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‘Babylon’ Celebrates the Movies — While Raising Questions About Their Future

Damien Chazelle's ambitious movie about pre-Code Hollywood is a grand statement on the power of cinema, but it faces a challenging market for the very same medium.

BABYLON, Margot Robbie, 2022. © Paramount Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

While Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” celebrated Hollywood, his epic “Babylon” bemoans its demise — or, at least, one period of its demise, when the silent era gave way to sound and pre-Code Hollywood faced more than one reckoning. Chazelle’s lavish, drug-and-sex-fueled ensemble piece landed its first round of screenings this past week for press and Academy members with stars including Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Diego Calva, and others showing up on both coasts.

The movie’s fascination with Hollywood history and period details make it an automatic contender for many craft categories in the Oscar race, even as divided responses to the movie as a whole may create challenges for other categories. Still, there is a path to Best Picture for “Babylon” on the basis of appreciation for its below-the-line achievements.

Yet the biggest question mark around “Babylon” is how its studio, Paramount, could expect anything in the realm of a successful release for the movie at this challenging time for the marketplace. Both onscreen and off, “Babylon” celebrates movies while raising serious questions about their future.

In this week’s Screen Talk, Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson discuss the movie’s prospects, and why it’s a commendable achievement regardless of the mixed reception so far. They also touch on the awards potential for “Glass Onion” as well as documentary “Good Night Oppy,” while Kohn shares his thoughts on the new Netflix release “Stutz.”

Watch the full episode above or listen to it below. 

Screen Talk is produced by Azwan Badruzaman and available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Spotify, and hosted by Megaphone. Browse previous installments here, subscribe here, and be sure to let us know if you’d like to hear the hosts address specific issues in upcoming editions of Screen Talk. 

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