Category Archives: Phillip’s Opinion

The Juxtaposition of Lana Del Rey

This is how I work: when it’s sunny and warm outside, I’m happy.  When it’s cold and snowing, I’m sad.  Pretty basic.  I don’t care about the research I’ve read at school, the weather affects my mood, because I hate Massachusetts Weather.

It’s currently the most depressing time of the year for me here in arctic: winter.  The past two months literally have had below freezing temperatures.  It’s just been so dark and cold, and so much snow.  Sad face.

Given the fact that I listen to music mostly based on my mood, and that I’ve been so deflated because of this weather, you’d think I’d listen to music from the ever so effervescent Lana Del Rey (sarcasm), especially her album Born to Die.  But the thing is, that’s really a summertime album for me.

I’m not kidding.  Last summer, one of the albums I had on repeat was Born to Die, and had her songs “Born to Die,” “Video Games,” and “Summertime Sadness” (both the standard and Cedric Gervais Remix (which just won a Grammy)) on repeat on my iPod, especially when I was out biking in the beautiful sunshine.  Today, while at work shelving books, I realized I hadn’t listen to the stunning Lana Del Rey’s music in months, so I decided to dedicate an hour to Born to Die.  It didn’t last; the album kept reminding me of summer and I thought “huh, this is a summer album.”

If you’ve heard the album or any of those songs, they’re not upbeat songs; they’re not songs that would provide you much motivation while exercising or songs that would cheer you up.  So why are these slow, somewhat melodramatic, and rather ethereal songs more compatible for my summer?

The somewhat magical thing about Lana Del Rey’s music is that while it’s depressing-sounding, it does not make the listener depressed.  In a weird way, her musical content is rather bold in that she sticks to themes and strong opinions of heartbreak that others stray from; I doubt anyone would tell their boyfriend, even in song form, that they were “born to die,” or that, rather poignantly, “I think I’ll miss you forever/ Like the stars miss the sun in the morning sky.”  From her lyrics and her music, Lana Del Rey’s listeners pick up her darker emotions and either relate to them or simply understand them.  Take her summer hit, “Summertime Sadness,” the lyrics, on the surface, would appear rather optimistic for Del Rey.  With such lines like “I just wanted you to know/That, baby, you’re the best” and “Oh, my God, I feel it in the air/ Telephone wires above are sizzling like a snare/ Honey, I’m on fire, I feel it everywhere/Nothing scares me anymore,” one would expect this love song to be about the height of romance with no depressing undertones.  But when you add swirling strings and ambient tones to Del Rey’s crooning, you get a rather depressing song about heartbreak.  While the song truly is about a breakup in that Del Rey is listing out all the positive/wonderful things about her relationship that she’ll miss like we miss the summer during winter, the production of the song could have been manipulated to create a more positive experience for listeners.  Take Colbie Caillat’s song “Realize” for example.  The song, like all of Caillat’s signature songs, sounds positive and happy like the sun-kissed home she’s from (she’s from California/Malibu/Hawaii type place).  Her vocal performance and the acoustic nature of the song leaves you smiling, wanting to lay out in the sun with your significant other.  But, upon closer examination of the lyrics, it’s rather a heartbreaking story about unrequited love, especially emphasized with lyrics like “If you just realize what I just realized/ Then we’d be perfect for each other/ And we’ll never find another,” and “It’s not the same/ No, it’s never the same/ If you don’t feel it too.” This is a case where the production/performance of the song changes the scope of the song to be more positive for the audience.  Lana Del Rey, however, does the opposite in that she purposely keeps her music in Born to Die on the negative side to emphasize her misfortunes.

I honestly don’t know why I associate Lana Del Rey’s music with the summer.  I do feel like some music is seasonal, and logic and my past experience would sort Lana Del Rey as a winter’s artist, songs not to be listened to during the upbeat summer.  But that’s not the case.  Perhaps it’s just me; perhaps LDR should be listened year round.  Let me know with poll below!

 

 

Everybody Hustles to Survive: The Power Struggle of American Hustle

I probably enjoyed American Hustle more than I thought I would, and apparently I’ve been obsessed with it because I can’t stop talking about it.  The thing is, the story line is a bit confusing as it is told in flashbacks and in a non-sequential order.  There were periods when I was watching it and didn’t understand how something was legal or what was going on.  But at the end, it all makes sense and clicks, which perhaps is why I liked it.  Or perhaps it was because they filmed the movie in locations around where I live, so I got a kick seeing my home on the big screen.
The film tells the story of two con artists, played by Christian Bale and Amy Adams, who are forced by an FBI agent, played by Bradley Cooper, to basically con or set up to arrest corrupt politicians and mobsters, notably a mayor played by Jeremy Renner.  Bale, Adams, and Cooper’s characters create a rather elaborate and difficult-to-manage sting operation to catch Renner’s character, among other politicians, that almost comes to a crashing end when Bale’s character’s crazy wife, played by Jennifer Lawrence, unknowingly starts telling the mobsters and politicians about the sting operation.

The thing that really enthralls me about this movie is the fact that the tag line is “everybody hustles to survive,” and when you watch the movie, you realize everyone really is hustling each other; you really don’t know who is the one who has the power.  At some points you feel Bradley Cooper’s character is controlling everyone, then it seems Amy Adam’s character is in charge, other times you think it really is Christian Bale, or perhaps Jennifer Lawrence.  I’ve been dying to discuss this with people, but everyone I’ve talked to hasn’t seen the film!  So I made a poll  to see  who you think had the power in American Hustle.

Personally, I feel Amy Adams’ character is the one who holds all the cards.  She holds two identities, and flawlessly slides between her usual American accent to a perfect British accent (which is why I think she deserves the Academy Award, but she’ll probably lose to Cate Blanchett because Blanchett has been winning all the other major film awards).  Because she slides in between the two accents and identities, some confusion is caused because you’re not sure if she’s the British woman or the American.  This isn’t done to annoy the audience, it’s done to show how complex a person/con artist Adams’ character really is.  You find out at the end (SPOILER ALERT) that she’s really an American pretending to be British as part of her con with Bale.  However, she keeps up the British act to convince Cooper to like her/fall in love with her.  While Cooper was intending to put Bale and Adams away in jail after using them (I assume, he made it appear like he’d let them go free, but I got the feeling he wasn’t so altruistic), you could tell he was becoming hooked on Adams.  I don’t think the sting operation could’ve ended the way it did if Adams’ character wasn’t in the lead as I think she was; there was a scene towards the beginning where Adams wanted Bale to hustle Cooper and not trust him with the sting (which he didn’t seem too keen on), so Adams said she do it by herself.

If you haven’t seen American Hustle, you really should (it comes out on dvd March 18th!).  I had a friend who saw this movie in theaters before I did and she seemed not to like it as much.  As I was planning on seeing it, I asked her if I should’ve waited until the dvd release and not waste the extra money on the movie ticket.  Her response was simply and effective, “No, there’s a JLaw singalong/dance along number that’s worth the $10,” and she could not be more right.

But it’s not just the JLaw singalong/dance along number that makes the movie.  This is a movie that makes you think about the characters and their situations, and really forces you to make some of your own conclusions.  You have to get involved in the sting operation and hang in when things don’t make sense because they will at the end.  While this movie is categorized as a comedy, it’s kind of like David O. Russell’s last movie, Silver Linings Playbook: while it held some funny moments, it wasn’t roll around on the floor crying type of comedy (although, I felt American Hustle was funnier than Silver Linings Playbook).  All the main actors did incredible work, each deserving an Oscar (especially Adams and Lawrence).  Personally, I felt Jennifer Lawrence stole the show; I couldn’t wait for another one of her scenes because she just left me laughing (honestly, if she doesn’t get the Academy Award for this performance…I won’t be happy).  There was one scene in particular where Lawrence’s “boyfriend” attempts to kill Bale (her character’s husband) and after Bale confronts Lawrence, she ends the scene saying “honestly, why can’t you be happy for me?”

If none of this interests you, you should still see American Hustle just to experience the fact that in one movie all the characters are really and truly hustling each other (and half the time you don’t realize it).