5 ideas about a movie: The Promise 

Movie reviews

Hello!

During the busy summer blockbuster season, I like to make time for the ‘regular’ movies too. The picture that I’m reviewing today – The Promise – falls exactly into this category.

IMDb summary: Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, The Promise follows a love triangle between Michael, a brilliant medical student, the beautiful and sophisticated Ana, and Chris – a renowned American journalist based in Paris.

  1. A few months ago, I raised a general question to my dad (who watches lots of movies with me): when will we run out of war stories? Well, I pretty much got my answer while watching The Promise and the short version is – never. Not only do we have lots of modern/current wars to tell stories about, but we still have a ton of untold tales from the past wars. The Promise focuses on the Armenian Genocide inside the Ottoman Empire during the First World War – not a topic that World War I movies have previously touched upon.
  2. The reason why The Promise decided to tell this particular story was because of the film’s source of funding. The entire budget was donated by an American businessman that has Armenian roots – Kirk Kerkorian – and his sole wish was to bring this story into the mainstream consciousness rather than earn money. Sadly, this film didn’t succeed at either – it was a box office bomb, which means that not a lot of people had a chance to witness this narrative.
  3. The Promise was directed by Terry George, from the script by the director himself and the screenwriter Robin Swicord. I thought that the directing was quite solid even if the film was a bit long and dragged at times. However, at the same time, I don’t think that they should have cut anything from the story – I applaud the writers for not oversimplifying the journey that these characters had to take. I would also like to praise them for creating 3 interesting leads who seemed both realistic and believable enough and were also cinematically engaging. It was also nice to see a level of objectivity in a war movie – I believe that it was really important to include a character on the Turkish side who was actually a good person rather than just to paint that whole nation as the villains.
  4. The emotional core of the film was also effective. This real-life story is tragic in itself and the dramatic love triangle (which worked and wasn’t too tearful or cliche) only added extra emotions to the script. A few of especially heart-wrenching moments were the sequence where Oscar Isaac’s character finds his village’s people slaughtered by the river and the shots of the makeshift red-cross flag, placed on the side of the mountain.
  5. The Promise had a stellar cast, full of gifted actors who delivered spectacular dramatic performances. Sadly, not a lot of them were of Armenian descent – I think it would have been nice to spotlight some lesser known Armenian talent. Oscar Isaac was absolutely wonderful – these are the types of roles that I’d like to see more of him in rather than the awful supporting roles in failed blockbusters (X-Men: Apocalypse). Having said that, I would also like to see him continuing to star in more successful big-budget pictures, like Star Wars. Christian Bale (The Big Short) was also really good, although it was quite unusual, seeing him in a role which did not require a lot of physical change. Charlotte Le Bon (The Walk, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Bastille Day) was also amazing. Probably the most well-known Armenian actress on the cast was Westworld’s Angela Sarafyan – she played a small but important role. Other non-American and non-English actors were also included (which seems better than just having Americans and Brits playing Armenians): Mexican Daniel Giménez Cacho, Iranian Shohreh Aghdashloo, Croatian Rade Sherbedgia, Dutch-Tunisian Marwan Kenzari, and Israeli actor Yigal Naor all had supporting roles in the picture.

In short, The Promise is a well-made historical drama that might not sound super original but is, nonetheless, very important, as it tells a forgotten story of the marginalized people.

Rate: 4.25/5

Trailer: The Promise trailer 

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The Awards Season Round-Up 2016

Movie previews, Movie reviews

Hello Hello Hello!

Welcome to the last (finally) post dedicated to the awards’ season. This time, I won’t be reviewing any nominated motion pictures (I have done that already), but I  will tell you my own personal winners and will list all the others films in a very subjective order in each category. I am listing all the films because it was very hard for me to pick a definite number 1 spot. In addition, a lot of these films would have probably made my Best movies of 2015 list if I had seen them before January 1st, so I feel the need to at least mention them here.

Now, my categories won’t have a definite number of spaces in them. I have actually picked 20 films in total that have been nominated for either a Golden Globe, a SAG, a BAFTA, an Oscar or for all 4.  Also, I will be joining adapted and original screenplay categories into one. The distinction between lead and supporting roles will also be treated subjectively and not necessarily the way that the studios wanted. At the end of each category, I will also give my more objective prediction of who will probably take home the Academy Award.

P.S. The reviews of all these movies are linked to the names of the films only once – in the first category because it just seemed irrational to link you to a single post 5 or 6 times.

Best Picture

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Revenant
  3. The Martian
  4. Spotlight
  5. Creed
  6. The Big Short
  7. The Hateful Eight
  8. Steve Jobs
  9. Room
  10. The Danish Girl
  11. Bridge of Spies
  12. Brooklyn
  13. Ex-Machina
  14. Concussion
  15. Joy
  16. Straight Outta Compton
  17. Trumbo
  18. Beasts of No Nation
  19. Carol
  20. 45 Years

Prediction: As much as I would love for Mad Max to get the win, it seems very unlikely that this will happen. Although, with all the backlash against the Oscars online, the Academy might want to calm the fanboys/fangirls down by giving the award to the fan favorite. If they do decide to go the traditional route, The Revenant will probably be their top pick.

Best Directing

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller
  2. The Revenant – Alejandro González Iñárritu
  3. The Hateful Eight – Quentin Tarantino 
  4. Room –  Lenny Abrahamson
  5. The Big Short – Adam McKay
  6. Creed – Ryan Coogler 
  7. Beasts of No Nation – Cary Joji Fukunaga
  8. Bridge of Spies – Steven Spielberg 
  9. Straight Outta Compton – F. Gary Gray
  10. The Martian – Ridley Scott
  11. Steve Jobs – Danny Boyle
  12. Ex-Machina – Alex Garland
  13. Spotlight – Tom McCarthy
  14. Concussion –  Peter Landesman
  15. The Danish Girl – Tom Hooper
  16. Brooklyn – John Crowley
  17. Trumbo – Jay Roach
  18. Joy – David O. Russell
  19. Carol – Todd Haynes
  20. 45 Years – Andrew Haigh

Prediction: Again, I would love for George Miller to take the award home, but I kinda think that Iñárritu will get his second win in the row. I would be willing to let Iñárritu win if Mad Max gets the Best Picture statue.

Best Writing

  1. Spotlight – Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer
  2. The Hateful Eight – Quentin Tarantino
  3. Steve Jobs – Aaron Sorkin
  4. The Martian – Drew Goddard
  5. Creed – Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington
  6. The Big Short – Adam McKay, Charles Randolph
  7. The Revenant – Mark L. Smith, Alejandro G. Iñárritu
  8. Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris
  9. Bridge of Spies – Matt Charman, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  10. Straight Outta Compton – Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff
  11. Ex-Machina – Alex Garland
  12. The Danish Girl – Lucinda Coxon
  13. Room – Emma Donoghue
  14. Trumbo – John McNamara
  15. Concussion – Peter Landesman
  16. Joy – David O. Russell
  17. 45 Years – Andrew Haigh
  18. Beasts of No Nation – Cary Joji Fukunaga
  19. Brooklyn – Nick Hornby
  20. Carol – Phyllis Nagy

Prediction: this is the hardest category to predict. My best bet is that the original screenplay statue will be awarded to Spotlight, while the adapted one – to The Big Short.

Best Male Performance in a Leading Role:

  1. Leonardo Dicaprio for The Revenant
  2. Eddie Redmayne for The Danish Girl
  3. Tom Hardy for The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road
  4. Matt Damon for The Martian
  5. Jacob Tremblay for Room
  6. Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs
  7. Samuel L. Jackson for The Hateful Eight
  8. Michael B.Jordan for Creed
  9. Will Smith for  Concussion
  10. Bryan Cranston for Trumbo
  11. Tom Hanks for Bridge of Spies
  12. Christian Bale for The Big Short
  13. Mark Ruffalo for Spotlight
  14. Domhnall Gleeson for Ex Machina
  15. Abraham Attah for Beasts of No Nation
  16. O’Shea Jakcson Jr. for Straight Outta Compton
  17. Tom Courtenay for 45 Years

Prediction: this is one of the few categories where my objective and subjective side think the same thing. If Leo does not win this year, he should just stop trying altogether.

Best Female Performance in a Leading Role:

  1. Brie Larson for Room
  2. Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl and Ex-Machina
  3. Charlize Theron for Mad Max Fury Road
  4. Rooney Mara for Carol
  5. Jennifer Lawrence for Joy
  6. Rachel McAdams for Spotlight
  7. Cate Blanchett for Carol
  8. Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn
  9. Charlotte Rampling for 45 Years

Prediction: once again, I both objectively and subjectively think that Brie Larson should get the Oscar, although, I would be pleasantly surprised if Vikander gets the win. On a side note, the saddest part about this category is that out of the 20 films, I could only find 9 actresses in  leading(-ish) roles, while there 17 male leading roles.

Best Male Performance in a Supporting Role:

  1. Ryan Gosling for The Big Short
  2. Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies
  3. Sylvester Stallone for Creed
  4. Nicholas Hoult for Mad Max Fury Road
  5. Domhnall Gleeson for The Revenant
  6. Bradley Cooper for Joy
  7. Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation
  8. Oscar Isaac for Ex-Machina
  9. Matthias Schoenaerts for The Danish Girl
  10. Walton Goggins for The Hateful Eight
  11. Michael Keaton for Spotlight
  12. Alec Baldwin for Concussion
  13. Corey Hawkins for Straight Outta Compton

Prediction: while I would like Gosling to win, I think that the award will go to either Mark Rylance or Sylvester Stallone. I wouldn’t be sad in either case.

Best Female Performance in a Supporting Role

  1. Kate Winslet for Steve Jobs
  2. Jennifer Jason Leight for The Hateful Eight
  3. Jessica Chastain for The Martian
  4. Tessa Thompson for Creed
  5. Amber Heard for The Danish Girl
  6. Gugu Mbatha-Raw for Concussion
  7. Diane Lane for Trumbo

Prediction: I would like the win to go to Kate Winslet, but the actual award will probably find itself in the hands of Jennifer Jason Leight. On a side note, this was probably the hardest category to fill, because I put a lot of actresses in the leading role category, while the Academy and the studios said that they were playing supporting roles.

I really hope that you enjoyed this post because I worked really hard on it. I felt the most challenged not when I was compiling the actual final lists, but while I was watching and reviewing all the films. Tell me in the comments your personal winners! Bye!!

Movie review: The Big Short

Movie reviews

Hi!

This is another movie review of the Oscar season. I had a chance to see The Big Short, nominated for 5 Academy Awards, just before I left my home country, so this is another review, written in an airport, on my way to the UK. Hope you will enjoy it.

IMDb summary: Four denizens of the world of high-finance predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight.

Writing and Story

The Big Short’s script was written by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, who also directed the picture. The only film, created by Randolph, that I have seen is Love & Other Drugs – not that original romantic comedy. McKay has also mainly worked in the comedy business alongside Will Ferrell. And although I am not the biggest fan of comedies, I believe that the comedic background of both of these screenwriters helped them a lot, when tackling such a dry and boring issue as an economic crisis. The way they would explain complicated parts of the film by inserting a funny clip of famous people (Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez, Richard Thaler and Anthony Bourdain) was a very interesting choice, however, it took me out of the film a few times, because the narrative cohesion disappeared. The constant breaking of the 4th wall also did not help the viewer to stay in the film’s world.

The film provided a very sarcastic critique of capitalism. All of the people represented in the movie were quite horrible, even our supposed ‘heroes’ of the story – the crisis was a very hypocritical business and that’s how it was presented in the film. Human vices like greediness and just a plain old stupidity were also portrayed. I also enjoyed the film’s idea that money never helps people but ruins them: money does not make the world go round, it destroys it. I strongly agree with this statement and was glad to see it depicted on screen. The only minus for me in the narrative was the fact that the film was very US based, while the actual aftermath of the crisis had a global reach. Only in a single scene has a character mentioned that some European countries are also crumbling because of the things that Americans did.

I also enjoyed how the narrative was organized and divided into 3 separate stories, all revolving around and building up to the same event. The event – the actual start of the economic crisis in 2008 – was a very depressing and unpleasant ending to the film and it kinda made me feel sick after watching the movie. So, despite the fact that this picture is really funny, this is not a Friday night type of a chill comedy. The part that angered me the most was the fact that rich people never had to pay as much as poor people. And that’s why we need to come up with a new way to organize economy because capitalism clashes with our human nature. And don’t think that by saying things which are against capitalism, I somehow believe in communism – I have lived in a post-communist society and it is not pretty. Basically,  I think we need a new and completely fresh ideology.

This script was based on the 2010 book of the same name by Michael Lewis. Lots of people’s and companies’ names have been changed in the film, however, all of the characters are still based on real people and the overall film and book are inspired by real events, whose presence is still felt today to some extent.

Directing

At the beginning of the film, I thought that the cinematography and constant shifting of the camera and the focus were a bit amateurish as I am used to smooth panning of the camera. However, as the film went on, I realized that this type of filming was a creative choice. I cannot say that I liked it but I definitely respected this different type of filming.

Editing

Editing is not usually the part of the film, which I discuss, however, The Big Short’s editing was quite important to the overall film. Not only did the creators of this movie used inserts with celebrities, explaining difficult economic terms, they also over-saturated the film with montages of random everyday life clips, media coverage, and music videos. However, the opening montage (history recap) and the quotes, appearing on screen, were both nice finishing touches. The other montages were definitely a lot to take in and a bit crazy to watch but they helped the film to prove its main point. In short, the film was both an example of continuity and discontinuity editing. It had discontinuous inserts in the continuous narrative.

Acting

1st story:

  • Christian Bale as Dr. Michael Burry – a neurologist who has become the manager of the hedge fund Scion Capital. Bale hs always been an amazing actor, starring both in the mainstream films like The Dark Knight trilogy as well as awards contenders, like American Hustle. I also liked him in Exodus, despite the whole whitewashing scandal, but my favorite movie of his is Nolan’s The Prestige. He was also really good in the role of Burry – I liked his confident personality and over-the-top work aesthetic. Bale has a few movies coming out this year and he will also voice one of the characters in Serkis’s Jungle Book: Origins coming out in 2017.

2nd story:

  • Steve Carell as Mark Baum – a manager of Wall Street hedge fund FrontPoint Capital. Carell was also really great in the role, he was probably the nicest character in the whole film, because he actually felt bad for other people. The first time that I’ve seen Carell in a film was back in 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine. He has also starred in one of my favorite comedies Crazy, Stupid, Love alongside his The Big Short co-star Ryan Gosling. Carell has had a few good years regarding the awards season – he was nominated for Foxcatcher last year – and this streak might continue, because he is starring in a Woody Allen’s film this year and Allen’s films tend to get recognition from the academy. 
  • Ryan Gosling as Jared Vennett – a self-interested salesman at Deutsche Bank and the narrator of the film. Also, the most charming character of the film – Gosling did an amazing job and should have gotten more recognition for this role. I have recently watched a different film, starring Gosling, called Drive (my dad actually recommend it to me). He was really good in it and delivered a very nuanced performance. The Ides of March is also a great political drama with Gosling in a lead. I am also very interested in Gosling’s next project – La La Land – it’s a musical coming out this summer.

3rd story:

  • John Magaro as Charlie Geller and Finn Wittrock as Jamie Shipley – founders of Brownfield fund. They did a good job in the roles – I really liked the fact that they were new to this game and still were able to figure out the lie. I am not familiar with both of these actors’ work, although, I can tell you that Magaro has been in another awards’ contender Carol and Wittrock has starred in Noah and Unbroken (he will also be in the aforementioned La La Land).
  • Brad Pitt as Ben Rickert – Charlie and Jamie’s trader and mentor. Pitt was also one of the producers of the film and did an amazing job as always. He was one of the most humane characters, since he was an outsider of the system. I have recently seen Pitt in Jolie’s By The Sea. While I was quick to dismiss that film at first, it kinda grew on me, so I definitely recommend it.

All in all, while economics was the most boring subject for me at school and while I always skip economy news on TV or online, I had a great time watching The Big Short – it was a bit random and weird at times, but all the different pieces somehow all worked together. The narrative and the action were amazing. The directing and the editing – cool but not to my taste. The film definitely was a bit depressing, so keep that in mind when going to see it. I do not think that it will win any Academy Awards, but it certainly deserves the nominations it has received.

Rate: 4.25/5

Trailer: The Big Short trailer

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