Armenian Persecution Mounts

The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that shaped our modern world. Erik Sass is covering the events of the war exactly 100 years after they happened. This is the 177th installment in the series.

April 8, 1915: Armenian Persecution Mounts 

Although many historians date the beginning of the Armenian Genocide to April 24, 1915, when 250 prominent Armenians were arrested and later murdered in Constantinople, in fact violent measures were already underway across Anatolia and the Caucasus region in February and March 1915, gathering speed in early April. 

The origin and order of events during this period remain hotly contested to this day, as partisans from both sides still try to shift blame for the horror that followed. Many Turkish historians assert the repressive measures only came in response to an incipient Armenian uprising, and there’s no question some Armenian militants, emboldened by the Russian victory at Sarikamish, were planning a rebellion to help the advancing Christian conquerors. On the other hand, many Armenian and Western historians argue scattered Armenian revolts during this period were themselves a response to the incipient genocide, rather than vice versa. 

Whatever the exact order of events, it’s clear what happened next, as Turkish army units and Kurdish irregulars unleashed a campaign of systematic violence against the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian population. Generally speaking they focused first on Armenian soldiers serving in the Ottoman Army, removing a potential source of armed resistance, before moving on to civilians. The killers were aided by the empire’s huge size and primitive communications, which slowed the spread of news. 

In February War Minister Enver Pasha laid the groundwork for the first step—getting rid of Armenian soldiers in the Ottoman armies—by ordering them to turn in their weapons and report for duty in labor battalions which would supposedly be employed building military roads. This provided an excuse to remove the disarmed soldiers from public view to remote areas, where they were then murdered en masse, usually by shooting. 

However some Armenian soldiers guessed what was coming and fled before they could be killed, sometimes engaging in armed resistance (contributing to the ambiguity about the immediate origins of the genocide). For example, according to the British diplomat Arnold Toynbee, on March 8, 1915, a group of about two dozen Armenian deserters ambushed a battalion of Turkish soldiers, stole their weapons, and then holed up in the ancient Armenian monastery near Zeitun (today Süleymanlı) an Armenian town of about 10,000 inhabitants located in the Taurus Mountains of southern Anatolia (top). 

On April 8, 1915, the Turks destroyed the monastery and began deporting the town’s inhabitantsthe first large scale-deportation to take place. The Turks claimed they were merely responding to the ambush and armed resistance, but Toynbee believed they had been planning crush Zeitun for some time beforehand, citing the movement of irregular units to the vicinity in preparation. 

Meanwhile reports spread of mass arrests targeting Armenian political leaders, while gangs of Turks and Kurds looted the possessions of Armenian civilians, especially in the provinces of Bitlis, Erzurum, and Sivas. To the east, in Van province stories of mass killings with victims in the thousands circulated along with fleeing refugees, while in the south deportations from Zeitun continued into the second half of the month. However all these incidents remained in the realm of rumor until April 24, 1915, when the Armenian genocide began in earnest. 

See the previous installment or all entries.

8 Sequels That Received Oscar Nominations for Best Picture

Jasin Boland, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Jasin Boland, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

It’s rare when a movie sequel manages to stand up to the original entry in a film series. Even rarer? When a sequel is so good that it nabs an Oscars nomination for Best Picture. Here are eight movies that did just that.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

When Mad Max: Fury Road was released in theaters in 2015, no one thought that it would be a critical darling—or an awards contender . But when the Academy Award nominations were announced in 2016, the latest entry in George Miller’s Mad Max franchise earned a whopping 10 nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Fury Road is the fourth installment in the series and was the first to hit theaters in 30 years (since the release of 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome). It’s also the first movie in the franchise to receive any recognition from the Academy.

2. Toy Story 3 (2010)

A still from 'Toy Story 3' (2010)

In 2011, Toy Story 3 was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Animated Feature. Though The King’s Speech ended up taking the night’s top prize, Toy Story 3 (which was named Best Animated Feature) made history that night, as it was the third ever animated movie to score a Best Picture nod; 1991’s Beauty and the Beast and 2009’s Up are the other two films to earn the same accolade.

3. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Although the first two installments in The Lord of the Rings trilogy—2001’s The Fellowship of the Ring and 2002’s The Two Towers—were each nominated for Best Picture, it was the final movie that ended up winning the Academy Award in 2004. In fact, The Return of the King won 11 Oscars that year, sweeping every category in which it was nominated, and tying Ben-Hur and Titanic for the most awards received in one night.

4. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

In 2003, The Two Towers won two of the six Oscars for which it was nominated, for Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects. Rob Marshall’s musical Chicago beat it out for Best Picture.  

5. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in 'The Silence of the Lambs' (1991)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

In 1992, The Silence of the Lambs made a clean sweep of the “Big Five” categories: Best Picture, Best Director for Jonathan Demme, Best Actor for Sir Anthony Hopkins, Best Actress for Jodie Foster, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Ted Tally. Although The Silence of the Lambs isn’t a direct sequel to Michael Mann’s 1986 film Manhunter, it’s based on the sequel novel to author Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon, on which Manhunter was based. It also features the character Hannibal Lecter in a major role, who was played by Brian Cox in Manhunter—before Hopkins made the role his own. Got that?

6. The Godfather: Part III (1990)

Though it’s often considered the far inferior film in The Godfather trilogy, The Godfather: Part III received seven Academy Award nominations in 1991, including Best Picture and Best Director for Francis Ford Coppola. Ultimately, it lost to Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves, making it the only installment in The Godfather Saga not to win a Best Picture Oscar.

7. The Godfather: Part II (1974)

Al Pacino in 'The Godfather: Part II' (1974)
Paramount Pictures

In 1975, The Godfather: Part II became the first sequel in Oscar history to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. It won the coveted award two years after the original film was named Best Picture. The sequel was nominated for a total of 11 Oscars, with three separate nominations in the Best Supporting Actor category alone: one for Michael Vincenzo Gazzo (who played Frankie Pentangeli) and Lee Strasberg (as Hyman Roth), and one for Robert De Niro, who took home the statuette for playing the younger version of Vito Corleone.

8. The Bells of St. Mary's (1945)

Though it lost Best Picture to Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend at the 1946 Oscars, The Bells of St. Mary’s is the first movie sequel to be nominated for the Academy’s biggest prize. The film is a sequel to Leo McCarey’s previous film, 1944’s Going My Way, which won the Oscar for Best Picture a year earlier. While Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary’s feature different stories and casts, Bing Crosby stars in both movies as Father Chuck O'Malley.

An earlier version of this article ran in 2016.

James Cameron Directed Entourage's Aquaman, But He Could Never Direct the Real One

Tommaso Boddi, Getty Images for AMC
Tommaso Boddi, Getty Images for AMC

Oscar-winning director James Cameron is no stranger to CGI. With movies like Avatar under his belt, you’d expect Cameron to find a particular sort of enjoyment in special effects-heavy movies like James Wan's Aquaman. But Cameron—who directed the fictional version of Aquaman featuring fictional movie star Vinnie Chase in the very real HBO series Entourage—has a little trouble with suspension of disbelief.

In a recent interview with Yahoo!, Cameron said that while he did enjoy Aquaman, he would never have been able to direct the movie itself because of its lack of realism.

"I think it’s great fun,” Cameron said. “I never could have made that film, because it requires this kind of total dreamlike disconnection from any sense of physics or reality. People just kind of zoom around underwater, because they propel themselves mentally, I guess, I don’t know. But it’s cool! You buy it on its own terms.”

"I’ve spent thousands of hours underwater," the Titanic director went on to say. "While I can enjoy that film, I don’t resonate with it because it doesn’t look real.”

While Aquaman was shot on a soundstage, Cameron will be employing state-of-the-art technology that will allow him to actually be underwater while shooting underwater scenes for his upcoming Avatar sequels.

[h/t Yahoo!]