Review: Molly Brown House Museum (Denver, Colorado)

Last year (back when we could still go out and do things), I went on a work trip to Denver, Colorado. I took an earlier flight out so that I could fit in a few historic sites and the one I was most excited to see was the Molly Brown House Museum. I've had these photos and notes sitting for over a year, so I thought it was finally time to share them. 

Margaret Brown might be known as "the Unsinkable Molly Brown," but she was never actually called Molly. It's a nickname given to her by the musical and film about her that has persisted so strongly that most people likely don't know her real name was Margaret. She was a philanthropist, activist, and socialite who had a home in the once fashionable Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver for many years. 

Margaret Tobin was born in Missouri to Irish Catholic immigrant parents. At the age of nineteen, she married 31-year-old J.J. Brown who was equally poor but with whom she was very much in love. They had two children, Lawrence and Catherine, born soon after their marriage. Fortunately, J.J. struck gold in Colorado in the 1890s and the family were instant millionaires. They moved to Denver and bought the home that is now the Molly Brown Museum. In 1909, J.J. and Margaret legally separated but they remained on good terms for the rest of their lives. 

Margaret was passionate about education and employed tutors for herself, learning five or six languages. Both of her children were sent to French boarding schools. Margaret became involved in many causes from women's suffrage to miners rights to maritime law. She helped create the juvenile court system and even ran for Senate. However, she dropped out of the Senate race to volunteer in France when World War I broke out. When her son Larry was temporarily blinded in the war, she learned Braille. She was eventually awarded the French Legion of Honor. 

Margaret was famously a passenger on the Titanic and survived the crossing. While she is most known for trying to convince the lifeboat she was in to return to try to save people in the icy water, she also raised $10,000 for Titanic passengers while they were aboard the ship that rescued them, the Carpathia. When the wealthy survivors didn't donate their money quickly enough, she publicly shamed those who hadn't given until they did. This money was used to help second- and third-class passengers upon docking in New York. 

Margaret took acting classes and was even in a few plays towards the end of her life. She died in 1932 at the age of 65 due to a stroke. While "the Unsinkable Molly Brown" has become a mythic figure in American history, the truth of her life is arguably even more fascinating. 

The house itself is a lovely Victorian home designed by architect William A. Lang. It was built in 1889, with all of the best modern features of the time: electricity, central heating, indoor plumbing, and a telephone. The Browns purchased the house from Isaac and Mary Large in 1894 for $30,000. Four years later, they changed over the house to be in Margaret's name. The Browns added on the porch, grand staircase, and back porch. The house, which is decorated in a lavish style, is close to Capitol Hill and other museums. In addition to the Browns' two children, Margaret's parents lived with them for many years and it's easy to imagine it as a bustling and busy home. 

In 1970, the house was almost torn down and replaced with a parking lot. Luckily, it was acquired by Historic Denver. It has now been restored to its 1910 appearance based on historic photographs, written descriptions of the home, and paint-chip analysis. It's filled with furniture, linens, books, and other pieces to make you feel like you've stepped back in time. It's set up as the house would have been right before the Garden Party held that year, to which 800 guests were invited. They also have small exhibits about the other people who have lived in the house. 

When I went, I had a great guided tour by a nice and very knowledgable tour guide. I would definitely recommend getting their early to secure your spot on the tour because they do fill up (at least they do...when we're not dealing with a pandemic). They have a neat little gift shop that you can browse through while waiting for your tour time (I bought some gifts to bring back to my family). There is a small fee for the tour, which lasts forty-five minutes, but it's worth it to help keep this amazing museum running. 

If you're ever in Denver, a tour of the Molly Brown Museum is the number one thing that I recommend you do. You can visit their website to learn more about Margaret Brown and the museum. You can also find information about their measures for ensuring safety while visiting during the pandemic. 

April Favorites

So if March lasted 500 days, then April lasted about 5 days, right? Time moves differently in quarantine, I guess. I honestly feel like I'm as busy as before between still working full time and doing lots of writing, but I'm hoping to start reteaching myself an instrument in May.

the crown season 3
I loved Seasons 1 and 2 of "The Crown," so I was super excited to finally get around to watching Season 3. I was so blown away by Helena Bonham Carter and Josh O'Connor's performances as Princess Margaret and Princes Charles. The entire cast is amazing and I can't wait to see where Season 4 will take us.

new girl 
I had watched the first two-ish seasons of "New Girl" during college but then got distracted. I wanted an easy half-hour episode TV show to watch during quarantine, so I decided to restart this from the beginning. Maybe it's that I'm a bit older now, but I'm enjoying it so much more this time. My friend Julie is also watching it and it's so fun to talk about together. I can admit that I'm a total Jess Day...and maybe a little bit Schmidt too.

We've started our 2014 Retrospective over on Next Best Picture and the first film I watched for it was Ava DuVernay's "Selma." I'd never seen it before and I was absolutely blown away by it and what a great portrait it is of Martin Luther King Jr. You can listen to our podcast review and read my review.

Maggie and I did a special episode of "Petticoats & Poppies" in which we brought on my friend Alexis, who recently graduated from law school, as a guest. We discussed the film "Loving" and Alexis provided her legal expertise about the court case it's centered around. I was so impressed by this quiet and intimate film with fantastic performances from Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. You can listen to the episode here.

the bling ring
I rewatched "The Bling Ring" for the first time in years as part of a piece I wrote in honor of Emma Watson's birthday. I truly think that it's some of Sofia Coppola's best work and I don't think anyone can argue it's not one of Watson's best performances.

the hunchback of notre dame studio cast recording 
My neighbors probably hate this album by now. I started listening to this because "Out There" is my favorite Disney song of all time, but then fell in love with the whole album. (Partially because I just really love Patrick Page.) I would love to see this show make it to Broadway one day.

the trail to oregon 
So...I'll have a more extensive post on this coming soon, but in the past month I've watched five StarKid Productions musicals. I had never seen any of them before despite being vaguely aware of the group since high school, but I finally decided to watch some alongside my friend Alexis (also mentioned above) who is a fan. "The Trail to Oregon" is easily one of my favorites thus far, maybe because I was such a nerd about pioneers growing up.

the guy who didn't like musicals
My favorite of the StarKid shows is definitely "The Guy Who Didn't Like Musicals," one of their most recent ones. It's actually easily my favorite musical I've seen for the first time in 2020. The score is fantastic, the cast is great, and the humor is top-notch.

oregon trail 
In preparation to watch "The Trail to Oregon," Alexis recommended that I play a few rounds of the game Oregon Trail because I somehow never played it growing up. I found a version online and now I'm absolutely addicted to it. Maybe it's because I was obsessed with the actual Oregon Trail in elementary school or maybe I just enjoy being able to focus on something small for a little while, but it's brought me so much joy.

tik tok 
Yes, I finally did it. I downloaded Tik Tok. Not only that, but I started making videos; this is what happens when you have a Gen Z sibling, I guess. But actually I'm kind of addicted to watching Star Wars, Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, and theatre themed videos. My username on there is nicoleackman16 if you want to follow me.

567 broadway 
I made a YouTube video last year about Joseph Corella's 567 Broadway program. You can buy the DVD or digital copy of the full program or check out his videos on YouTube. Joseph teaches you choreography to songs from Broadway shows; it's a way to exercise without feeling like you're working out. I am an ambassador for the program, but I've honestly been doing them so often since quarantine began because they're a great way to get moving without the pressure of working out. They always lift my mood, but my personal favorite is the Mamma Mia themed video on YouTube.

What did you enjoy in the month of April? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments below x

Review: Burgwin-Wright House (Wilmington, North Carolina)

My family has a condo at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina and I've grown up going there my entire life. However, other than going to the Battleship, I recently realized that I had never been to any of the historic sites in Wilmington. So the last time we were down at the coast a few weeks ago (before all of this Covid-19 panic happened), we decided to choose a house and go to it. We sort of picked one at random, but I think we set the bar high for future historic site adventuring.

The Burgwin-Wright House is the oldest property in Wilmington and the only house remaining from the colonial era that is open to the public. It's a beautiful example of Georgian architecture and a great way to learn about what life was like in Wilmington before the Revolutionary War. When the house is open to the public, you can take a guided tour with one of their docents. Our tour guide was incredibly knowledgable and did a great job at answering questions and keeping everyone engaged.

The Burgwin-Wright House sits on the property that once housed the original Wilmington jail, which was built in 1744. After failed attempts by the local wealthy men to get the city to move the jail away from the city center, it mysteriously burned down in 1768. John Burgwin bought the land and by 1771  was living on a house built on the site. The outdoor and basement jail cells still exist and can be seen on the tour.

John Burgwin was the second son of an English merchant who immigrated to America in hopes of making his fortune. He started out in Charleston, but later moved to Wilmington. He was known to be tall and charming made his fortune as a merchant before also becoming a plantation owner and government official. His political career included everything from being Justice of the Peace to the personal secretary to the royal governor. When he married Margaret Haynes, her family eventually gave the couple over 1,000 acres of land including Castle Haynes and Hermitage Plantation.

In 1799, Burgwin sold his town house to Joshua Grainger Wright, a member of the family for whom Wrightsville Beach is named. by 1846, there were eight children living in the house so the Wright family made an addition that doubled the square footage of the house. The last member of the Wright family to live in the house died in 1930 and the house almost was torn down for a gas station. However, the Colonial Dames of America in North Carolina saved it and turned it into a historic site.

The house is now presented as it was in 1770. (The addition is used as office space and storage.) Even the paint has recently been restored to its 1770 appearance. The house boasts a handful of pieces original to the Burgwin and Wright families and is otherwise filled with mostly European period pieces. One of the most lovely pieces is the 1810 Boston pianoforte. The house was built with long leaf pine, which is still oozing sap. Not many buildings made of this wood remain because it is so flammable. Because the house is still shifting, the floors are slightly sloped which can be vertigo inducing for some and at least a bit strange for others.

The guided tour I was on did a great job of balancing discussing the house itself, the Burgwin family, and the enslaved workers who lived in the house. While they don't know that much about the specific people who worked in the house because of a lack of records, they do know that the Burgwins had at least ten enslaved workers in the house at any given time, with many more on their plantations. It's refreshing to see a site that embraces its complicated history rather than ignoring it.

The house is now presented as it was in 1770. (The addition is used as office space and storage.) Even the paint has recently been restored to its 1770 appearance. The house boasts a handful of pieces original to the Burgwin and Wright families and is otherwise filled with mostly European period pieces. One of the most lovely pieces is the 1810 Boston pianoforte. The house was built with long leaf pine, which is still oozing sap. Not many buildings made of this wood remain because it is so flammable. Because the house is still shifting, the floors are slightly sloped which can be vertigo inducing for some and at least a bit strange for others.

When I visited, the house was in the midst of renovations (hence the scaffolding on the outside in my photo). You can also visit the free-standing kitchen behind the house which would originally have been the jailor's quarters. There are also colonial gardens, including a kitchen garden and fig trees, that you can explore. The next time you're in Wilmington, I highly recommend checking out this beautiful and history-filled home. If you would like more information about the Burgwin Wright House, you can visit their website.

March Favorites

March feels like it was a year long. It's strange to think about how March started and how we've progressed to this point of quarantine. I hope you're all staying healthy, washing your hands, and hanging in there.

in the time we lost by carrie hope fletcher 
I finally got around to Carrie Hope Fletcher's latest novel, "In The Time We Lost," and I read the whole thing in just a few days! I love her style of magical realism and while the book absolutely broke my heart, I loved it.

the mandalorian
I finally got around to watching "The Mandalorian" and I really enjoyed it. It took me a couple of episodes to properly get into it, but the last few episodes are truly great. And of course...Baby Yoda is super adorable.

jane eyre (2006)  
I watched the 2006 BBC mini-series of "Jane Eyre" for a podcast (more on that later) and was shocked at how much I enjoyed it. Charlotte Bronte is normally not my cup of tea, but this adaptation with Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson is really wonderful.

I was nervous about seeing Autumn de Wilde's new adaptation of "Emma" because it's my favorite Jane Austen novel and I'm very fond of the 1996 film with Gwyneth Paltrow. But I was absolutely delighted with this new version. I highly recommend you rent it if you're looking for something to watch!

I'm not a huge Pixar fan, but I do love Tom Holland so I was excited to see "Onward." I got to take my sister to a press night and was so charmed by this film and its lovely message about sibling love. You can read my full review here.

I can't believe I hadn't seen "Gifted" before, but I finally fixed that. What a heartwarming story! McKenna Grace is the most talented young actress, more than many women three times her age. And of course, Chris Evans as a father figure is exactly what I would like from a film.

most of us are strangers by seafret
I recently discovered Seafret's first album so of course I was thrilled when they released their second album this month. I absolutely love the sound of this British duo. My favorite songs from the album are definitely "Be My Queen" and "Girl I Wish I Didn't Know."

petticoats & poppies: history girls at the movies podcast
My dear friend Maggie and I launched our own podcast during the month of March! On it, we review period dramas from the perspective of two women who are trained as historians but work in the film industry in some way. This month we did episodes on "Emma." and the BBC miniseries of "Jane Eyre." You can find us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Twitter, and Instagram.

I think I've actually been socializing more than I normally do since quarantine started. I only have a handful of friends in North Carolina; my friends are pretty spread out across the United States and even the world, so I'm kind of used to keeping up with people over the Internet. I've been having a lot of Skype, Facetime, and Zoom chats with people, much more than normal. I think that it's so important to see people digitally face to face while we're isolated; it makes it all a lot easier to handle.

What did you all enjoy during the month of March? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter. x

Introducing Petticoats & Poppies: History Girls at the Movies

I'm so thrilled to announce that my friend Maggie and I have just launched a new podcast called Petticoats & Poppies: History Girls at the Movies. On it, we will discuss period dramas from the perspectives of two women who have experience working in both history and film. I'm so excited to be able to share it with you all now and especially to have something that we can create and spread from home, responsibly social distancing during this pandemic. 

Our first episode is called "Emma.: Costume Design and...Butts?" We discuss the new film "Emma." which is based on my favorite Austen novel and how it fares both of an adaptation of a book and as a historical period film.

You can listen now on Spotify and Libsyn and we're coming soon to Apple Podcasts. Make sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram!

A Love Letter to Amy March (Guest Post by Hannah Ackman)

Back in December on the night that I first saw Greta Gerwig's "Little Women," I wrote a love letter to Jo March. I detailed all the ways in which she had shaped me as a person and how Greta's adaptation perfectly brought her, and all the March sisters, to life. My 16-year-old little sister Hannah has long been a fan and avid defender of Amy March, way before it was cool to love her. She asked if she could write a piece for me to post on this blog about her relationship with Amy March. Of course (because I am part Meg March too), I said yes. 

I grew up being told I was Amy March. While most people would take offense to that, I was thrilled. I don't remember a specific moment that I saw a film of "Little Women" for the first time. I probably watched it long before I could understand half of what was being discussed. It seems it has been a part of me from my first moments. I still find myself in the story, specifically in the character of Amy.

However, in every adaptation I had seen, Amy March is portrayed as a spoiled brat who doesn't deserve anything she gets. She has "a way of getting out of the hard parts of life." Everyone always hates her, but I've never understood that. I saw her as ambitious and charming and, yes, a bit jealous. Growing up with a sister like Jo or Meg isn't easy; I would know. (Nicole is perfect, trust me.)

Even in my childhood, Amy was everything I wanted to be. I understood her frustration with her sisters, especially Jo, and her jealousy. My family couldn't understand it and honestly still can't today. They say burning a manuscript is terribly petty, but it is consistently among my favorite moments from the story in any version. I actively declare Amy as my favorite and it's useless to try and argue with me because it just makes me love her more. (Perhaps, that's another thing that Amy and I have in common.) The more I learned about her, the more I idolized her and the more I realized the faults in the movie adaptations. After all if she's as bad as people think, what does it say about Laurie that he would marry someone like her?

Upon watching the trailer for Greta Gerwig's adaptation, I couldn't believe her view on the story matched mine. I must have replayed it around six times before I had to return to my school day, but I couldn't stop thinking about it. Greta portrays Amy as determined, refined, and perhaps a bit spoiled. I had never related more. Beyond that, Florence Pugh is talented, dramatic, and a little sister herself - making her the perfect fit to portray my beloved Amy March.

I had heard of Saoirse Ronan, Laura Dern, and Timothée Chalamet and already loved Meryl Streep. But brilliant as they all are, it was Florence who I knew from the start was perfect for her role. I couldn't understand why, but I felt secure that I was going to love it.

Months later, the day after Christmas, I finally got to see Greta Gerwig's masterpiece. As predicted, I was stunned by Florence Pugh's performance. She perfectly embodies Amy in the tilt of her chin, her whining voice, her ignoring Meg's advice, and most importantly her evident adoration of Jo. I had never thought of Jo and Amy as being similar in any way, but it turns out that they're practically twins. Laura Dern really shows how Marmee herself is reflected back in each of the girls. She also gave me an insight into my own mother's life and how, like Amy, I have chosen a different path.

This new Amy has such a clear purpose to her actions from the very beginning. She loves fiercely, fights for her place bravely, and has to stay refined throughout anything. She is spiteful and petty as a child, but grows up to be remarkable and experienced in the ways of life. Florence may have made me love the manuscript burning scene even more (although Nicole told me not to get any ideas). I am only sixteen years old, but I find myself agreeing with Amy's views on love especially. I have never been a romantic like my sister; I just want to have some sort of say in the matter.

It is Amy March who justifies that life will continue when passion ends, that impulses can be good, and that sisters are forever. Luckily, Nicole is the Jo to my Amy which I think shows that we're closer than we can even imagine. 

By Hannah Ackman

Review: Starry Concept Album

RATING: ★★★★

One of my favorite films of 2018 was Julian Schnabel's "At Eternity's Gate," which stars Willem Dafoe and explores the last years of Vincent van Gogh's life. I was particularly fascinated by how it delved into the relationship between Vincent and his younger brother, Theo van Gogh (played by Rupert Friend). So when my friend Lexi told me that there was a new musical written about the van Gogh brothers, I had to check it out.

The concept album for "Starry" was released at the end of January and they held concerts at 54 Below in New York at the end of February. The show's music and lyrics were written by Matt Dahan, with book and lyrics by Kelly Lynn D'Angelo. Obviously, as with any concept album, I have a lot of questions about how the show would function outside of just the music, but it does a great job at giving a decent idea of the action of the show overall.

The show is largely about the relationship between the two brothers: one a painter, the other an art dealer. Vincent and Theo exchanged hundreds of letters during their short lifetimes (neither lived to the age of 40) and many hundreds of Vincent's were published by Theo's widow after his death. The show also showcases the brothers' relationships with many of the other French Impressionist artists of the day, including Degas, Pissarro, and Paul Gauguin.

The music is in a contemporary musical theatre style. The beginning of the "Prologue" is a wistful piano and strings instrumental piece and it sets the tone of the show which is at times boisterous and at times more intimate, but always characterized by a sense of yearning. There are similarities to composers as diverse as Tom Kitt, Dave Malloy, and Alan Menken throughout the music. The ensemble numbers like "Impress Me" and "United in Distaste" are genuinely rousing, while ballads like "Something After All" and "The Red Vineyard" are beautiful and melodic.

Dylan Saunders is a great Vincent with his beautiful vocals making "The Starry Night" one of the best songs in the whole show. Joe Viba is his perfect counterpoint as Theo with his smoother voice. The two blend together perfectly in "A New Horizon," one of my personal favorites on the album.

Mariah Rose Faith plays Theo's wife, Jo, and her solo "Enlightenment" is easily one of the highlights. She has the sort of voice that gives you chills when she hits the final soaring lines. Jeff Blim is easily the standout of the ensemble as the prickly playboy artist Paul Gauguin, bringing his parts a rock sound that reminds me of a young Adam Pascal. (Someone, cast him in "Aida" immediately, please.)

If you love van Gogh's work, are interested in his life story, or just love contemporary musical theatre, you should definitely check out "Starry." It's a show that I would love to see fully staged one day (think about the opportunities for production design or even projections to match van Gogh's work!). You can use this link to find out where to purchase or stream the album.

February Favorites

I decided to start a monthly favorites series here on the blog to track some of my favorite books, movies, albums, and anything else that I have loved every month. I know these sorts of posts and videos were really popular at one point. Does anyone else still do them?

rebecca by daphne du maurier
I finally got around to reading "Rebecca" in honor of an upcoming podcast and to prepare for the new adaptation with Lily James coming to Netflix later this year. I was absolutely floored by it in all its thrilling Gothic glory. In addition to the main plot and romance (if you can call it that), I think there's some fascinating social commentary by du Maurier in it. This feels like one that I will reread again in years to come and it's definitely made me want to read more du Maurier.

fleabag seasons 1 and 2 
With Oscar season over, it felt like it was time to catch up on some of the television that I had missed while trying to watch as many 2019 films as possible. For my first series, I chose "Fleabag" largely because each season is only three hours long. I rarely watch shows with half-hour episodes (in truth, I rarely watch TV at all) so it felt like I absolutely flew through this. I enjoyed Season 1, but Season 2 absolutely tore my heart out. Phoebe Waller Bridge is so incredibly talented and clever and Andrew Scott is a babe.

what if
This 2013 film is confusingly sometimes called "What If" and sometimes "The F Word." I can't explain that one, but what I can say is that it's one of the most delightful and heartwarming rom-coms I've watched in a while. Similar to "When Harry Met Sally," it is about two friends who end up falling in love. While Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan are charming, I honestly watched it because Adam Driver plays a supporting role in it and he did not disappoint. Yes, I am meant to be watching every Saoirse Ronan movie this year and instead seem to be watching every Adam Driver film. (No regrets.)

to all the boys: ps i still love you 
The first "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" movie is one of my favorites and the trilogy of books by Jenny Han are also favorites of mine. So to say that I was excited for the release of "To All the Boys: PS I Still Love You" was an understatement, especially after the casting of Jordan Fisher. I went over to my parents' house to watch it with them and my little sister on the night it came out and we had the best time. I'm totally #TeamJohnAmbrose and Jordan Fisher was perfect in the role. You can check out my full review here.

mr jones
I was lucky enough to get a screener for "Mr. Jones" to review it for In Their Own League, which was great because it's out in the UK now and I didn't want to wait until April to see it when it releases here in the States. (You can read my review here.) The film tells the story of Welsh journalist Gareth Jones who traveled to the Ukraine in the early 1930s and discovered the man-made famine that was the Soviets were inflicting upon them. It stars James Norton and Vanessa Kirby and is well worth a watch even if it's not perfect.

birds of prey 
I certainly didn't expect to love "Birds of Prey" as much as I did. (I now own a Harley Quinn t-shirt and sweatshirt.) Margot Robbie delivers an insane and kooky performance and the whole film is just so much fun. It's a great example of girl power that doesn't feel forced or fake and it's also an ode to the perfect breakfast sandwich. You can hear me talk about it on the Next Best Picture podcast review.

starry: original concept album 
I'm hoping to have a full review of this album posted soon, but when my friend Lexi recommended that I listen to a new concept album for a musical about Vincent van Gogh, I was immediately intrigued. The group of very talented vocalists bring to life the story of two brothers, Theo and Vincent van Gogh, and their struggles with art. You can listen to the album on Spotify.
pure barre 
I started doing Pure Barre classes about a month ago now and I was shocked to discover that I really like them. I grew up dancing ballet so the way that Pure Barre uses your muscles feels familiar to me and I like that having to sign up for the classes ahead of time forces me to actually go to them. I'm not very good at them yet (I struggle just to hold a plank) and I'm only going once a week, but here's to hoping I start improving soon.

What did you all enjoy during the month of February? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter. x

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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