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Palm Springs Film Review

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In Max Barbakow’s feature film, “Palm Springs,” he explores the concept of the “time loop,” while also seamlessly tying in deeper messages about life throughout the course of the movie. The film made its debut in January at the Sundance film festival, receiving high praise all around. After its official release on the streaming site Hulu, the movie created buzz once again as it began trending on twitter. I knew then that I had to watch it and judge for myself if it was worth the hype. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I sat down to watch this film, but one thing is certain–it did not disappoint. 

“Palm Springs” follows the seemingly normal day of Nyles (played by Andy Samberg), as he attends a wedding. The day slowly plays out and we are introduced to more of the characters, such as the bride’s older sister, Sarah (Cristin Milioti). Nyles and Sarah meet and quickly form a bond that leads to an intimate moment in the desert near their hotel. But, after an odd chain of events, it is revealed that Nyles has been stuck in a time loop the whole time. How long he has been in this time loop is unclear, but the effects on his personality are more easily noticeable. His aloof and go-with-the-flow attitude seem to be the result of living the same day over and over again. When Sarah finds herself stuck in this time loop as well, she has a much different reaction. She tries to exit the cycle, but finds that she truly is stuck for good. With this in mind, she begins to spend more time with Nyles doing hilariously absurd things, simply because they can. Along the way the two cross paths with a man named Roy (J.K. Simmons), who has vowed to get revenge on Nyles for bringing him into the time loop after a night of partying together turned bad. Without giving too much away, this streak of reckless behavior does not last. Sarah comes to the conclusion that she doesn’t want to live in the loop forever, so she makes a plan to exit. Nyles finds comfort in Roy, who gives up on his plot of revenge after realizing that he is wasting his time being angry when he could be focusing on the positives of the situation instead. In the end, Sarah and Nyles go through with her plan, knowing that no matter what happens they want to stay together. 

Unlike most romcoms, this movie focuses very little on the kind of romantic love that most of us are used to seeing in this genre of movie. Instead, Barbakow chose to take a humorous approach to discussing more serious topics such as feeling trapped in our lives and the importance of finding joy in what we have. He created two endearingly flawed main characters, played quite convincingly by Samburg and Milioti, who embody the theme of the movie so incredibly well. 

“Palm Springs” showcases how the mistakes we make can loom over us if left ignored. But it also serves as a reminder that each day brings an opportunity to be better, and to fix our past 

mistakes. Despite all of life’s ups and downs, there is always the possibility of a fresh start tomorrow. 

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An Ethereal Experience: Alina Baraz’s It Was Divine

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Alina Baraz’s debut album, “It Was Divine,” hits the market a week earlier than expected. This is her first solo album since the 2018 full-length EP “The Color of You” that treated us with her dainty vocals and introspective lyrics. Baraz is no stranger to the music industry, but this time she’s ready for her close-up with “It Was Divine.”

“It Was Divine” tells the story of a painful breakup, self-awareness, healing and moving on. In other words, Baraz is not wallowing in self-pity. The album touches on Alina’s healing journey, letting go and finding everything she’s wanted and deserves. 

“I had to learn to trust myself, to let go, and to start over,” said Baraz in regards to creating “It Was Divine.”

Starting off high with “My Whole Life,” Baraz leans into a place of familiarity, highlighting her appreciation for love with a ballad. “My Whole Life” is a dreamy, laid-back and fluffy ballad that entices a newfound infatuation. With hyperbolic lyrics and its addicting chorus: “sunsets, sunsets never been so bright when you, when you look into my eyes,” Baraz envisions her whole life with her partner. 

“[My Whole Life is] very telling about me as a person. I genuinely saw my entire life, with them, flash before my eyes,” stated Baraz. 

“My Whole Life” smoothly transitions into her first feature song on the album, “Morocco,” featuring 6lack. The duo are sensual and complementary and the song is more than just another sex song — it’s poetic and full of hypnotic vocals and beats.

“We were all heavily inspired by Tame Impala,” Baraz said, which clearly shows in “Morocco’s” bass sound. Following “Morocco” is my personal favorite, “Frank.”

“Frank” and its mixture of distorted voices pays a tribute to her debut project “Urban Flora.” The track is  intimate and exemplifies the notion of getting lost in the affection of your partner. However, the lyrics “My divine energy (my divine)” suggest the idea that Baraz has finally rediscovered herself and her worth.

Baraz’s sultry voice and airy harmonies caress the song and the outro echoes “Urban Flora’s” sound. “’Frank” is arguably the best song off the album because it shows Baraz in what seems to be her most comfortable.  “This track is me looking back at myself,” stated the singer. 

Later down the album, listeners come across her lead singles,“Endlessly” and “To Me.” “Endlessly” is a song that makes love feel timeless. It captures how certain and endless a close partnership with someone can feel.

The song “To Me” is extremely entrancing. In this song, Baraz leaves a relationship that wasn’t good for her growth. There is a noticeable tone shift that includes bold lyrics:

“I’m not asking for too much, I’m asking the wrong motherf*cker. Just cause we’re in love doesn’t mean that we’re right for each other.” 

“It Was Divine” is nearly flawless. The comfortability and vulnerability showcased on the album makes the record a remarkable listen. Alina Baraz takes her listeners on a journey from honeymoon to the not-so-pretty parts of her relationship. She succeeds in telling her own story and in the process, mature as an artist. 


Artistic Picture of the Sea Against the Shore

Portrait of a Lady on Fire Film Review

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“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” is best described as a visual love poem.

Recently released on Hulu in 2019, the French drama centers around a painter named Marianne who is tasked with secretly painting a wedding portrait of Heloise, a reluctant bride-to-be who just left the convent. Marianne pretends she is her companion for walks, and the two young women share lingering glances as they walk around the edges of cliffs, which eventually sparks a fiery romance within the isolated island they are stuck on. 

Set at the end of the eighteenth century in Brittany, France, director Celine Sciamma describes the film as a “manifesto about the female gaze.” This certainly rings true considering men are only given a few seconds of screentime; the majority of the film is dedicated to the women’s eyes. 

The cinematography is bare-boned and simplistic — its most grand setting is the vast, blue sea the women often teeter upon. But this is not a burden on the artful aspect of the film. It instead works in the film’s favor by emphasizing the intensity of the relationship depicted, one that doesn’t need extravagance or grand gestures to prove authenticity. 

The dialogue is fueled by intense silences that make room for the female gaze the film highlights, including having the musical score only occur in two of the film’s scenes. When they talk at length, it is with deep purpose, which creates layers of meaning upon its characters. In the most dialogue-heavy scene of the film, Heloise is reciting the tragic Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, two lovers whose time together comes to a bitter end. 

But above all of the silence and simplicity comes a slow burn that will inevitably leave you walking around with a melancholic ache in your chest for days after you’re done watching the film.

In this case, the ache isn’t a bad thing. Few stories in life are meant to be carried with you like this one; few films are created to pass on the weight of what it means to love and be loved — to feel the distance between the past turn to fleeting memory. This kind of ache is meant to be held close to the heart, and it’s certain that “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” will share this for generations to come.


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Jeremy Zucker’s Debut Album “love is not dying” Highlights the Melodramatics and Uncertainty of Modern Youth

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Graduate student Jeremy Zucker didn’t dream of pursuing a career in music. Creating music had always been something he loved doing as a hobby, but as he slowly began releasing music throughout his college years, he was quickly discovered and offered many record label deals. Now, the young talent has put out his very first debut album, “love is not dying.” 

Although Zucker has a massive fanbase, his newest album remains true to his roots, capitulating a powerful listening experience for his fans. “Love is not dying” is a concept album — a record that illustrates Jeremy navigating through life as he experiences hardships all while trying to conquer his hopes and dreams. The album is a poetic and honeyed story that captures Zucker’s life-altering decisions. 

“The album is a lot of introspection and it really outlines my whole life this past year and a half from the perspective of my mental health, my emotions, and my relationships.” Zucker stated in an interview with L’Officiel. 

“Love is not dying” captures the essence of melodramatics and the uncertainty of today’s youth. “Still,” the first track,  sets the tone for the rest of the album through its melodic daze.  Its serene and soothing sound features birds chirping and distant conversations that make you feel you’re outside with Zucker. 

Early into the record, Zucker displays his vulnerability to his listeners with the song “Orchid.” “Orchid” is a detailed and intimate love song. It’s a powerful modern ballad with soft vocals and  lyrics about regret. 

Following “Orchid,” “Julia” also displays an act of vulnerability. Based on a true story, “Julia” is a song about realization and closure; it holds a flair of sentimentality and a dark sense, resembling a love coming to an end.

“[Julia] encapsulates the most important emotions and feelings that come up in the album” Zucker shared. 

Ballads aren’t all Zucker has to offer on “love is dying,” though. More upbeat songs like “lakehouse” and “oh, mexico” create an electric feel. “Lakehouse” is a mixture of a happy and sad song with a pop-infused beat, whereas “oh, mexico” is a tune that starts off soft, but then picks up to a more upbeat sound with the arrangement of an electric piano. “love is not dying” is a euphoric dreamscape of ballads, pops and acoustics. 

In this album, Jeremy Zucker does an incredible job of transforming his inner feelings into a therapeutic journey. During this journey, Zucker makes room for acceptance and growth and expresses his emotions through music. For it being Zucker’s first album, “love is not dying” is an immaculate project — and I can’t wait to see what more Jeremy Zucker has to offer in the future. 


Fiona Apple at Damrosch Park Aug 8, 2015.

Fiona Apple is the Freest She’s Ever Been: Fetch the Bolt Cutters Album Review

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So much has been said about Fiona Apple that it seems impossible to add anything more. With four Grammy-nominated albums, spanning genres of jazz, art pop and indie, fans have been waiting eight years for a new album. That day has finally come with “Fetch the Bolt Cutters.” 

Released on April 17, 2020 and recorded in her Venice Beach house, the album has already garnered critical acclaim, with Pitchfork giving it the first perfect album score since Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” in 2010. 

Within the heavy percussion sound, raw vocals and occasional dog bark, Apple describes the album’s central theme as “not being afraid to speak.” It’s a sentiment perfectly incorporated here as she rages against Brett Kavanaugh, invites her ex’s new girlfriend to her old things and calls out her childhood bullies.

Apple certainly holds nothing back in her songs centered around depression, jealousy, trauma, and resentment. More than that, she makes an effort to portray female relationships in a world that often tries to diminish them.

In “Shameika,” Apple describes a middle school classmate that tells her she has potential. It’s a detail that especially stands out to Apple, since middle school was when her relationships with other women were first messed up due to bullying, she told Vulture.

This relationship continued to struggle well into her adult life; in “Newspaper,” she sings to her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend, saying “I watch him walk over, talk over you, be mean to you, and it makes me feel close to you.” Perhaps there is no better example of tricky female relationships than an ex’s girlfriend, and Apple illustrates this without fault.

It isn’t until the eighth song that we see these female connections being healed. In “Ladies,” Apple mourns for the women that have been pitted against her by men, specifically in cheating relationships. It’s a bit tongue in cheek, with Apple insisting “take it easy, when he leaves me, please be my guest to whatever I might’ve left in his kitchen cupboards.”

The intense emotions that define womanhood come to a bitter peak with “For Her,” a song inspired by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault accusations. “For Her” is deeply personal and includes echoing vocals of multiple women, showing the true solidarity and strength that they possess no matter the circumstances.

The messages can certainly feel weighty, but ultimately, Apple finds hope in each of them with her title track “Fetch the Bolt Cutters.” It’s a fight for freedom that unquestionably wins with this album. As she puts it in her Vulture interview,“The message in the whole record is just: Fetch the bolt cutters and get yourself out of the situation that you’re in — whatever it is that you don’t like.”