AUGUST 2020 Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

Happy First Day of September, folks! Well, even though the last day of Summer in the Northern Hemisphere isn’t until September 22, the ‘ber’ months have begun, which means Summer days are definitely numbered. It’s also the first MN Summer during a pandemic… where we, citizens of the world, had to cope with self-quarantine and stay-at-home order. I can’t even remember the last time I actually went to the movie theater!

Well, my hubby and I finally decided we’ll be seeing TENET this weekend!! The theater would only operate in 50% capacity by blocking seats, and they’re committed to take strategic measures in accordance of CDC, WHO and local health authority guidelines. Of course we’ll be wearing our masks while inside the theater.

So anyway, stay tuned for my review of TENET… in the meantime, here are movies I saw this month:

New-to-me Movies

I watched first two on this list, The Ottoman Lieutenant and The Promise, back to back. I wasn’t all that impressed by The Ottoman Lieutenant with its rather cheesy love triangle, but was curious to read about the history behind the film. So I went to Wikipedia and was inspired to watch The Promise right away upon reading it. Apparently both films were within a month of each other in 2017. Per Wiki, the perceived similarities between the films resulted in accusations that The Ottoman Lieutenant existed to deny the Armenian genocide in 1915.

Man I wish I had known that before I watched the movie. It’s so disturbing how the Armenian genocide inspired Hitler and the Nazis in exterminating the Jews two decades later. Any piece of art that tries to deny/shift blame about something so atrocious as systematic mass murder has no right to exist. Even if the film were good, in this case it wasn’t, I still think it should not have been made, let alone released publicly. I’m surprised Sir Ben Kingsley (whose most famous role is in Schindler’s List!) was part of the cast!

I’m hoping I could write more about The Promise, which is a far better film of the two, and was actually based on historical events. It was directed by Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) and had a great cast – Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale, Charlotte Le Bon and Marwan Kenzari.

The Ottoman Lieutenant

The Promise

The Personal History of David Copperfield (review upcoming)

TESLA

Project Power (read Ted’s review)

EuroVision Song Contest (read Vitali’s review)

Made In Italy

The Secret: Dare to Dream


TV Shows/Miniseries


BBC’s Miranda

Black Mirror (Season 4) – Crocodile + USS Callister

ITV/PBS’ Victoria (season 2)

BBC’s The Night Manager


 Rewatches

Sleepless In Seattle | The Rocketeer | Cinderella | Tarzan | Casino Royale | Netflix’s MEDICI: THE MAGNIFICENT 

Since I still have Disney+ subscription, I decided to rewatch some of Disney favorites (though I actually owned The Rocketeer and Cinderella blurays, ahah). I know I’ve been talking about MEDICI a lot lately, trust me… I will unveil my massive two-part Medici appreciation post in the next week or so!


MOVIE OF THE MONTH

The Personal History of David Copperfield

I had been wanting to see this since it came out last Fall in the UK. Its US release was supposed to be in May this year, but of course it was delayed due to Covid-19. Well, it was well worth the wait! Even though I’m actually not that familiar w/ this Charles Dickens’ classic (I think the only two I’m familiar with are A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations), I really enjoyed the film. Dev Patel did a fantastic job as the lead, a result of brilliant color-blind casting, and further proves he’s a versatile actor. I can’t wait to see him tackle yet another classic character that’s typically played by a Caucasian actor… The Green Knight.


Well that’s my viewing recap of August. What about you, and what’s YOUR favorite film of the month?

Guest Review: The Promise (2017)

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Directed By: Terry George
Written By: Terry George, Robin Swicord
Runtime: 2 hrs 13 minutes

It has taken more than ten years for Terry George to return from Hotel Rwanda with another sweeping historical narrative – again about genocide. The Promise is a sobering, beautiful disappointment. The film has a beautiful score and decent cinematography, but is hindered by two competing and uncomplimentary story-lines, flawed casting, and lackluster performances by usually gifted actors.
One thing that The Promise does right is its dogged determination – at least in the beginning – to accurately recreate the Ottoman Empire at its peak. The diversity of the Ottoman Empire is highlighted in the script and on the screen: crowded streets and classrooms alike brim with a rainbow of skin colors and a wide variety of clothing styles. This attention to detail falls to the wayside later on: extras become less and less Armenian with every passing scene, leaving me wondering if the casting department doubts an audience’s ability to see facial features through dirt.

That initial pursuit of realistic cultural immersion was also highlighted in moments like the one when our stars leave a stuffy party full of people in European clothing to hit up the nearby belly dancing club where they drink absinthe, sugar cube ritual and all. The effort to establish the Ottoman Empire as a progressive, inclusive, educated, and wealthy place is palpable.

Unfortunately, The Promise falls short constantly. The focus of the film is what can only be described as a love square: one man is betrothed to a woman but he falls in love with a different woman who is already romantically involved with another man, but she also falls in love with that first man. On its own, this might be a decent movie, but this love square has been placed in the foreground of a genocide. The result is a bad love story (because the backdrop is too dark) and a bad historical drama (because the love story is more carefully developed than the history).
The flashes of the Armenian Genocide that we get are stark: labor camps, cattle trains full of people, violent killings, riots, executions, people on the run and trying to hide. They deserve a telling that does not hide them behind a petty romantic squabble. This is a story that is more than 100 years old and is still illegal to tell in Turkey. 1.5 million people were killed in five years. That story can be told without a love story.

Casting was poor. Oscar Isaac is a great actor, but why a man who is nearly 40 years old is playing a medical student who is betrothed to be married in two years is completely beyond me. He also does not look particularly Armenian. Neither does Charlotte Le Bon, who plays his romantic interest. Angela Sarafyan who, is both a phenomenal actress and an Armenian was cast in a lesser role. I would have liked to see her as the leading actress and a younger, more Armenian man in the place of Isaac.

I get the feeling that this set was not especially actor friendly, which is evident in a lot of lackluster performances. Christian Bale’s character (which should not exist, but that’s a rant about American centrism that we can save for another day) had many a stale outburst. Marwan Kenzari gave a consistently mediocre performance. Charlotte Le Bon seemed out of place in the 20th Century.

It is unfortunate that The Promise fails in its execution because the film explores many prescient themes:

In what ways might people respond to an atrocity? What compromises of our own character might we make when put in a difficult situation? How do we know what side of a story is the true one, both journalistically and personally? What sacrifices might we make for the sake of our families and our friends?

I can only hope that we’ll get the opportunity to explore those questions in a different movie. With any luck, it will be about the Armenian Genocide, because clearly we still haven’t found it in ourselves to tell that story in the way it deserves to be told.


hollyHolly P. is a twenty-something millennial who enjoys shouting at people on the internet, riding her bicycle, and overbooking her schedule. She prefers storytelling that has a point and comedy that isn’t mean. Her favorite movies are Aladdin, the Watchmen (even though the book was way better), and Hot Fuzz.  She’s seen every Lord of the Rings movie at least a dozen times.  You can follow her @tertiaryhep on twitter or @hollyhollyoxenfreee on Instagram. She’s also on Tinder, but if you find her there she’ll probably ghost on you because wtf is dating in the 21st century.


Have you seen ‘The Promise’? Well, what did you think?