I'm hoping that this spurs me to actually visit some of the historic sites here in Raleigh that I haven't gone near since moving. Maybe I'll even do some traveling within North Carolina to find some cool ones.

Three. Read 12 books. 
I'll admit that my goal of 20 books for last year was too ambitious and I came nowhere near it. I'm hoping that I can actually keep myself to one book a month if I offset some of the longer books on my TBR with quicker, shorter reads.

Four. Do a blog series based on my undergraduate thesis. 
I've been meaning to round up all of the research that I did on French Enlightenment salonnières and make a blog series about them for a few years now. There are so few people who actually know much about them and I'd like to introduce at least a few more people to them. I'm determined that this is the year that I actually stop procrastinating and do it.

Five. Put money aside into my savings. 
Now that I'm properly settled down into an apartment and not looking to move states again anytime soon, I'm hoping to start putting money aside into savings instead of living paycheck to paycheck as I have been. I just moved a bit over last week, which is an encouraging starting point. I'm hoping to use some of this money to fund a bit of traveling this year.

Six. See 30 shows. 
Hopefully this won't be too difficult as I'm hoping to plan trips to New York and London over the course of 2020 and I'll be seeing shows to review for BroadwayWorld Raleigh here at home.

Seven. Work out at least twice a month. 
I haven't properly worked out much since I moved to North Carolina in July (wince). I need to get back into it in the new year and I figured that setting an easy goal like working out twice a month would actually make me more likely to achieve it. I have a small gym in my apartment complex that I can use, but I'd also like to try out Class Pass.

Eight. Earn money from my writing. 
This is definitely my most ambitious and nerve-wracking goal. I'm very happy writing for the three outlets that I regularly write for, but I would like to branch out and try pitching my work to some other outlets -- maybe even paying ones.

Nine. Cook three meals in my Instant Pot. 
I got an Instant Pot for Christmas from my parents and I'm so excited to learn how to use it. I really want to do more proper cooking in my apartment so I thought that this would be a fun goal.

Ten. Read War and Peace
Yes, this is one I've been carrying over in my goals for a few years now. But hopefully 2020 is the year that it will finally happen!

What are your goals or resolutions for 2020? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter. x
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