"Studio 54" Review

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Studio 54 is the new documentary that takes a look at the famous New York City nightclub, or infamous, depending on how you look at it. From director Matt Tyrnauer, who’s past documentaries include 2008’s Valentino: The Last Emperor and 2017’s Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, Studio 54 is an entertaining look at a club that, if you could somehow get in, would transport you to a different world. This is a nightclub that quickly rose to the heavens, only for it to come crashing back down to earth. The doc succeeds in letting the owners tell the story themselves, giving the viewer the inside look at the impact Studio 54 had on everyone involved.

In the late 70s, college friends Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell opened up a nightclub on West 54th Street in NYC. At the time, it was considered by many to be one of the sleaziest blocks in town, due to it being rundown and a place you wouldn’t want to be at night. Taking over the building that used to be where CBS Television produced some of their hit shows, Schrager and Rubell created what they called the “ultimate club” and paradise. An overnight success that went beyond their wildest dreams, this became the hottest ticket in town for close to three years, where celebrities frequently attended. But like the story of Icarus, Schrager and Rubell flew too close to the sun, and after awhile, especially after comments made by Rubell that only the Mafia made more money than them, the IRS and the feds started knocking on their doors.

For the most part, Tyrnauer does a good job in balancing the documentary. While the nightclub is the main meat of the story, Tyrnauer wraps it around what’s essentially a biography on both Schrager and Rubell by covering how they met in college, decided to be business partners, why they decided to create Studio 54, and so forth. In a sense, they were perfect for each other. I think it was wise that Schrager waited until enough time has past so that he could properly reflect and tell his side of what went down. Like this summer’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Rubell speaks through archival footage so that we hear from him also (Rubell sadly died from AIDS complications in 1989). Another neat effect that Tyrnauer and his editor employ is that we see a photo of a surviving member of the nightclub which transitions to them in present day giving their side as well.

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Studio 54 was basically a social experiment, ahead of its time in its inclusivity of the LGBTQ community. If the outside world shunned you, once you came inside Studio 54, it  felt like home and no one cared about what you were as long as you were having a good time. The doc makes good use of old footage, from photographs to never before seen footage inside the nightclub it gives us a sense of what it was like to be there. Using news footage and interviews as well, including where Michael Jackson crashes an in progress interview with Rubell, is quite fascinating to see. For a 98-minute documentary, the pacing is good in that there’s never a dull moment within the film.

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I think my biggest complaint about this documentary is that since the club was infamous in certain aspects, it somewhat skims the surfaces of how hedonistic and crazy it was to be inside the club. If you managed to get in in the first place, there are the wild tales of drugs floating around, hooking up inside, or having physical relations with someone you just met. They briefly discuss it, but it never dives deep into those areas. I also wished that they got more of the celebrities who attended Studio 54 to tell about their experiences within the club, since it was a popular hotspot for them. There are a lot of different avenues that this documentary could have taken, but it makes me wonder if they chose this route to get Schrager on-board to finally open up. One of the best moments of the film involves the prosecutor telling his side of the story after searching for evidence after Studio 54 was raided, and then the manager of Studio 54 tells it from his perspective. The juxtaposition was beautiful, and I wished that there were more moments sprinkled into the documentary where we see a back and forth like that.

Overall, if you’re looking for a more in-depth, critical look, you should probably look someplace else. From a documentary standpoint, while I wished that Studio 54 delved deeper in more aspects, the parts that Tyrnauer does treat us to are quite interesting and does provide some nice insight into it all. Even showing us how Schrager changed his life for the better (he was pardoned last January by President Obama). So in a way, it’s more of a celebration about what the nightclub was to everyone. If you’re in the mood to watch a good doc, I would suggest checking this out sometime.

Rating: B

"Love, Gilda" Review

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Love, Gilda is not only a wonderful documentary but also an experience; you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and the film will make you think. Love, Gilda is a powerful inside look into the late actress and comedian Gilda Radner. Directed by Lisa Dapolito, the film examines the comedy scene from the 1970s and 80s and how Gilda influenced it as one of the first female comedians on Saturday Night Live (SNL). She certainly didn’t peg herself as a feminist, however, by being the only woman doing what she was doing, she inherently became a feminist icon. During that time she often was put in typical roles only reserved for women, yet she didn’t complain and she conquered those roles with grace. After a while, she started creating roles for herself and other women, thus expanding opportunities for other female comics to express themselves in unique ways. 

Not only did other women appreciate Gilda for her strong personality and talented acting, but male comics saw her potential as well and assisted in getting her where she was in her career. The film highlights how much influence Gilda had over these very talented comedians who are still actively working today. Many talented actors are interviewed about Gilda’s life and their relationships with Gilda such as Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and Dan Aykroyd, just to name a few. The film goes deep into Gilda’s personal relationships, her struggles with her health and weight, as well as her family life. The film does a wonderful job exposing the human side of an iconic actress that the general public has never seen before; It truly uncovers a world that most people don’t often get to be a part of.

Alongside having a strong influence on talented male actors, Gilda had influence over female comics that are currently on the scene today. The film interviews female SNL successors to Gilda, and they discuss in depth how she paved the way for their comedy careers without even knowing it. Love, Gilda is calculated and thoughtful in who they chose to interview for this documentary; Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Cecily Strong and Melissa McCarthy read emotional, old letters Gilda wrote to convey her experiences as a woman in comedy. These actresses even comment on how much of an honor it is to have be able to read Gilda’s handwritten letters within the film. 


This film is a tribute to American comedy and what goes into it; it exposes a great deal of the comedy scene in both positive and negative ways and shows how hard Gilda worked to get where she was in her career. Lorne Michaels discusses Gilda with such content and talks about how she was dearly missed after she left SNL but understands why she did. One especially touching addition to the film is the archival footage that is incorporated (her brother provided a lot of the home videos). The archival footage and audio of Gilda shows her personality in a beautiful way; if you don’t know who she is before you watch the film, you’ll fall in love with her by the end of it. Her spirit is captured in such a considerate way, you can’t help but cry. This is a side of comedy that is often overlooked, comedians are not viewed as human, and their pain isn’t often exposed until it is too late (note: comedians have the highest suicide rate of any profession). Gilda was by no means suicidal, however she did struggle with depression which affected her health in many ways, and it is so important to discuss those types of struggles when talking about comedy; the film contemplates this in a meaningful way.

Love, Gilda is a piece of history that shows how far we have come in comedy and the roles of female actors. It really hasn’t been that long since women were only allowed to play roles “reserved for women”. Even though Gilda passed away from ovarian cancer at such a young age, this documentary proves that she has had an important influence for years, and she still has influence today. If you want to learn about self love, I highly recommend this film; Gilda taught people that its okay to be your genuine self, and that even when you’re incredibly famous, you’re still just like everyone else.

Rating: A


Julia Moroles

Julia Moroles graduated from Augsburg College (MN) with a Bachelors degree (BA) in Film Production and Studio Art Production with a minor in Religion. After graduating, Julia lived in El Salvador where she taught film editing, art, and photography in Spanish. While she resided in El Salvador, she studied Monseñor Romero and the liberation theology movement of Central America.

When Julia returned from El Salvador, she completed an internship at a Think Tank in St. Paul Minnesota, called Minnesota 2020. During her 9-month multimedia specialist position, she created two short documentaries focusing on different public policy issues. Her short documentary Colossal Costs closely analyzed higher education loan debt, and was screened in festivals from coast to coast. The second film was a documentary about the urban agriculture movement in Minnesota.

In addition to her studies, Julia has been a photo activist for the Black Lives Matter movement, urban agriculture nonprofit organizations in Minnesota, as well as numerous human rights campaigns (internationally).

In August 2016 Julia began a Masters program (MFA) in Film and Electronic Media for the School of Communication at American University. During her attendance at AU she created various documentaries that focused on social justice issues, female empowerment, and community engagement. Her documentary about American University's Eagle Endowment was honored at the house of the President of American University in 2017. On two occasions, Julia served as sound mixer while filming a documentary for the talented filmmaker Larry Kirkman. Larry is working with the Center of Environmental filmmaking to research the necessity of Science in politics. Julia worked on a 16 person team (8 crews) that covered the March for Science in 2017 and 2018; she also assisted in filming congressional house parties with Larry Kirkman while working on the documentary. Finally, she was a part of a team that filmed interviews with the Defenders of Wildlife in preparation for the 2018 March for Science. Julia's team covered the media tent for both years of the March for Science and conducted interviews with the scientists and speakers for the rally.

From June 2017-December 2017 Julia completed a Fellowship for the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute. She worked alongside Mahtab Kowsari to create educational videos that taught students at a graduate level for the Religious Freedom Center. She worked in the fast paced media environment creating the educational videos, promotional videos, filming and producing the educational lectures and she even created an educational social media campaign.

On top of completing a fellowship and assisting with the Center of Environmental Filmmaking, Julia acted as a Teaching Assistant to classes such as Editing, Web Development, Digital Image Editing, and Direction and Video Production.

Julia is currently creating a documentary focusing on the urban agriculture movement across the United States. She has interviewed people on the East and West Coast and hopes to influence more people to be a part of the movement.