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Review: “Babylon” is an epic tribute to Hollywood’s past and future

By Noah Futch

 

Babylon is a stunning achievement and milestone engraved in history. Not for the film industry in its current state, or during the transition to talking movies, but for us as a society. As Jean Smart’s character of Elinor St. John states to Diego Calva’s Manny Torres, “you will dine with angels and ghosts.” We are only temporary in this world, and this film is altogether a love letter and a breakup letter in one. Damien Chazelle has crafted a masterpiece that not all will love, but plenty will adore. This is an epic on a grand scale disguised as an intimate and personal story of four characters who are navigating life and all that comes with it.

Spanning three decades, we intertwine between these four characters’ stories, rise to glory, and fall from grace all in the same. The undeniable star of the film is Diego Calva as Manny Torres, a Mexican immigrant who works from the ground up to reach his ambitious dreams. Margot Robbie is enthralling as the electric and bold Nellie LaRoy. In her own words, you are either born a star or you aren’t, and both Robbie and her portrayal of LaRoy are undeniable. Jack Conrad, played by the one-and-only Brad Pitt, is a superstar in the silent film era. He knows his role and acts like it. Conrad drinks himself to the edge on and off set and somehow always finds the performance of a lifetime. The underrated star of the film in my eyes is Jovan Adepo who plays Sidney Palmer, a jazz trumpet player who starts out playing party gigs and works his way up to headlining film scores and eventually acting in movies centered around his playing abilities. His nuanced anger and tension when it comes to the racism thrown his way are beautiful and palpable.

The fast-paced and chaotic nature of the film perfectly captures the energy and excitement of the era, and Chazelle’s touch of the camera is nothing short of tangible. However, Babylon is not just a love story set against the backdrop of the film industry. The relationship and power dynamics of Nellie and Manny shift depending on where we are in the story. It’s truly a tragic tale of the cost of success and the sacrifices one must make to achieve their dreams.

The film industry is depicted as a ruthless and unforgiving place, with the characters constantly fighting for their place in the spotlight. It’s a harsh reminder of the price of fame and the sacrifices one must make to achieve it. But despite the tragic undertones, there are moments of levity and joy throughout the film. The party scenes in particular are electric and full of energy, with the camera whirling and pulsating to the beat of the music.

The stunning cinematography is the cherry on top. We are thrown into the deep end of Chazelle’s love and admiration for classic film and Hollywood while getting to admire every shot for the perfect amount of time. The lengthy 189-minute runtime is intimidating to some, but I felt as though it hit every note and squeezed every second out of the screenplay. The moments that required breathing room received it, and the quick cuts and fast-paced editing sped us through the party scenes and got our hearts racing. The soundtrack is an unbelievable achievement that Justin Hurwitz should be praised for. His epic score coupled with Chazelle’s respect for music and how it plays into a script can be paired together as a perfect match.

Overall, Babylon is a must-see for any film enthusiast. It’s a chaotic and energetic rollercoaster ride through the early days of Hollywood, with standout performances from Diego Calva and Margot Robbie. Chazelle’s direction once again proves he is a master walking among us as one of the best filmmakers alive. The film’s ending scene is a beautiful homage and tribute to the silver screen from the beginning of celluloid to recent blockbusters. Babylon’s tragic and euphoric story will stay with you long after the credits roll.

From the Classroom: Arab Cinema Spring 2023

Hello! My name is Mary Gurley, and I am a senior at the College of Charleston. As a Film Studies minor, I’ve had the opportunity to take various types of film courses. Each course has taught me about the history of different cultures and societies through the use of film.

Currently, I am taking Arab Cinema with Professor Davidson. This course examines films produced in the Arab World to explore the histories of Arab societies from WWI to the present day. Through viewing films, we explore topics including nationalism, gender, sex, religion, politics, sectarianism, and social and economic class. We have already viewed two films: (Naji Abu Nowar, 2014) and Alexandra, Why? (Yossef Chahine, 1979). We will be viewing Nasser 56 (Mohammed Fadel, 1996) this week and Karnak (Aly Badrakhan, 1975) next week.

I enjoy taking this class because it provides me with a new outlook on the history of films and the various cultures that have influenced the filmmaking industry. I never thought I would be captivated by the diversity of Arab histories, cultures, and societies. Still, the films this course have already exposed me to have given me such a deep appreciation for the Arab World and the films they produce. I encourage any student interested in film studies to take this course because it will open their eyes to the power of films in retelling history.

— Mary Gurley, Senior, FMST Minor, Art History Major

 

A Look-Back on Film Club: Fall 2022

With the Spring 2023 semester approaching, let’s look back at CofC Film Club during the Fall 2022 semester!! We watched a total of 13 films this semester. Some highlights included: watching Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy (2003) on film club member Matthew Norton-Baker’s region-free Blu-ray player (the only way to watch the film), our collaboration with CofC PRISM watching My Own Private Idaho (1991), our Halloween Double feature of Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998) and John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), celebrating Día de los Muertos with CofC Hispanic Latino Club by watching the 2017 pixar film Coco with (hot) cocoa, and closing out the semester with Knives Out (2019) just in time for the sequel that released this winter!

In addition to our two collabs and Halloween Double Feature, some of the most notable events included a screenwriting workshop led by PURE Theatre co-founder and CofC faculty alum Rodney Rogers, our return to Trident Technical College for a filmmaking workshop led by Tim Fennell, our camera workshop led by Film Club treasurer Keller Hollingsworth, and the Film Studies Minor Open House!

We also hosted our annual screenwriting competition, with our amazing faculty judges this year being Emily Rosko, Michael Smallwood, and Nancy Nenno. We’re excited to begin production as a club on the winning film as our official submission to the Spring student film festival! Here are the winners they ranked:

  1. “Roses” – Natalie Dixon (’26)
  2. “The Fast Fall” – Peyton Brotzman (’23)
  3. “Post Mortem” – Anna Deason (’24)

What’s on the horizon for Film Club in the new year? Get excited for the biggest event of the year for us, our annual Student Film Festival, officially taking place on Saturday, April 8th, at the Queen Street Playhouse! More details to come later on how you can submit a film (any CofC or Trident Tech students are welcome to submit), as well as event info for general attendees). For general club meetings, we’re excited to kickoff the year with some movie trivia on Wednesday 1/11 to ease into the first day of the semester. And get excited for our first official screening on 1/18 (film TBA)! Thanks for a great 2022 and we’re excited to do some amazing things this semester!

The First Episode of The Film Club Podcast is Out Now!

Film Club is excited to announce that their podcast, The SoundStage, released its first episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Radio Public, and YouTube. Club Vice President Bristol Barnes discussed Jordan Peele’s Nope with President Max Meyers and Treasurer Keller Hollingsworth and explored the film’s commentary on spectacle cinema and the landscape of blockbuster movies today.

The Podcast is open to any CofC students who wish to discuss film and TV in any capacity; just fill out this form and the club will schedule your episode!

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Film Studies Open House Wednesday November 9

Attention, Film Minors! This Wednesday, November 9th is the annual Film Studies Open House! 6:30- 7 p.m. Maybank 100. It will be a short and sweet event! Swing by to meet the Film Studies faculty, learn more about the minor, and hear about upcoming spring film courses. Snacks and drinks will be served.

At 7 p.m., the Film Club will be screening the classic thriller, Jaws (dir. Steven Spielberg, 1975)– so stay for the movie and hang with the club!

Nuovo Cinema Italiano Film Festival is Back!

The 16th annual Nuovo Cinema Italiano Film Festival returns to Charleston November 10-13 at the Queen Street Playhouse in Charleston.

An immersive dive into Italian arts, language, and culture, the festival includes exclusive film screenings, talks with outstanding guests, and a series of special events. Over the course of four days the Nuovo Cinema Italiano Film Festival presents a carefully curated selection of the most significant films of contemporary Italian cinema from both established and emerging directors.

Classic Italian cinema cannot help but inform the contemporary film landscape and this year’s festival image pays homage to the great Italian actress Monica Vitti who died earlier this year. The film-still of Vitti is taken from Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1960 production L’avventura, the story often credited with propelling Vitti to international fame.

Free for CofC students and faculty! For the complete program of the festival click here.

See you there!

Student Film Club Learns Filmmaking Skills at Trident Tech

Last Friday, October 21, the CofC Student Film Club traveled to Trident Tech for the annual filmmaking workshop hosted by Trident filmmaking professor Tim Fennell. Students completed camera exercises on a working set that included using a professional Fisher 10 Dolly and Arri Skypanel lighting; observed and operated the dolly during a “take;” handled different camera department positions like Camera Operator, 1st Camera Assistant and 2nd Camera Assistant; learned set etiquette on who does what and how to work on an active set; and learned useful sound tips as well. Additionally, a certified Steadicam operator exhibited how to create a floating camera look. Thanks to Tim, Randy, and the crew at Trident for making our film minors and club members feel so welcome!

Meltdown in Dixie Screening TH Oct 27

The Avery Research Center invites you to attend a free Screening and Discussion of Meltdown in Dixie (2021) to be held 5:30- 8:00 p.m. this Thursday October 27th in the seminar room of the Avery Research Center. Don’t miss this important event!

Summary: In the wake of the 2015 Charleston Massacre, a battle erupts in Orangeburg, South Carolina between the Sons of Confederate Veterans and an ice cream shop owner forced to fly the confederate flag in his parking lot. The film explores the broader role of Confederate symbolism in the 21st century and the lingering racial oppression which symbols such as this help maintain.

Reserve your seat here! https://libcal.library.cofc.edu/calendar/avery/mid

 

Spring 2023 Film Courses

Here’s a preliminary list of courses offered next Spring that will count toward FMST credit. Please check back frequently for updates/changes. Click highlighted text for course description (if available).

ENGL 212-01*

The Cinema: History & Criticism

Prof. Glenn

MW 2-3:15 p.m.

 

ENGL 212-02*

The Cinema: History & Criticism

Prof. Glenn

MW 3:25-4:40 p.m.

 

ENGL 212-03*

The Cinema: History & Criticism

Prof. Bruns

TR 10:50-12:05 p.m.

 

ENGL 212-04*

The Cinema: History & Criticism

Prof. Bruns

TR 12:15-1:30 p.m.

 

ARST 240-01**

Arab Cinema

Prof. Davidson

Online/asynchronous

 

LTIT 270-01**

Introduction to Italian Cinema

Prof. De Luca

TR 1:40- 2:55 pm

 

* meets the requirement for Cluster 1 of the FMST minor
** meets the requirement for Cluster 2 of the FMST minor
*** meets the requirement for Cluster 3 of the FMST minor

GRST 271-01**

German Cinema in Exile: film noir

Prof. Nenno

MW 3:25-4:40 pm

 

THTR 288-01***

Creating the Visual Language of Film

Evan Parry

MW 5:00-6:15  Online/synchronous

 

JWST 300-04***

The Holocaust on Film

Prof. Cappell

T 4-6:45 p.m.

 

THTR 350-01***

Introduction to Film Production/Film Art

Evan Parry

MW 5:00-6:15  Online/synchronous

 

ENGL 390-01***

Special Topics in Film: Alfred Hitchcock

Prof. Bruns

TR 1:40-2:55 p.m.

 

Majors-Minors Fair Wed Sept 28

Swing by the Film Studies table at the Majors-Minors Fair ( 10-1 on Wed Sept 28 @ Cistern Yard) to say hello to the Film Studies faculty and to meet some of the Film Club leaders. We’d love to tell you more about the minor and the film club. If you’re already a minor, swing by to say hi!

See you there!