Spain’s film queen Penelope Cruz wins best actress in Venice

Spanish actress Penelope Cruz acknowledges receiving the Coppa Volpi for Best Actress in “Madres Paralelas” (Parallel Mothers) during the closing ceremony of the 78th Venice Film Festival on Saturday. (AFP)
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Updated 12 September 2021

Spain’s film queen Penelope Cruz wins best actress in Venice

  • Penelope Cruz won for her starring role in "Parallel Mothers"
  • She described Spanish director Pedro Almodovar as "my safety net"

VENICE: Penelope Cruz took home the best actress award at the Venice Film Festival, the latest success for the all-conquering queen of Spanish cinema.
Cruz won for her starring role in “Parallel Mothers,” her latest collaboration with legendary Spanish director Pedro Almodovar.
It was a surprisingly political turn for the flamboyant filmmaker, exploring the trauma of the 1930s Spanish civil war alongside the tale of two mothers sharing a maternity ward.
It marks a departure into dark historical territory for the director, while still focusing on the themes of motherhood and female relationships that have been central to many of his films.
Cruz described Almodovar as “my safety net” in a press conference ahead of their red carpet appearance in Venice.
“He can ask me to do something that can really scare me but I know he will be there waiting to sustain me,” she said, adding that she was grateful to the director for giving her “so many different, challenging characters.”
Cruz has appeared in seven of Almodovar’s movies, including “All About My Mother” and “Volver.”
She had a busy fortnight in Venice, also starring in the well-received “Official Competition,” a comedy about ego-maniacs in the film business that saw her in a rare appearance alongside her Spanish megastar Antonio Banderas.
Born in Madrid in 1974, she appeared destined for a career in the entertainment, initially studying ballet at Spain’s National Conservatory before winning an acting competition that led to roles on TV and in music videos.
Her break into film came in Spanish director Bigas Luna’s “Jamon, Jamon” in 1992, which received critical acclaim and was notable for its erotic scenes featuring a 16-year-old Cruz and Javier Bardem, who would much later become her husband.
That was followed soon afterwards by “Belle Epoque,” which won the Oscar for best foreign film, and featured Cruz as one of four sisters vying for the love of an army deserter.
The next milestone came in 1997, when she was cast in her first film by Pedro Almodovar.
“Live Flesh” marked the beginning of a decade-long collaboration between Almodovar and the actress which has included roles in another foreign language Oscar-winner, 1999’s “All About My Mother.”
Cruz struggled to establish herself in mainstream Hollywood.
She achieved a rare but unwanted feat in 2001 when she received three nominations in the “Golden Raspberries” Oscars spoof for “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin,” “Blow” and “Vanilla Sky.”
The latter cast her alongside Tom Cruise, whom she ended up dating for three years.
Other flops followed including “Gothika” and “Sahara.”
But she bounced back, picking up an Oscar nomination for the 2006 Almodovar film “Volver.”
And she made history by becoming the first Spanish actress to win an Oscar in 2009 for her part in the Woody Allen comedy “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”
She was again paired with Bardem in that film, triggering a romance that led to their marriage in 2010.
The fiercely independent Cruz is also wary of being type-cast simply for her striking physical beauty.
“The most difficult thing in the world is to start a career known only for your looks, and then to try to become a serious actress,” she has said.
“No one will take you seriously once you are known as the pretty woman.”


Emmys 2021: Television’s best bring glamor to Emmys red carpet

Evan Peters, left, and Julianne Nicholson pose for a photo with the awards for outstanding supporting actor and actress in a limited or anthology series or movie for "Mare of Easttown" on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021 in Los Angeles. (AP)
Updated 20 September 2021

Emmys 2021: Television’s best bring glamor to Emmys red carpet

  • “The Crown” looked set for its first best drama series Emmy after a season that focused on the unhappy marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana

LOS ANGELES: TV comedy “Ted Lasso” and the drama “The Crown” clinched multiple Emmy Awards on Sunday for the heart-warming tale of a struggling English soccer team and the lavish saga of the British royal family.
Jason Sudeikis, the star and co-creator of “Ted Lasso,” was named best comedy actor and the show also brought statuettes for Britons Hannah Waddingham and Brett Goldstein for their supporting roles as the club owner and aging star player.
“This show is about family. This show’s about mentors and teachers and this show’s about teammates. And I wouldn’t be here without those three things in my life,” Sudeikis said on accepting the award.

In this video grab issued Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, by the Television Academy, Kate Winslet accepts the award for outstanding lead actress in a limited or anthology series or movie for "Mare of Easttown" during the Primetime Emmy Awards. (AP)

But it wasn’t all plain sailing. “Ted Lasso” lost the comedy writing and directing awards to “Hacks,” about a fading stand-up female comedian played by Jean Smart, who got a standing ovation when she was named best comedy actress.
The early wins poised “Ted Lasso” to take one of the top prizes — best comedy series — at the end of the ceremony after winning over audiences with its optimism and folksy humor during the dark days of the coronavirus pandemic.

John Oliver poses for a photo with the awards for outstanding writing for a variety series and outstanding variety talk series for "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, at L.A. Live in Los Angeles. (AP)

“The Crown” also looked set for its first best drama series Emmy after a season that focused on the unhappy marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. “The Crown” brought wins for supporting actors Gillian Anderson (as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher) and Tobias Menzies (the late Prince Philip), as well as for writing and directing.
“We’re all thrilled. I am very proud. I’m very grateful. We’re going to party,” said Peter Morgan, creator of “The Crown,” at a gathering in London for the cast and crew.
A best drama series win for “The Crown” would mark a milestone for Netflix, while Apple TV+ would enter streaming’s big league with a comedy series win for “Ted Lasso.”
Emmys host Cedric the Entertainer got Sunday’s ceremony off to a rousing start with a musical rap, helped by the likes of Billy Porter, LL Cool J and Billy Porter on the theme of “TV — you got what I need.”

Brett Goldstein, left, and Hannah Waddingham, winners of the awards for outstanding supporting actor and actress in a comedy series for "Ted Lasso" pose at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, at L.A. Live in Los Angeles. (AP)

Concerns over the Delta variant of the coronavirus forced Sunday’s ceremony to move to an outdoor tent in downtown Los Angeles, with a reduced guest list and mandatory vaccinations and testing.
But the Los Angeles red carpet looked much like pre-pandemic days, with stars posing maskless in plunging gowns and bold colors.
In the closely contested limited series category, Julianne Nicholson and Evan Peters won for supporting roles as a housewife and detective in “Mare of Easttown” about a murder in a small Philadelphia town.
“Mare of Easttown” is also nominated for best limited series in a closely contested category that includes harrowing British rape drama “I May Destroy You,” innovative superhero dramedy “WandaVision,” and chess drama “The Queen’s Gambit.”

Gillian Anderson poses with her Emmy award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, backstage at the Netflix UK Primetime Emmy for "The Crown", in London, Britain, September 20, 2021. (REUTERS)

The popular and satirical “Saturday Night Live” won for best variety sketch series
One of television’s most popular shows — 1990s comedy “Friends” — could make an Emmys comeback. The “Friends” reunion special that saw the six main actors reminisce earlier this year about their days playing 20Something New Yorkers is competing against the filmed version of Broadway musical “Hamilton” for best variety special.
******************************************

The Latest on The Emmy Awards in Los Angeles (all times local):
6:50 p.m.
Ted Lasso has roped himself an Emmy.
Jason Sudeikis, who plays the title character in the Apple TV+ show about a happy-go-lucky American football coach hired to head a British soccer team, won the Emmy Award for best actor in a comedy series on Sunday night.
It’s the first career acting Emmy for Sudeikis, and the third Emmy of the night for “Ted Lasso.”
The former “Saturday Night Live” actor tried to thank that show’s mastermind Lorne Michaels, but found he was missing from his seat.
“I want to thank Lorne, who went to go take a dump, now, perfect.” Sudeikis joked.
___
MORE ON THE EMMYS:
— MJ Rodriguez wore teal, Billy Porter winged black at Emmys
— List of Emmy winners includes ‘Ted Lasso,’ ‘Mare of Easttown’ actors
— Emmys vow a ‘good time’ after bleak year; ‘Crown’ may rule
See AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/emmy-awards
___
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
6:40 p.m.
Jean Smart has an Emmy to mark a remarkable career renaissance.
Smart won best actress in a comedy series Sunday night for her role in HBO Max’s “Hacks.”
It’s her fourth career Emmy and her first in 12 years. She got a standing ovation from the Emmy audience.
She teared up as she thanked her husband of more than 30 years, actor Richard Gilliland, who died six months ago yesterday.
“I would not be here without him, and without his kind of putting his career on the back burner so that I could take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities that I’ve had,” Smart said.
The 70-year-old actor, previously best known for her role on “Designing Women,” has been a staple of elite TV the past few years, with nominated roles on “Fargo,” “Watchmen” and “Mare of Easttown.”
___
6:15 p.m.
Last week, tonight, or for half-a-dozen years, John Oliver can’t stop winning Emmys.
“Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” won the Emmy Award for best variety talk series for the sixth straight year on Sunday night.
It was the second award the show won Sunday. It also won for best writing.
From the stage, Oliver praised fellow nominee Conan O’Brien, whose show recently ended its late-night run on TBS.
“Like many of us in this room, I was kind of rooting for ‘Conan,’ so this is bittersweet. Thank you so much, Conan, for inspiring 30 years of comedy writers,” Oliver said.
He also paid tribute to comic Norm Macdonald, who died on Tuesday.
Oliver said “no one was funnier in the last 20 years than Norm Macdonald on late-night comedy, so if you have any time in the next week, just do what I did and just spend time YouTubing clips of Norm and Conan, because it just doesn’t get better than that.” ___
5: 55 p.m.
The Emmy for best supporting actor in a drama series goes to Tobias Menzies for “The Crown.”
Menzies won for playing Prince Phillip opposite Olivia Colman’s Queen Elizabeth in the fourth season of the Netflix series, which has already taken four Emmys on Sunday night.
Menzies, a 47-year-old London-born actor, is also known for his roles on “Outlander” and “Game of Thrones.”
He beat out fellow nominees Giancarlo Esposito, O-T Fagbenle, John Lithgow, Max Minghella, Chris Sullivan, Bradley Whitford and Michael K. Williams.
___
5: 50 p.m.
Gillian Anderson has turned the Iron Lady into Emmy gold.
Anderson won best supporting actress in a drama series on Sunday night for playing British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in the fourth season of “The Crown.”
It was already the third Emmy of the night for the Netflix show, whose winners are accepting their awards at a viewing party in London.
And it was the second career Emmy for Anderson, who won her first 24 years ago for “The X-Files.”
She beat out her “The Crown” castmates Helena Bonham Carter and Emerald Fennell, along with Madeline Brewer, Ann Dowd, Aunjanue Ellis, Yvonne Strahovski and Samira Wiley.
___
5:30 p.m.
The sidekick and best friend of Easttown have each won an Emmy.
Evan Peters won best supporting actor in a limited series or TV movie for HBO’s “Mare of Easttown” on Sunday night, and Julianne Nicholson won best supporting actress for the show.
Nicholson won for playing the best friend of Kate Winslet’s title character, a Pennsylvania detective trying to solve a murder amid struggles with family and friends.
Peters won for playing Winslet’s partner.
Both praised the show’s star from the stage.
“Man, you’re good at acting,” Nicholson said to Winslet.
It was the first Emmy, and first nomination, for both Peters and Nicholson.
___
5:20 p.m.
Brett Goldstein topped his teammates at the Emmys.
Goldstein won best supporting actor in a comedy series for his role in “Ted Lasso,” which had four nominees in the category.
“This cast made me sick they’re so good,” Goldstein said.
With his win, “Ted Lasso” took the first two Emmys of the night, with Hannah Waddingham taking best supporting actress in a comedy.
It’s the first Emmy for Goldstein, and comes for his first nomination.
He beat out castmates Brendan Hunt, Nick Mohammed and Jeremy Swift along with Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Bowen Yang, Kenan Thompson and Paul Reiser.
___
5:15 p.m.
Hannah Waddingham, and “Ted Lasso,” have won the first Emmy of the night.
Waddingham won best supporting actress in a comedy series Sunday for the Apple TV+ series, which could be in for a big night.
Waddingham screamed with delight when she reached the stage.
“Jason, you’ve changed my life with this,” she said to the show’s star and co-creator Jason Sudeikis.
Waddingham plays the owner of an English soccer team who hires the American title character to run it into the ground on “Ted Lasso.”
She beat her castmate Juno Temple, along with Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant, Hannah Einbinder and Rosie Perez.
___
5: 10 p.m.
Host Cedric the Entertainer, LL Cool J, and a bunch of audience members opened the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards with a hip-hop tribute to television.
Cedric introduced the CBS telecast Sunday night by saying it would be anything but subdued, and began a rollicking declaration of his love for TV to the tune of Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend.”
“TV, you got what I need, would you say he’s just a friend,” the host sang.
The show looks a lot more like a traditional awards ceremony than last year’s audience-free “Pandemmies,” but is still seriously scaled back, held in a tent in downtown Los Angeles.
The night’s favorites include Netflix’s drama “The Crown” and Apple TV+ comedy “Ted Lasso.”
___
1 p.m.
Emmy Awards host Cedric the Entertainer and the show’s producers promise it will be a celebration for all. But it could be much more rewarding, even historic, for some.
That includes Netflix’s drama “The Crown” and Apple TV+ comedy “Ted Lasso.” Each is considered a frontrunner Sunday for top series honors in their respective categories, and their casts received armloads of nominations.
More than the shows would benefit. Victories in both the best drama and comedy series categories would mark a first for streaming services and reinforce their growing dominance, to the dismay of competitors.

 

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What We Are Playing Today: Educational card game Hawajeer

Updated 17 September 2021

What We Are Playing Today: Educational card game Hawajeer

If you enjoy clever and fun ways of learning about history and ancient cultures, check out Hawajeer, an educational card game that aims to teach people about the Thamodic alphabet used by residents of the Arabian Peninsula in ancient times.
It was created by Saudi graphic designer Rand Al-Dawood as her final graduation project at Princess Nourah bint Abdul Rahman University in Riyadh.
Inspired by the ancient symbols and script used by Thamodic tribes, examples of which can be found carved on rocks in the mountains of AlUla, Hawajeer includes 24 interactive cards that reveal the Arabic and English translations of the 24 letters of the Thamodic alphabet.
Users simply scan the QR codes on the cards using their smart phones, and augmented-reality technology is used to display the translations and meanings of the ancient symbols on the screen in the form of interactive 3D models.
Hawajeer, which is suitable for users in the 16+ age group, would make a great gift or a souvenir for tourists, and playing with them is sure to be a fun family activity. Visit hawajeer.wixsite.com/hawajeer to find more about the cards.


Malaysia’s top tourist destination reopens despite country’s ongoing COVID-19 crisis

Updated 17 September 2021

Malaysia’s top tourist destination reopens despite country’s ongoing COVID-19 crisis

  • Reopening of Langkawi part of domestic tourism bubble strategy to restore Malaysia’s reeling visitor sector
  • Only fully vaccinated domestic travelers allowed to visit island resort as 30,000 tourists expected in next 2 weeks

KUALA LUMPUR:  The Malaysian holiday resort of Langkawi on Thursday welcomed its first visitors in months as part of a government pilot project to revive the country’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic-ravaged tourism sector.

Langkawi has been reopened as a domestic tourism bubble in the face of Malaysia’s ongoing battle against the virus.

The government strategy is aimed at giving a much-needed shot in the arm to the hospitality and tourism industry — one of the top contributors to the Malaysian economy — after months of local travel curbs and if successful it could lead to other holiday destinations following suit.

Tight restrictions have been put in place and only fully vaccinated domestic tourists will be allowed to visit the island resort off the country’s northwestern coast.

Malaysia has so far recorded more than 2 million COVID-19 cases among its population of 32 million — one the of highest per capita infection rates in Asia — and new daily case figures remain high at around 20,000.

The country’s director general of health, Noor Hisham Abdullah, told Arab News the Langkawi Travel Bubble Task Force had divided the island into three zones to monitor developments. “All preparations have been made and we hope for the best,” he said.

A cabin of a cable car is seen on its way up to Sky Bridge in Langkawi, Malaysia on Sept. 16, 2021, as it reopens to domestic tourists. (REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng)

Local officials said they were ready to receive more than 30,000 tourists in Langkawi over the next two weeks.

Nasaruddin Abdul Muttalib, chief executive officer of the Langkawi Development Authority, said: “We have put in proper procedures so that there is no spread of the virus.

“Passengers will be screened at entry points. If they show any symptoms, they must isolate, and necessary steps will be taken. We have thought of all the scenarios.”

Authorities are banking on the full cooperation of visitors as the project’s success could be key to Malaysia’s return to normal.

Tourism Langkawi chairman, Pishol Ishak, said: “Everybody has a role to play. If everybody works together hand-in-hand, this measure will be very successful and can be replicated in other parts of Malaysia.”

For Langkawi business owners and travelers flying to the resort, famed for its white sandy beaches, the reopening represents a big first step toward a return to normality.

Sheba Gumis, a 33-year-old tourist from Kuala Lumpur, told Arab News: “We have been cooped up in Kuala Lumpur for over a year now. Life was put on hold for so long. The virus will continue to live with us.”

Ahmad Firdaus, a car rental company owner in Langkawi, said it was high time tourism reopened for the sake of the industry’s survival.

“We have to go on doing businesses in this new norm. We need tourist spots to be open to gain income. Even if the situation is bad, we must learn to live with it,” he added.

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What We Are Reading Today: Inside the Critics’ Circle by Philippa K. Chong

Updated 16 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Inside the Critics’ Circle by Philippa K. Chong

Taking readers behind the scenes in the world of fiction reviewing, Inside the Critics’ Circle explores the ways critics evaluate books despite the inherent subjectivity involved and the uncertainties of reviewing when seemingly anyone can be a reviewer. Drawing on interviews with critics from such venues as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post, Phillipa Chong delves into the complexities of the review-writing process, including the considerations, values, and cultural and personal anxieties that shape what critics do.

Chong explores how critics are paired with review assignments, why they accept these time-consuming projects, how they view their own qualifications for reviewing certain books, and the criteria they employ when making literary judgments. She discovers that while their readers are of concern to reviewers, they are especially worried about authors on the receiving end of reviews. As these are most likely peers who will be returning similar favors in the future, critics’ fears and frustrations factor into their willingness or reluctance to write negative reviews.

At a time when traditional review opportunities are dwindling, book reviewing  is being brought into question.


What We Are Reading Today: Becoming George Orwell: Life and Letters, Legend and Legacy

Updated 16 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Becoming George Orwell: Life and Letters, Legend and Legacy

Author: John Rodden

Is George Orwell the most influential writer who ever lived? Yes, according to John Rodden’s provocative book about the transformation of a man into a myth. Rodden does not argue that Orwell was the most distinguished man of letters of the last century, nor even the leading novelist of his generation, let alone the greatest imaginative writer of English prose fiction. Yet his influence since his death at midcentury is incomparable. No other writer has aroused so much controversy or contributed so many incessantly quoted words and phrases to our cultural lexicon, from “Big Brother” and “doublethink” to “thoughtcrime” and “Newspeak.” Becoming George Orwell is a pathbreaking tour de force that charts the astonishing passage of a litterateur into a legend.
Rodden presents the author of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four in a new light, exploring how the man and writer Orwell, born Eric Arthur Blair, came to be overshadowed by the spectral figure associated with nightmare visions of our possible futures.
Rodden opens with a discussion of the life and letters, chronicling Orwell’s eccentricities and emotional struggles, followed by an assessment of his chief literary achievements. The second half of the book examines the legend and legacy of Orwell, whom Rodden calls “England’s Prose Laureate,” looking at everything from cyberwarfare to “fake news.” The closing chapters address both Orwell’s enduring relevance to burning contemporary issues and the multiple ironies of his popular reputation, showing how he and his work have become confused with the very dreads and diseases that he fought against throughout his life.