Babylon

This past Tuesday, Zoe, Georgia, and I all went to a movie together for the first time ever. And let me tell you, it was a doozy of a film.

The only thing I had heard about this movie before seeing it was that it depicted “every bodily fluid”, which was not an over-exaggeration (I know you’re thinking it–and yes, including that one). But to be honest, that is not even the most graphic part of this movie.

The epic film follows five extremely different Hollywood dreamers through the rise and fall of their careers: Nillie LaRoy, the “Wild Child”; Manuel “Manny” Torres; hot-shot actor Jack Conrad; sultry performer and intertitle writer May Wong; and trumpeter Sidney Palmer.

The plot mainly follows the careers of Nellie and Manny, who we see go from nothing to everything, backed by the genius soundtrack from Justin Hurwitz. We watch Nellie battle her addictions to cocaine and gambling, while becoming the biggest star in Hollywood, using her crassness and lack of shame to get her where she wants to be. On the other hand, Manny uses his connections to work his way up to become an executive of MGM, and we watch as the five characters’ (who originally met at a wild, orgy-like party) lives interact and cross over and over again.

The entire film is about movies, as well as the people making them. We watch certain people (Nellie, Manny, Sidney) adapt and grow and even create new kinds of films, while others (May, Jack) fall behind and get buried in the past.

In this film, Chazelle does not want the audience to be comfortable. There is an innumerable amount of sex and nudity, that after the first few shots the viewer becomes almost immune to it. There is nothing sensual about the way these scenes are presented, yet at the same time everything about them is lust-filled–even the way the trumpets are played. There is a dirtiness to it, but a lack of shame as well. We are being shown that these Hollywood people are all so over-indulgent that they are completely immune to the acts going on around them. In fact, they are so immune that certain characters (Tobey Maguire’s James Mackay) goes so far as to seek out the insane and disgusting. I won’t get to graphic, but parts of it involve the ingestion of a rat. This film for sure is not for the weak-stomached.

The film desensitizes its viewer so much that we begin to feel nothing, or even laugh at, death and drug use. We sit in scenes for what feels like a little bit too long, beginning to feel unnerved for a reason we cannot place. Why is it that we feel an unexplainable dread when watching Nellie walk away into the darkness of the streets of LA? Why do we not feel that same thing when watching Jack go upstairs to shoot himself? How does Chazelle get us to feel exactly how he wants us to about these characters? And how is it that they are all bad people, yet we inevitably feel a deep connection with them by the end of the film?

Oh, and the end of the film. In true Damien Chazelle fashion, we are taken through a glorious montage of film through the ages, beginning with Nellie and Jack’s silent films, ending with modern films like Avatar, began and ended with a tearful Manny. As we sit there and watch movies evolve before our eyes, then slowly break down into film chemicals, then simply colors, we cannot help but understand the importance of film, as it was for the characters of the movie.

The film Babylon is not just a movie, but an epic depicting the cyclical rise and fall of Hollywood actors, the importance of film, and the almost-commonplace epidemic of over-consumption and insensitivity. And the most interesting part?

It’s based off of true events.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

(I don’t think I would ever watch this movie again)

Bella 🙂

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Spoiler Alert-

Malibu Rising illustrates an unforgettable story that takes place in Malibu throughout many decades. The book follows the Riva family – most famous for the sensational singer Mick Riva being the father to this family. The Riva children, who have also gained popularity due to their dad, plan on throwing their iconic annual end-of-summer party. But, within 24-hours, the Rivas will have faced their biggest challenge and enter a new life. 

TJR does a fabulous job creating exciting characters who have a lot of personality and stories. My favorite character from the book is Nina, primarily the main character known for surfing and modeling. Her story is so heart-breaking yet motivating, and I feel that she really deserved better. Nina was forced to throw away her childhood and grow up in order for her and her family to survive. I relate to her struggle of trying to please people, and I’m glad that she was willing to let go and stop letting herself fall victim to everyone by the end of the story.

On the other hand, a character who I very much disliked was Mick Riva, but that is just how TJR intentionally wrote him. He was a horrible father, and I hate how he used his power and success to convince June and the kids to forgive him after he cheated. However, no matter how sorry he seemed, he never really was, and he would always find any other way out of commitments. The lowest that he ever was was when he never acknowledged his children after June died, leaving them to survive by themselves. 

To continue, a controversial topic in Malibu Rising is TJR’s use of too many characters. New characters were being thrown into the book within the last couple of chapters without too much purpose. I understand why some people might not like this choice, but I find it to make the story more realistic. I took from this concept is how many people show up in your life, only to be a part of that point; I don’t think every character needs to be remarkable. 

Also, I enjoyed the shifting of perspective across all characters. I think I would have gotten bored if the story was only told through Nina or June; instead, I was captivated and anticipating each chapter as I learned more about every single person – minor or majorly significant. 

The world within Malibu Rising seemed very realistic since it was based in Malibu. I like how each place had meaning to the characters, such as the Riva restaurant, Nina’s house, or the ocean. The book’s aesthetic was so summery, and I think it is perfect for reading on the beach! This book gives off a rich, sunny, surfing 80s vibe that I fell in love with. 

I enjoyed the medium-paced speed of the book. I think the right amount of time was spent on specific plots or topics. This helped me stay engaged and wanting to read more. 

My friend (and sister of fellow Sunday Morning Review writer Zoe) highly recommended Malibu Rising, saying it was one of her favorite books. At first, I wasn’t sure if I would like it because the book was recently released, and there were few reviews about it. However, I soon went to Barnes & Noble and bought a copy, not knowing that this would quickly become my favorite book! 

Taylor Jenkins Reid confirmed that this book is currently being adapted to be a series on Hulu. I am ecstatic to watch it. I think Malibu Rising was DESTINED to be a tv show!

★★★★★

Georgia

Bella

Hi, my name’s Bella! I have always been in love with books that take me to another world. Since I was little, I’ve been in love with fantasy books like Percy Jackson and Harry Potter. But, I also LOVE classics like Little Women and Pride and Prejudice (though, I absolutely hate Huckleberry Finn). Honestly, I will read anything you give me; historical fiction (The Boy On The Wooden Box), young adult (Eleanor and Park), thrillers (This Darkness Mine), romances (Call Me By Your Name), and many more.

Some of my favorite books are:

  • The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
  • Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino)
  • If I Was Your Girl (Meredith Russo)
  • Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
  • The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy (Douglass Adams)

When it comes to movies, I’m a little more complicated. I tend to love every single movie I watch—except for Adam Sandler movies. I’m a sucker for the “big three” as I call them (Star Wars, Marvel, Pirates of the Caribbean), but in general I love movies that make me feel something, take me to another place, or leave me thinking about them for days. Movies like Beautiful Boy, that made me cry multiple times. Any Disney movie I’ve ever watched, especially the animated ones. Movies like Midsommar that left me with a weird feeling in my stomach but were so beautifully made. Movies like Knives Out, that were so good I watched it more times than I’d like to admit. Movies like Little Women that will never go out of style.

Some of my favorite movies are:

  • Little Women (Dir. Greta Gerwig)
  • Knives Out (Dir. Rian Johnson)
  • Lady Bird (Dir. Greta Gerwig)
  • Inglorious Basterds (Dir. Quentin Tarantino)
  • La La Land (Dir. Damien Chazelle)

There are so many more books and movies that I couldn’t fit on these lists! You can check out my GoodReads (just under “Isabella”) for more books, and my Letterboxd account (bellafloyd) for more movies!

Georgia

Hey, it’s Georgia. Having movie nights with my family every Friday is something I really look forward to. It has really shown me what a tv screen can do. I find myself attaching to the characters and in awe of the cinematography choices. Movies can bring people into a new world and give the viewers the chance to connect through a story. A dream job of mine is to be a cinematographer, so looking at different themes and moods onscreen is very inspiring and brings me to a happy place. I enjoy many different genres such as comedy, mystery, musical, horror, and action movies. Some of my favorite movies/ tv shows are:

  • Little Women (dir. Greta Gerwig)
  • Knives Out (dir. Rian Johnson)
  • Spiderman: Homecoming (dir. Jon Watts)
  • Spiderman: Far From Home (dir. Jon Watts)
  • Lady Bird (dir. Greta Gerwig)
  • Lemonade Mouth (dir. Patricia Riggen)
  • The Shining (dir. Stanley Kubrick)
  • Queen’s Gambit (dir. Scott Frank)
  • Hamilton (dir. Thomas Kail)

You can also see other movies I like on my Letterboxd account – georgiadoh

On my free time, books also provide a chance for me to detach from my life. I have to admit that I do prefer movies over books, but I still try to read as much as I can. This year I have found that I really enjoy mystery books, especially ones written by Agatha Christie. Mysteries keep me on edge waiting for something new to happen. I really enjoy trying to figure out who did it along with the characters. Some of my favorite books include:

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  • Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee
  • Prisoner B- 3087 by Alan Gratz
  • One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
  • Inside Out & Back Again by. Thanhha Lai

Zoe

Hi I’m Zoe! I’ve always loved to read and write. In the future, I hope to make writing a part of my career. I enjoy most book genres, particularly literary fiction, poetry, classics, and books with a psychological aspect. However, I still don’t know why I’m drawn to certain books; I think I simply like stories with good writing that make me feel something for the characters. If a book makes me cry, that’s usually a sign that it’s good. Over the years, I’ve also become more interested in movies, especially with the rise of streaming services that allow me to watch more movies from the comfort of my home. I find myself enjoying dramas, comedies, and coming-of-age films the most, but I’m really not picky when it comes to movies. I’m looking forward to writing about the books and movies I enjoy (or don’t enjoy) for the blog!

(Some of) My Favorite Books:

  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay

My Goodreads Account: @zoekar10

(Some of) My Favorite Movies:

  • Lady Bird (dir. by Greta Gerwig)
  • Little Women (dir. by Greta Gerwig)
  • Booksmart (dir. by Olivia Wilde)
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire (dir. by Céline Sciamma)
  • 10 Things I Hate About You (dir. by Gil Junger)
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower (dir. by Stephen Chbosky)
  • Billy Elliot (dir. by Stephen Daldry)
  • Good Will Hunting (dir. by Gus Van Sant)

My Letterboxd Account: @zoekaroub