“American Hustle”, a Self-Portrait of 2014 Reflected from the Story of 1970’s

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The best con-artist couple ‘Irving Rosenfeld’ (Christian Bale) and ‘Sydney Prossor’ (Amy Adams) is scouted for a big mission to snare corrupt politicians by an ambitious FBI agent ‘Richie DiMaso’ (Bradley Cooper). Initially they plan to entrap four politicians including the top priority ‘Carmine Polito’ (Jeremy Renner), but they get involved in bigger situations dealing with a number of politicians and the Mafia. This situation goes uncontrollably when the wife of Irving Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence) becomes an unexpected variable for their plan.

In a voice over at the end of movie, Irving speaks “The art of survival is a story that never ends.” American Hustle is a movie about “the art of survival or survival skills” of Irving and Sydney, the con-artist couple. But the skills are not the only worries for the con-artists in the screen. All of our lives require our own self-survival skills, and they are constant sources of worry to us. As Irving says,” We’re all conning ourselves to get through life.”

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Constant worries about ‘Survival skills’ of each character give authentic feelings to the audiences because the story is scripted based on a true story of Abscam Scandal that occurred in 1978. If this movie were not derived from a true story, the dialogue about the art of survival in the metaphor for the competitive struggle of life would have been nothing more than a famous line from the Hollywood actor. In that sense, America’s historical background of 1970s, the main period of American Hustle, is noteworthy feature.

In fact, Irving and Sydney get closer and begin their love affair together by talking about Duke Ellington’s “Jeep’s Blues”. This song plays a key role in the movie by indicating who Irving and Sydney are and what they pursue for their vision and lives – the elegant life style. They both say, “Fucking Jimmy Carter. Fucking Nixon, really, with the war and the deficit and all that shit.” Judging from the conversation about the inabilities of President Nixon who took power until 1974 and Jimmy Carter who served his term from 1977 to 1981, their lives are not as intimidating as they have dreamed of. American society at the time was full of distrust because of Nixon’s Watergate Scandal and the Vietnam War that continued until 1975. Especially, in the late-1970s when Abscam Scandal occurred, the U.S economy was in the worst state due to the failure of economic policies that President Carter faced 14 to 16 % of inflation rate due to the oil price crisis. At the time of the era, the concept of “American Dream” has lured people, and this movie is based on American Dream that each character pursues her or his ambition, expecting a better life.

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Eventually, looking for the art of survival for each character living in the lost era of justice and morality is the point you could focus on as you watch the American Hustle. The constant actions, of Irving arranging his back hair to the front to hide his bare head, Sydney laying her background as British when she is originally New Mexican and faking her accent, and Rich making his straight hair curly, are all part of the scam. The characters practice their own deceptions to survive in a troubled and troubling world by using the basis of human characteristics that people believe what they want to believe. The reversal at the ending in the movie shows the survival skill as well. However, Carmine is the driving force for the story. The survival technique of Irving who becomes friends with Carmine is different – it shows humanism. Irving starts to feel guilty for backstabbing Carmine, who really treated him as a true friend, in the back.

American Hustle does not make audiences feel sympathy for the story. But, actors’ performances are something to talk about – you should save your admiration for the performances! Especially, the performance of Jennifer Lawrence who brings wild energy to her role, and it shows why she is the Hollywood’s new favorite. Bradley Cooper as an ambitious FBI agent plays a more extreme character compared to the mentally ill character that he stared in the movie Silver Linings Playbook. At the same time, Amy Adams and Christian Bale also bring their own set of desires and dreams to this story. Each actor has really different and dynamic personalities and shows fundamental human behaviors, and all actors make their audiences to be immersed in their characters and make the story more absorbing and vitalizing.

The reason American Hustle received 10 nominations at the 86th Academy Awards is that not only the performances of actors were amazing but also that David O. Russell well directed and sensitively depicted the sculpture of human characteristic based on the true story. Even though the story of the movie does not have strong reversal component, the genre of comic and parody makes the criminal story less serious and more interesting. We should remember that this movie is just more than a parody of the true story – it is a movie about our instincts that we all should question about the art of survival for our lives and still love to have ambitions for better lives.

Hannah Jonesse : Live with Passion

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This story is about a fun loving  girl, Hannah Jonesse. From her young age, she learned the values of family and the importance of sharing and caring for people around her. Born in a family with various background, Hanna Jonasse was shaped as who she is now – fun, extraordinary, spontaneous, passionate and warmhearted girl. She is Dutch, Irish, French – Canadian, German and Native American living in Webster, NY, and is currently a sophomore majoring in Public Relations and Earth Science at Syracuse University.

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On December 5th, Hannah is ready to enjoy one of her favorite traditions. It is the Saint Nicholas Day which the Dutch version of Christmas! Hannah loves putting out all wooden shoes on the front porch, and seeing the shoes filled with candy, toys, and other gifts in the next morning. Like this Christmas fairy tale, as growing up, Hannah experienced more traditions than any people did.

Experiencing different traditions has given her different perspectives about things that she sees. Hannah is always exited to explore the world that she belongs to and learn different cultures with different languages. She is planning to study abroad in Australia next semester, and excited about  working in Toronto International Film Festival this coming fall. She currently participates in scuba diving club, NSCS, Alpha Xi Delta and PRSSA. Her sorority life is what she actively participates and has made many memories for the life in Syracuse

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Her sorority, Alpha Xi Delta, is where she met her roommate Jordan Riddick and her absolute best friends at Syracuse University. She and her roommate love to do something spontaneously. It is how she and her roommate have memories of each other and make their college life super interesting and unforgettable. Last year, they decided to trip to the NYC , did it at the spur of the moment and drove to the city.  When they got back to Syracuse, it was at 4 in the morning.

But, there are  also the other side of her which is having seriousness. She is passionate about having knowledge in  the environment, energy issues, women’s rights and animal protection from abuse. She truly cares about every relationships that she has and what she can do to help  others and places where she lives.

Hanna said “when I was in 5th grade my parents surprised us on Christmas morning with a letter for each of us. When we opened them it said that we were going on a surprise trip to a secret location and our other Christmas presents were clues as to where we were going/what we were going to do. This is my favorite memory of childhood.”  I see Hanna as a fun, extraordinary and warmhearted girl, and I believe all her great traits are from the relationship that she had with her parents and family. Not everyone has this kinds of relationship and family experiences like Hannah had, and this is special. So thus, Hanna.

For more information about Hanna Jonasse, visit her blog.

Interview of Professor Max Malikow at Syracuse University

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There is a philosophy and psychology professor who is one of the best professors I have met so far.  On the first day of his class, I learned human behaviors can be better understood through the study of Philosophy, Psychology, and Religion. Throughout his lectures, I came to understand that everyone has their own problems, and human decisions require mindfulness and reflections about their lives. Furthermore, my experience in his classes has led me to believe that people need to be more passionate about and resistant to what they undergo in life.

Dr. Max Malikow teaches HNR240: Human Predicament and PSY400: Understanding Suicide, which are courses for honors students. He received a Master’s degree in Theology from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate degree in Counseling Psychology from Boston University.

He served as a pastor for several years before entering into his second career as a psychotherapist and professor. While he was a pastor, he recognized that counseling was the part of his work that he most enjoyed and from where he derived the most satisfaction.

His personal experience with a psychiatrist, Dr. Carmen DelCioppo, was another motivation for his interests in psychotherapy. He met the psychiatrist when his father died in 1976 when he was 26 years old. He helped Dr. Mailkow in dealing with his sorrows.

Dr. Malikow seems to have been a major influence for Dr. Malikow, a major influence still. He said, “Someday, I’d like to do the kind of work Dr. DelCioppo is doing. My goal is to help other people as I was helped by Dr. DelCioppo.”

Dr. Malikow also shared that, since he started to work as a counselor, his specialty has been suicide counseling with people who are suicidal or suicide survivors who have lost friends or family member as a result of suicide. He also writes and researches about depression and suicide.

Throughout his counseling career, Dr. Malikow has seen the courage of many people undergo great challenges in their lives. As a counselor, he is interested in what parents really want for their lives and how their current lifestyles are consistent with what they really want. Those two questions are suggested as productive psychotherapists when engaging with their patients by psychiatrist and philosopher, Irvin Yalom.

His teaching as a professor started at Massachusetts Bay Community College in Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts, when was still a graduate student at Boston University in 1987. Until now, he has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Le Moyne College since 1996, and has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Renee Crown Honors Program at Syracuse University since 2004.

He believes that both psychology and Philosophy share a common interest in human behavior. Psychology is more about why people behave as the way people do, while Philosophy is more concerned with how people should behave. His two Philosophy and Psychology courses- Human Predicament and Understanding of Suicide- share a common theme that life is different for each individual, but it can be manageable.

For College students, managing their mindfulness if/when there is lack of self-discipline is really important in order to have successful college life. Some might suffer from any problematic mental health issues since they face problems with relationships and academic cultures.

Dr. Malikow says, “My goal for my students is to provide them with an educational experience that will enable them to “live better” – not merely “think better” and/or “acquire more knowledge.”

He suggests that people who lack of self-discipline should develop their self-discipline incrementally: “Self-discipline can be developed like a muscle – gradually, by exercising it. Shakespeare wrote, “If you have not the virtue, assume it.” We acquire more self-discipline “one day at a time” by “making believe we have it.”

Students who are struggling with their emotions or life issues, he suggests seeking a competent professional’s help. If their friend struggles with life, friends need to contact a mental health professional at Syracuse University’s Health Center.

He thinks that people desire to have a satisfying life. As Aristotle insisted, a meaningful life can be found in meaningful work and moral integrity and in work and love as Tolstoy said.  When there’s a problem in someone’s life that threatens its meaningfulness for him/her, it is always better to be addressed by a “divide and conquer” approach: we can approach the problem a little bit at a time, and people will soon find how much they can get done.

Dr. Max Malikow closed our interview by saying that he is very satisfied with this work as a professor, writer, and therapist. He does not think of his engagement in these fields as work because he is enjoying it so much and he feels in the flow whenever he is working in these three areas.

What Makes Your Life Meaningful

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Sometimes I need to step back from where I am, and look closely at the situations that I am involved or contribute myself in. When I realize that the world i am living is filled with utter non-senses, I feel emptiness towards myself and my life.  I sometimes question myself what makes my life meaningful. Whenever I think of it, I feel guilty – the guiltiness of not fully living with the utmost efforts. Do all people live their lives with their utmost efforts? Some might be or might not be.  Isn’t it funny that the levels of happiness or utilities vary from people to people? With a same situation, people feel different levels of happiness and satisfaction. I am questioning myself what makes my life meaningful. I believe the key elements for determining what a meaningful or meaningless life is include a purpose for life, self-fulfillment, and love.

Meaningful life starts from searching for the purpose of life. It gives directions  to us to reach our ideal lives. When we have a sense of direction for our lives, we feel much safer and more at ease in our attempts to follow and obtain our ideal goals. As our paths of life lead us well, we experience more confidence and a healthy self-esteem when we try to pursue what we want out of life. Thus, searching for a purpose in life and setting ideal goal to strive towards evokes positive feelings for us, and these feelings make our lives more meaningful.

It can be also found by self-engulfment, healthy self-feelings, such as happiness, respect, and a sense of accomplishment through hard efforts. Experience of self-fulfillment leads us to be more tolerant about life’s uncertainties and hard circumstances, and it also allows us to view reality productively. With this healthy characteristic and broad perspective about the world we belong to, we are more likely to be successful in our goals and positions in life. The, the success will lead us to do more good actions for, not only ourselves, but others as well. As a result, participation in reputable action increases the level of satisfaction with ourselves and our lives.

Love makes life meaningful. We need love from others in order to love ourselves and others. The feeling of being loved is a force which has one doing more positive behaviors and giving loves to and for other people. It will bring more peace and joy to us, and makes our lives surrounded by a more powerful energy and meaningfulness.

All of these elements will shape our own virtues of our lives – the positive traits or characteristics. They can enable us to live a life worth living. However, people will have more meaningful lives when the elements are balanced because it will allow us to maximize our utilities and happiness and to reach the utmost of what life can be.

It’s like ; if one of the elements of off balanced, emotional states will eventually darken and break-down. The negatives will interfere with people’s conditions, such as their health(s) and relationships with other people. As a result, we start to experience what a meaningless life is.

Listen to Your Heart

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I have wondered if a true love exists. If there is one, I want to sense and feel what it is like to be. We might have already met our true love for our lives, but not sure.  We might have met someone who has given us love more than we have given to, but we just want to deny it because we want to feel loved more than the person feels it. We sometimes are being calculative on what we have for our own goods. Maybe, the person is not the one you always dreamed of.

Some people say that we tend to give someone more without any calculations and judgments if we are in true love. We sometimes have a date with someone because we just want to feel loved and never get bored.  We do look for someone because we want somebody to stand up for us when nobody will. That’s because we always hope someone to fill the emptiness of our minds, and make our minds richer.

In the movie “Listen to Your Heart,” Danny and Sam was first sight. He felt in love with her since he saw her first time at the restaurant where he was working. Even though he knew that Sam is deaf, her handicap was not a problem for him. There were barriers to her and him, but those didn’t matter for them. They love each other as their hearts tell them.

Danny says, “I’m the luckiest guy in the word. How many people can say that they’ve truly been in love, that they met the love of their lives. Promise me whatever happens, you’ll listen to yourself before anyone else, to your heart…” to Sam.

Words cannot describe what love is. It’s what we just listen to our hearts. As Danny answered to a question, love is the one thing he could always use more of.

Life is beautiful. There’s going to be someone always there for us. There’s going to be someone whom gives us strength to live.