a year ago

'Babylon' is a stark reminder of Quentin Tarantino's 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'

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Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood depicted 1960s Hollywood when once famous actors were falling from grace, the rise of Western spaghetti action movies, and the growing hippy culture in Los Angeles suburbs. The film was a huge success for its most Tarantino-esque depiction of Hollywood and an alternative ending to the infamous Manson cult family. 

Damien Chazelle, director of La La Land, which won the Oscar for best picture in 2016, perhaps was inspired by the film and took the initiative to depict the jazz era of Hollywood, preferably of 'Roaring Twenties' when silent films were popular.

That era, too, saw little difference for actors and actresses who were still at the pinnacle of their careers and had been drawn into the dark side of Hollywood. 

This is the story of Babylon, but is it a better film depicting the older times of Hollywood?

This film begins with a few characters, some of whom are witnessing the end of their newly discovered fame, while others have entered the film industry with big dreams. One of the dreamers is Manny, a Mexican immigrant aspiring to climb the film industry ranks, who becomes acquainted with Nellie, an aspirant actress; Jack Conrad, a popular silent film actor; Fay, a Chinese-American cabaret singer; and Sidney, a jazz artist. They band together at a film mogul's party to pursue their dreams, but they have no idea what awaits them in the future.

The era was one of technological progress, so the film industry was shifting from silent to sound films. Veteran actor Jack and inexperienced actress Nellie both find it hard to fit into the transition process, so they indulge in things that every failing artist does - drugs and gambling. 

Nellie's hedonistic lifestyle takes a toll on her when she crosses paths with McKay, a flamboyant gangster played by Toby Maguire. Nellie owes him a huge gambling debt, so she seeks help from her old friend Manny to find a way out. 

On the other hand, Jack is witnessing the last phase of his acting career, spiralling into depression and contemplating whether to live at all.

But this film is not all about failure. Manny wants to see himself as a film director, so he quickly adapts to the transition process and climbs onto the industrial ladder. 

Fay and Sidney have their feuds with Manny over their differences and eventually leave Hollywood, but that doesn't undermine their success. Despite being undervalued in Hollywood, Fay receives a lucrative offer from the European film industry. Even Sidney becomes a successful musician in the industry.

Babylon shows one thing for certain: in the film industry, success is short-lived and should be enjoyed while it lasts. On the other hand, when disaster strikes, it destroys lives. Jack and Nellie are the burning examples of it, while the other lead characters turn a new leaf in their lives.

The cinematography, including the quick camera movements, perfectly captures the characters' rushed nature. 

Though Babylon depicted the extravaganza and colourfulness of the silent film era, it lacked some originality. 

The film felt like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood but was set in the 1920s, with Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie from that film playing the lead characters. 

Moreover, many scenes were questionable and irrelevant to the plot. 

Nevertheless, Babylon is a Christmas flop at the box office, despite having Oscar winner Damien Chazelle as director and an ensemble cast.

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