Me, Popcorn and The Oscars: “Manchester by the Sea” Is Realistic, Polished, Heartbreaking, and Yet, Forgettable

“Manchester by the Sea” is not the year’s best movie and it tried to take on more than it should’ve, nonetheless it has a clear, minimalist and generally realistic script that, even if far from outstanding, is strengthened by a tactful cinematography, extraordinary performances, and an unforgettable score.

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*Spoilers ahead*

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    The good things (what I liked)

  • I liked the coldness and clarity of the movie. If you haven’t watched the movie, and you watched the trailer, forget everything you saw! This is not one of those cases where the trailer is better than the movie, it’s just that it gives a wrong idea of the movie. This is not a feel good movie! This is not “Educating Helen”, this is not the movie Rachel’s sister, Amy, describes on Friends’ Thanksgiving episode, season 9 (I’m sorry, couldn’t help it). Here you don’t see the typical story of the black sheep of the family getting his dead brother’s child, and using this to be a better person or anything. I mean, it sort of is, but at the same time not in the way one would expect. This story is raw, realistic, deeply human.
  • Most people, at least before this film, only knew Ben Affleck. But, Casey Affleck’s performance was definitely the highlight of the film. The whole movie had great acting, however, Affleck stole the show.

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  • One shouldn’t ignore, however, the power of Michelle William’s scene (you know which I’m talking about). She was only in about 5 scenes throughout the whole movie, but that scene could very well win her an Oscar.
  • The music is incredible in this movie. Incredible! It helps so much to the overall tone of the movie, and I really enjoyed it. Sometimes, I would stop paying attention to the scene to pay attention to the music. It was great! Game of Thrones episode ten, season six great>
  • The dialogues in this movie are really good, and most characters are well created, and you can know them through the way they talk.
  • Lee is a pretty good protagonist, in the sense that even though it’s hard to like him sometimes, rarely do we judge him. I understood why he did the things he did.
  • The ending, although really unsatisfying, was very realistic.
  • The scene with Patrick and the freezer, and how that connects to his father’s body, was perfectly crafted. How Patrick had said a couple of times by then the same phrase of not wanting his dad to be in a freezer and then saying it again, but crying… it was excellent.

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    The bad things (what I didn’t like)

  • Okay, so what is it with this year and its frontrunners (Moonlight and this one, at least)? Didn’t the writers take a class in plot development? I won’t spoil anything about Moonlight, although I already did a post on that movie, but there is just so much going on here! And it’s terrible. Couldn’t they just make a movie about either a father accidentally killing his daughters or a man getting his dead brother’s son? There is just too much going on here, and what’s more, the B story (Lee killing his daughters) seems to be more emotionally devastating than the A story (Lee getting Patrick). Also, you have a mother who abandoned her son, a mother who’s also an alcoholic, a man’s divorce and depression, a town’s irrational (and somewhat forced and unrealistic) hate towards a man, a couple of relationships, and a rusted, old boat. The movie just should’ve chosen one of the two stories. Personally, I feel as if the writers were more interested in writing the B story (Lee’s past life), and just had to write the A story as an excuse to write the other one. I know it should be the other way around, but most of the movie’s best scenes belong to that B story (Randi kicking out Lee’s friends, Lee describing what he did to the cops and then trying to kill himself, Lee running into Randi on the street), so it leads me to believe the writers were more intrigued by that story than Patrick’s.
  • You know how you can know when a character’s emotional question is not very well-developed? When the characters react in a specific way towards something, particularly strong reactions like crying or getting into fights or having destructive behaviors, is it clear why they’re doing so? In this movie, you never know the character’s emotional questions, conflicts or dilemmas. For example, take Lee when he’s crying: is crying because he got divorced, or because he lost his daughters, or because his brother died, or because he’s now in charge of Patrick?

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  • The characters are too static. I think this may have been intentional, and in a way, I enjoyed the fact that most of the movie wasn’t overly sentimental, but after something like this hits you, you have to change, at least a bit. And these characters (Lee and Patrick) don’t change at all. Patrick still sleeps with both his girlfriends (something he did since before his dad died, so there’s no reason to believe it’s a change in his character) and Lee still gets into fights. Why don’t they change? If not by the death of a loved one, by each other? By the end, I was left asking myself a simple question: “And… so what?” This is probably the worst thing someone can ask him or herself after watching, reading or listening to art. If you don’t see the point of it, if you don’t understand why a story had to be told, then it utterly failed. I understand sometimes characters must be static because that would be the reality of someone in their situation (for example, with most Raymond Carver stories you see this, or with Fiona on Shameless, US version), but in this case, it was a bit unbelievable.
  • The whole thing with Patrick and his mother was totally unnecessary. Totally. And that dinner scene was simply horrible, unrealistic and, once again, unnecessary. I get they needed to take the mother out of the picture for Patrick to go to Lee, but still, it was an incredibly forgetful B story.
  • Also, Patrick and Lee seem too similar. Almost as if the writers couldn’t write two different type of characters, so they wrote the same one twice.
  • Finally, I don’t want to sound mean, but Patrick was such a horrible character. He was so easy to hate. This is probably a good thing because he is a teenager who only thinks of sex and sports (even during the worst of times) but I put in here because God I hated him all throughout the movie! Also, the actor didn’t pull off the Jock-Heartbreaker-D*ck act. Just saying. 

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    Who would I (or wouldn’t I) recommend it to

I’d recommend this movie to anyone who likes real, dramatic yet not melodramatic movies that can make you cry, to anyone who likes The Oscars and to anyone who likes family dramas.

    Best scene or dialogue (if there was any that stood out)

  • Although the movie as a whole isn’t great, it had great scenes. Probably my favorite was when Patrick opened the fridge and all the frozen meat falls, and he tries to pick it up, and it falls again, and he tries to close the door and it can’t close, and then he hits his head. Finally, he ends up crying. This was one of the best scenes of this year’s movies. If scenes could win Oscars, that scene would be one of my favorites. It was so real and devastating. Personally, I can say this has happened to me when you’re having a really bad day, and then something really small happens and you can’t get it right, and you just start crying or screaming or something. I can really relate.
  • Another favorite was the whole scene when Lee tells the cops what happened, and then he tries and kills himself. Everything was on point on this scene! The music, the acting, the character psychology, the dialogues… The way he asked if they were really letting him go as if in a way wanting to get punished, and the way he said everything so coldly and realistically… It was great.
  • Finally, that scene with Michelle Williams. Even on the trailer, you know that scene is going to be great. It might even win her an [extremely deserving] Oscar.

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    Who stole the show?

Casey Affleck. No questions asked. Yes, Michele Williams gave a great performance. But her hard scene was literally one minute. The rest of her scenes (which incidentally were only like 4 other scenes) were rather easy. He was the emotional core of the movie, and he pulled it off.

    Do I predict this movie will have any actual nominations?

Yes. And even win some of them. Maybe has a shot for Best Movie, but probably will just win in the acting category (at least one of them has to win either Best Actor or Best Supporting Actress), maybe screenplay, and a couple of other ones. I don’t think this movie will be the night’s biggest winner, but I don’t expect them to go empty-handed.

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    Overall thoughts

“Manchester by the Sea” is not the year’s best movie and it tried to take on more than it should’ve, nonetheless it has a clear, minimalist and generally realistic script that, even if far from outstanding, is strengthened by a tactful cinematography,  exceptional performances, and a memorable score. And let me just say this: after this movie, Casey Affleck will never again be thought of as “the other Affleck”.

    How many stars?

3/5

Me, Popcorn and the Oscars: “Nocturnal Animals”, Tom Ford’s Sophmore Film is Not One to Miss This Season

Metaphorical, cyclical, hypnotizing, “Nocturnal Animals” is a deep and different tale of vengeance and obsession. It certainly isn’t perfect, and sometimes director Tom Ford misses, but he’s always clear as to where he’s shooting.

*Obvious Spoiler Alert!*

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I will do a small recount on who is who in the movie, because it may be difficult to remember everyone by name. Again, if you haven’t watched the movie, stop reading, otherwise this might get confusing.

Susan: Protagonist in the real world.

Edward: Susan’s ex-husband.

Tony: Protagonist in Edward’s novel (played by the same actor, though).

Laura: Tony’s wife.

India: Tony and Laura’s daughter.

Ray: The rapist and killer of Laura and India.

Hutton: Susan’s new husband.

    The good things (what I liked)

  • The acting. The acting is this movie is outstanding. Not only are Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal extremely good, but every other actor in the movie shines (Isla Fisher, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Michael Shannon and even Laura Linney, who appears in only one scene).
  • The cinematographic juxtaposition of the two stories is something I enjoyed very much. Aesthetically speaking, the two stories in the movie are complete opposites. One is in West Texas, rough, rural, dirty, desertic. The other is an almost-futuristic look at New York: full of contemporary art, glamorous and pompous dresses, and shallow relationships.

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  • It is extremely interesting how Edward writes a novel that, although plotwise is not like his life, symbolically, it is (or at leats, it was). We never meet Edward in the present (only through Susan’s flashbacks), but in a way, it is evident he sees Susan as Ray (the guy who raped and killed Laura and India). Susan, in the real world, left Edward and aborted his child, thus Edward was left wifeless and childless. This mirrors with Tony’s search for vengeance in the novel. The novel isn’t and shouldn’t be a mystery of if Tony’s family was murdered or not, but a reflection on the hole he was left with, which is the same hole Edward was left with in the real world. Probably because Edward couldn’t really get his vengeance in the real world, he had to write this novel. Although, not to spoil too much, but in the end, he kind of sort of does get  vengeance.
  • I liked the fact that we don’t see Edward directly. We see him through Susan’s perspective in her flashbacks, but never alone, and never in the present story.
  • The scene between Susan and her mother in a flashback is really interesting. We’ve seen Susan in the future, where she is cold and much like her mother, and then we see the flashback, and it’s interesting to see how she, at one point, hated being that.
  • The ending sequence. The movie is worth watching only because of Amy Adam’s last scene. Some of you might not understand why I say this, maybe you don’t think the same as I, but let me explain. Yes, it may be hard to cry, to scream, to smile, to blush, to seem crazy, to appear naked on screen, to make dialogues believable, and here she does nothing like that; in this last shot, probably only five seconds long, Susan doesn’t say a word, and doesn’t make any exaggerated or overly dramatic facial expression, however, Adams portrays total devastation and inner destruction. Edward destroys Susan by not showing up, and she sees finally how her life will never change, and how she chose this, and how she’ll never be happy. When casting Adams, director Tom Ford told her he wanted to know how her character feels, and this is why she said she accepted the role. And this is true throughout the movie. Most of the character’s turmoils are interior and rarely spoken to someone, so Adams had to do a lot of silent scenes where she is just reading and thinking. But in no scene does this show better than in this one (the picture below is not of that scene, though. I couldn’t find the right one).

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  • This movie is by Tom Ford, and guessing by the two films he’s done (A Single Man and this one, both spectacular), you’ll want to keep on eye on this one.
  • The beginning of the movie. The first five minutes or so are long shots of fat, old women dancing naked. Ultimately, it is explained that this is part of an Art Exhibition in Susan’s gallery, but this sequence gave me a lot to think about. The movie is deeply metaphorical, so I think of this sequence as a symbol for the movie, how we sometimes try to ignore, push down and set aside those things we don’t want to confront, both in society and in our personal lives.
  • Finally, the clothes are gorgeous, the makeup is impeccable, and Jeff Koons!!!!

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    The bad things (what I didn’t like)

  • Sometimes the characters are described too straightforwardly, and with only two or three characteristics (e.g. dreamer, weak, pragmatic, etc).
  • The ending of the novel is quite unsatisfying for my taste. Tony dying is a moralistic ending, in the sense that I feel it more as a way of saying “vengeance is never good” or “vengeance doesn’t bring happy endings”. Also, it is somewhat unbelievable the way he died, falling over his own gun.
  • Okay, so in a way, Ray’s character is somewhat overly dramatic, the acting is over-the-top, and he’s extremely two-dimensional. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Normally this is bad, but here I’m not so sure. I put it in the bad things because I’m not sure how I feel about it yet, and the good side had too many things. This is why it may be okay for Ray to be an exaggeratedly disgusting and evil character: probably, that’s how Edward sees Susan. He feels disgusted by her, and he has no compassion towards her, and being that Ray is partially a symbol for Susan, then maybe Edward didn’t want to humanize him and make him likable.d29da31c2293b3d5a550baa0af439d31
  • Some story lines were flat, for example, why did Ford need to introduce Susan’s daughter if she literally had no impact on the plot, and never came up back again after her thirty-seconds scene.
  • The film needed at least, twenty to forty more minutes, or some time distribution. At times, especially at the start of the movie and with the flashbacks, the pacing was too quick. The movie needed to take its time. The novel took too much time of the movie, and I think at times Ford forgot the main story was Susan’s and not Tony’s. There were three story lines (Susan’s in the present, Susan’s in the past and Tony’s), and this was too much. The flashbacks had a lot of time jumps that made that plot line move too quickly (for example, one day she met him, the next flashback she’s married, and then the next she’s already unhappy).
  • The whole relationship between Susan’s gay brother and his wife (yes, you read that right) was interesting, but because it was never developed or talked again after they’re introduced, it seemed flat and unnecessary. It seemed more an excuse to introduce some of Susan and Hutton’s problems than an actual insight into another relationship.

    Who would I (or wouldn’t I) recommend it to

I would recommend this movie to anyone who likes interesting, complex movies, centered more on characters than plot, and movies that you want to see again, just to see if you catch something else. Also, people who like to read, or watch movies with adapted screenplays.

    Best scene or dialogue (if there was any that stood out)

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  • As I said before, that final shot at Amy Adam’s face was enough to watch the whole thing, but besides that, probably the best scene is Susan’s conversation with her mother.
  • Also, the first scene of the novel, when Laura and India are kidnapped was excruciatingly painful to watch (in a good way, for a scene so dark that’s easy to watch, is not a good scene).

    Who stole the show?

Most people think Shannon stole the show, but personally, he wasn’t the best. For a white male critic, it is obvious why Tony’s story might be more interesting, and Shannon (or even Taylor-Johnson) might be a favorite, but for me, Amy Adams stole the show. She probably won’t get nominated for this, because she has also “Arrival”, and because she is in the weird place in between Lead and Supporting actress. She is the main character, but because the novel takes out so much time of the movie, she wasn’t always on screen.

    Do I predict this movie will have any actual nominations?

Some, but not many. Maybe some for a supporting role (Taylor-Johnson got nominated for a Golden Globe, but Shannon was more talked about, so who knows). Also, probably the adapted screenplay may get a nomination, director and costumes design would also not surprise me. But I don’t think it will win any of the big 5 (Movie, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay).

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    Overall thoughts

Metaphorical, cyclical, hypnotizing, “Nocturnal Animals” is a deep and different tale of vengeance and obsession. It certainly isn’t perfect, and sometimes director Tom Ford misses, but he’s always clear as to where he’s shooting.

    How many stars?

4/5

Me, Popcorn and the Oscars: Watching Movies and Making Reviews

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So, it’s that time of year people! Golden Globe nominations come out tomorrow (December 12th) and we’re just one month and some more days for the actual Oscar nominations to become public (January 24th). And I got to accept, I love this season: I love the movies, the anticipation, the drama….

And this year is an especially interesting year because the Oscars could actually go in a direction they normally don’t gravitate towards: actually artistic, indie films. Of course, there are still the politically correct frontrunners like “Sully”, “Moonlight”, “Silence” or “Fences” (this is not to say that these movies aren’t good, they just are more typical-Oscar material), but there is some talk about more deep, experimental or lower-budget movies being nominated, like the popular surrealist musical “La La Land”, the meta-thriller “Nocturnal Animals”, the philosophical sci-fi “Arrival”, the feminist dramedy “20th Century Women”, or the Cannes-nominated, and critically acclaimed “Loving”, “The Handmaiden”, “Elle” and “The Lobster”.

Last year a similar buzz followed movies like “Carol”, “Ex Machina” and “The Danish Girl”, but neither of these were finally nominated. I mention this just to let readers know that, even if there is buzz, this doesn’t mean these movies will actually be nominated.

Anyway, the point of this post is to let you know I’ll be doing a personal experiment. I will watch as many of these movies (and other Oscar-worthy movies), and for each I’ll write a [hopefully] small review following the next format:

    The good things (what I liked)
    The bad things (what I didn’t like)
    Who would I (or wouldn’t I) recommend it to
    Best scene or dialogue (if there was any that stood out)
    Who stole the show? 
    Do I predict this movie will have any actual nominations?
    Overall thoughts
    How many stars?

Also, I will do a prediction before the nominations as to who will get nominated (this I will try to do a day or two before the announcement), and a final prediction on who will win and who should win (this, I will try to do a day or two before the ceremony). I hope you all like this and follow me through this experiment, and if you want me to change something, or want to let me know about something, please comment.

Have a great night!

—S

Joanne is Lady Gaga’s Best and Most Intimate Album To Date

Using pop as the base for all of her songs, she takes upon the task of infusing styles in almost every song. It is inevitable to find Gaga’s nostalgia and search for old, soulful sounds.

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Artistically speaking, Artpop had been Lady Gaga’s best solo album to date. Yet, Joanne managed to surpass Artpop in almost every way conceivable. Artpop’s hardest struggle was the one its author placed upon it: it was too self-conscious of wanting to be something great. Gaga was too focused on creating an aesthetic manifesto she forgot art is created in the detail, not in the overall idea; by not letting each song mature into itself, she created an album that was too ambitious for its own good.

I personally liked Artpop, I think it was a fun and enjoyable LP, definitely better than most of the mainstream albums of 2013. However, the idea of it was always better than the actual thing. I remember watching an interview of Gaga saying that she wanted to invert the Pop Art process, she wanted to put the art into the soup can, instead of the soup can onto the canvas, and when I heard that, I went and bought the album.

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Yes, the idea was intriguing, but there was just something lacking artistically in the album. The discourses she tackled had been handled before, and in much better ways; the sounds were interesting, but nothing too revolutionary; the lyrics were generally underwritten and the ideas undercooked. It had still great songs (Dope, Gypsy, Sexxx Dreams, Aura and G.U.Y. come to mind), but it was too all over the place to become the aesthetic manifesto it wanted to be.

And now, three years later, Gaga comes with Joanne, which is without a doubt her best album to date. Here, she does to pop what was done recently by Carly Rae Jepsen did with Emotion, what Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar did to R&B with Lemonade and To Pimp A Butterfly (respectively), or what Lana del Rey did to indie-pop with Honeymoon; and that is to use both old and new music and styles of narrative.

Using pop as the base for all of her songs, she takes upon the task of infusing styles in almost every song. It is inevitable to find Gaga’s nostalgia and search for old, soulful sounds. You can see the country influences often (A-Yo, John Wayne), the favorite blues (Hey Girl, Million Reasons), some rock (Perfect Illusion, Diamond Heart), classic rock-pop (Just Another Day), indie (Joanne), some hints of reggae and ska (Dancin’ In Circles) and some sweet traces of Jazz here and there (Come To Mama). Overall, this album feels intimate. You can imagine being in a bar at three a.m., with only a couple of people left there, and someone singing this album on stage. Some might be inspired to dance, some to kiss, some to cry, and somehow all those actions seem appropriate. Gaga seems to be singing personally to each listener. The tracks here feel more stripped-down, more controlled, more centered. By meticulously calculating and focusing on the details, the overall project turned out looking way better.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that she did it perfectly; sometimes I can’t believe something like Perfect Illusion can be on the same album as Come to Mama or Hey Girl. This will maybe make some people say that the songs from Joanne don’t completely fit with one another, or that the album doesn’t have a cohesive sound. And although they probably aren’t mistaken, I would beg those people to see this as something good on the album. I personally find it entertaining, interesting, endearing, and honestly, it seems that Gaga herself wanted it this way and that it wasn’t a mistake. Even if it’s chaotic in sound, I don’t think it has trouble with this, or that it’s all over the place, as I thought with Artpop (even though Artpop probably had a more controlled sound).

I know this may hurt the fans of Gaga’s earlier works like Poker Face or Bad Romance, more than the critics. This album is nothing like those times. It does have a couple of treats, if you’re looking for that sound, with A-Yo or Dancin’ in Circles, yet most of the songs here are more mature, and less the catchy-pop-songs most people fell in love with Gaga for. Personally, I like mature Gaga more, but I’m sure that has to do with taste.

To be honest, this album is not really a Lady Gaga album—as people generally read into that—but an album by Stefani Germanotta herself. She seems naked here. She presents herself as an artist. Her soul, mind, sweat and ideas seem to be transpiring through most songs, and even if hypothetically I hadn’t liked the album (which I did), I respect that from someone who wants to create art. And even more, if you are one of the biggest names in the industry.

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I see this move by Gaga as brave. She is totally alone and vulnerable and honest here. And she must’ve known that this was not what people would expect from her, but she still did it. She decided to stay true to herself and her aesthetic pursuit, rather than do another catchy-feel-good album.

Music and ideas, however, never seem to be Gaga’s problems. Although she has some of her most interesting sounds, best vocals (one should only listen to Joanne or Million Reasons or Angel down to see this) and most mature aesthetic propositions here, she has never failed on doing this on her previous albums. Her weakest side has always been her lyrics. She still falls on some clichés like “I’m not flawless, but I gotta diamond heart” or “Good as gold”; she is still writing cheesy lines like “Hey girl, hey girl, if you lose your way just know that I got you.”; her songs still have some eerie, pseudo-profound lyrics like “If I had a highway, I would run for the hills. If you could find a dry way, I’d forever be still”. And yet, she features some of her best and most authentic writing in this last album.

For example Joanne, the track she titled the album for; it is minimalistic and sweet, with heart-whelming lyrics like “Every part of my aching heart needs you more than the angels do”. This comes together perfectly with the melancholic vocals and the soft melody. Sinner’s Prayer also has a good moment or two, with quite a quotable chorus: “Hear my sinner’s prayer, I am what I am, and I don’t wanna break the heart of any other man but you”. Dancin’ In Circles is surprisingly well written too: “I close my eyes, take a breath, and I picture us in a place I can’t recognize. In the fire, I call your name out. Up full night trying to rub the pain out”. Leave it to Gaga to make a song about masturbation, and still give it some fun sounds and lyrics.

However, if I’d had to criticize all songs for lyrics, the two best songs, for my taste, have to be the raw, angry and brutal Angel Down, and the brilliantly fun but nostalgic Grigio Girls (probably my favorite song of the album in general). Angle Down is a song regarding gun-violence, specifically the incident with Trayvon Martin back in 2012. The song is emotional, effective and very powerful, and here Gaga has written one of her most important songs to date, not only musically, but socially: “Doesn’t everyone belong in the arms of the sacred? Why do we pretend we’re wrong? Has our young courage faded? Shots were fired on the street by the church where we used to meet. Angel down, angel down. Why do people just stand around?

On the completely opposite spectrum of things, we have Grigio Girls, a song about love between friends (some might say the song has some homoerotic traces in it, but there are no proof of that, and I prefer to see it as a friendship song, because there are way more songs about romance than there are about friends). This song has more simple lyrics, not as deep or raw as Angle Down, but there is something to Gaga singing “I was 23, she was 35, I was spiraling out, and she was so alive. A Texas girl real strong taught me this drunk song.” or “So we’ll turn on a bachelorette, dye Ashley’s hair red. And then we’ll have our sixth Spice Girl in this bitch” that gives it a perfect dose of intimacy and realness to it. You know this is her singing to someone specifically, not just another song inspired by someone that’s applicable to anyone. This person has a name, she knew Gaga, in a way (it is hinted) she saved Gaga, and she is grateful for this. Gaga recalls these times with great nostalgia, and by the end of the song, when the music has ended and it is just the voice of Gaga and women laughing, one can’t help but be a little caught up on the nostalgia too.

This is not to say that her lyrics are perfect—they are definitely are not—but well, neither are Bob Dylan’s and he just won the Nobel Prize in Literature, so.… Just kidding, but honestly, pure poetry is hard to be found in music, because of the rhythm and structure limitations, and yet, I feel as if Gaga has managed to write a satisfyingly well-written album, with great sounds and astonishing vocals. She will have to work on this, if she continues to go for this more artistic and mature audience, but she is moving in a good direction.

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Finally, although the themes of the album vary, I believe it all comes down to Lady Gaga’s love. Whether it is to herself (Diamond Heart), to her family (Joanne), to her fans (Come To Mama), to God (Million Reasons, in a way), to a one night stand or a merely sexual partner (John Wayne, Dancin’ In Circles), to a friend (Hey Girl, Grigio Girls), to her romantic interest (Just Another Day, Sinner’s Prayer), to humanity (Angel Down), and to music in general (just listen to it and you’ll know how much Gaga actually adores music, without having to write a song about it), the theme of love is ever-present. That is why this is probably Gaga’s most loving album yet. She has managed to approach the most common theme in pop culture—love—and yet, did so in an original and versatile way, turning it upside down, making it almost imperceptible.

Maybe that is what she tried to do with Artpop, but I have to say, she didn’t accomplish it until now. Why? Probably because of the trueness and nakedness of Joanne. I honestly feel that this album was created from those most organic and authentic thoughts that happen in those minutes or hours between coming drunk after a party, taking off your clothes, cleaning your face, staring at your body in the mirror, going to bed and actually falling asleep. Those minutes when you try to read and drift to thoughts; when you can be really, really horny; when you cry all on your own when you think of how the world will be tomorrow. That is how I imagine Gaga writing this album, and that is how I decide to listen to it.

–José Sebastián Romero