Films, Music and TV to Play in the Background

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There's no better film to play in the background during a marathon study session than "The New World." This isn't to say that Terrence Malick's Emersonian meditation on the Jamestown settlement story gravitates toward the soporific; in fact, it's the film's very lack of pulse-pounding action that makes it one of cinema's most cathartic experiences. Characters speak in hushed tones and uncharted realms unfold in shades of green and gray, projecting a soul-cleansing splendor perfect for burning the midnight oil.

"The New World" skillfully balances philosophical depth with visual and aural opulence. From the use of Richard Wagner's "Rheingold Prelude" in the rapturous opening and closing sequences to the allure of primeval Algonquin abodes and Jacobean era London, Malick's fascination with recreating lost worlds takes on poignant, timeless dimensions.

-David Liu


"House" is not a great show. But that's what makes it great background television. Overarching storylines don't matter. All you need to know is that House and Cuddy like each other but various artificial obstacles are thrown in their path to complicate matters, Chase is stupid, Foreman is annoying, Thirteen is bisexual and Cameron is sometimes blonde but much prettier brunette.

The formula of each episode is simple and identical: patient comes in with seemingly obvious ailment, several of House's rash treatments nearly kill patient, dying patient is cured at the 11th hour by House's genius. No dedication to plot is required to enjoy House's quips. And even if you tune out the entire episode, you can always count on one thing: It isn't lupus. Except for that one time it was lupus.

-Katie Dowd


The piano is an underappreciated instrument. Perhaps, because it was forced upon some of us at an early age by parents who hope to cultivate the next Rachmaninoff, we brush it off as another burdensome chore. But there are those who pick it up at age 6 and excel through a combination of passion and talent. Adrian Lee, the 20-year-old piano extraordinaire who hails from Australia, has garnered millions of YouTube hits through his covers of popular tracks. Clad in skeleton PJs and armed with a black Yamaha, Lee plays everything by ear and manages to convey the complexity of the song through a concise, soothing piece. At times, he even mixes in electronic backing, as in his rendition of Coldplay's "God Put a Smile on Your Face." Since he is probably Coldplay's biggest fan, the majority of his work revolves around them but he covers a wide range of artists. The comforting grace of his style makes for ideal background music when studying.

-Cynthia Kang


AMC's latest hit, "The Walking Dead," written by Frank Darabont, showcases phenomenal cinematography other television shows often sacrifice due to time constraints.

Set in the dead heat of summer in an apocalyptic Georgia, the show is a fresh and invigorating take on the zombie genre. But it's slow. And when I say slow, I don't mean "Heroes"-ish drawn-out drama queen conversations slow.

The director of photography really likes to take his time setting the scene and mood -­with a lot of dramatic nature shots and scenes filled with long stares, making it perfect for you to squeeze in a few practice problems before the next batch of the undead come to attack our weary heroes. Good luck on finals everyone, and good hunting.

-Lynn Yu


Try not to be motivated while listening to "The Circle of Life" at full volume. If "The Lion King" does not make you feel like you are on some epic quest, nothing will. The fantastic soundtrack showcases the ingenious collaboration between Elton John and Tim Rice with track titles that eerily speak to frantic college students. Facing a seemingly impossible O-chem exam next week? "Be Prepared." Still don't feel ready for Filippenko's final? "Hakuna Matata." Want to play the martyr? "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen."

Furthermore, "The Lion King," as a childhood favorite for our generation, is not a film to which you have to devote your full attention. Unless you have not watched movies since 1994 and also remain ignorant to the plot of Shakespeare's "Hamlet," you will be able to feel like you're not missing out while you make your flashcards.

-Leslie Toy


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