Lionel Richie to receive Gershwin Prize for pop music

The Library of Congress said Thursday that Lionel Richie will receive the national library’s Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. He will be bestowed the prize at an all-star tribute in Washington, D.C., on March 9. (AP)
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Updated 14 January 2022

Lionel Richie to receive Gershwin Prize for pop music

  • The Library of Congress said Thursday that Richie will receive the national library's Gershwin Prize for Popular Song
  • “This is truly an honor of a lifetime, and I am so grateful,” Richie said

LOS ANGELES: Lionel Richie will be honored all night long for his musical achievements.
The Library of Congress said Thursday that Richie will receive the national library’s Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. He will be bestowed the prize at an all-star tribute in Washington, D.C., on March 9.
PBS stations will broadcast the concert on May 17.
“This is truly an honor of a lifetime, and I am so grateful to be receiving the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song,” Richie said in a statement. “I am proud to be joining all the other previous artists, who I also admire and am a fan of their music.”
Past recipients include Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Smokey Robinson, Tony Bennett, Emilio and Gloria Estefan and Garth Brooks.
Richie is known for his catalog of hits including “All Night Long,” “Endless Love,” “Lady,” “Penny Lover,” “Truly” and “Stuck on You.” He co-wrote the historically popular song “We Are the World” with Michael Jackson.
Before his superstar solo career, Richie was a founding member of the Commodores, a funk and soul band that made waves in the 1970s. The group had tremendous success backed by chart-climbing hits such as “Three Times a Lady,” “Still” and “Easy.”
The singer has won four Grammys, an Oscar and the distinction of MusicCares Person of the Year in 2016. He was a Kennedy Center honoree in 2017.
Richie mentored aspiring music artists as a judge on ABC’s “American Idol” for the past four seasons. He expects to return for the show’s 20th season.
Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress, said Richie has been an inspiring entertainer who helped “strengthen our global connections.”
“Lionel Richie’s unforgettable work has shown us that music can bring us together,” Hayden said. “Even when we face problems and disagree on issues, songs can show us what we have in common.”

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Gaza TV studio produces Hamas response to Israeli hit shows

Updated 17 January 2022

Gaza TV studio produces Hamas response to Israeli hit shows

  • “We want to flip the equation, to show the Palestinian point of view," says Gaza director Mohammed Soraya

GAZA CITY: In a Gaza TV studio of the ruling Islamist armed movement Hamas, a set features Israeli flags, Hebrew documents and a portrait of Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism.
The make-believe office of enemy state Israel’s security service is being used to shoot a “pro-resistance” television series on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It is Hamas’s answer to Israeli hit shows such as the special forces drama “Fauda” that have gained millions of viewers on platforms such as Netflix, HBO and Apple TV+.
“Fauda,” which in Arabic means chaos, portrays a military unit led by commander Doron Kavillio that launches raids inside Palestinian territories.

A portrait of the founder of of modern political Zionism Theodor Hertzl hangs on the set as Palestinian actors and crew shoot a scene of "Qabdat al-Ahrar" in Gaza city on Jan. 10, 2022. (Photo by Mahmud Hams / AFP)

Admitting to having watched “Fauda,” though, is not a good idea in Gaza, the Palestinian coastal enclave blockaded by Israel, said local director Mohammed Soraya.
To watch any Israeli TV series means supporting the “normalization” of relations with the Jewish state, argued Soraya, who is directing Hamas’s own TV series on the conflict.
He charged that such shows “support the Zionist occupation” because their plots “criminalize the Palestinian people,” speaking with AFP in the Gaza City studio.
“We want to flip the equation, to show the Palestinian point of view, to broadcast a drama about the spirit of our resistance.”
Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union. The Islamist group controls the Gaza Strip, an impoverished territory of 2.3 million people.
It also runs the Al-Aqsa channel, and has been investing in series inspired by Hollywood, and by Turkish soap operas that are popular across the Middle East.
The series now in production, “Qabdat Al-Ahrar” (Fist of the Free), revisits a 2018 Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip that resulted in the deaths of seven Hamas fighters and an Israeli officer.
The protagonists are the fighters of Hamas, which has fought four wars against the Jewish state since 2008.

Unlike Israeli series that often feature actors from the country’s Arab-Israeli minority, productions in Gaza do not use any Israeli actors. (Photo by Mahmud Hams / AFP)

Budgets are meagre, actors’ salaries are low, sets are basic and deadlines are tight, with the production team expected to deliver some 30 episodes by April, in time for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
While Israeli series often feature actors from the country’s Arab-Israeli minority, productions in Gaza do not use any Israeli actors.
This forces studios to recruit local actors to play Israelis — a job that, the performers say, can expose them to real-world hostility and danger.
One of them is Jawad Harouda, aged in his early sixties and with a husky voice, who portrays the head of Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security service in the new TV series.
To get into character, Harouda said he “soaked up the script,” but added that being too convincing can lead to trouble.
“Some women look at me and pray that I die,” he said, leaning back in his boss’s chair in the fake Shin Bet office.
“I’m happy when people insult me. It means I’ve succeeded ... The actor is a chameleon, he must be able to act out all colors.”
In Gaza productions, Israeli characters speak in Arabic. And, at the request of the Hamas mufti, or Islamic jurist, women wear their headscarves even if they play Jewish characters.

Palestinian women actors have to wear the hijab even if they are playing the part of Israeli women in the film. (Photo by Mahmud Hams / AFP)


“In one series, I played a Jewish woman,” said one actress, Kamila Fadel, who added that she may have been just a little too convincing for her own good.

“After the series was broadcast, a woman tried to strangle me,” she recounted.
“She told me: ‘I hate you, you are hurting us so much’. On another day a 13-year-old boy threw a stone at my head thinking I was Jewish... This means I played my part well.”
Not everyone is a fan of the Hamas productions, which are firmly focused on the conflict.
“There is no love” in the dramas, argued Palestinian director and critic Jamal Abu Alqumsan, who expressed regret that the rare local productions served primarily as a “tool of resistance.”
Abu Alqumsan said the potential for such productions to tell Palestinians’ stories was huge, but the challenges were many.
“In Gaza, we live under a blockade, it’s a unique situation in the world,” he said, speaking in his art gallery, which he hopes to turn into a small film library.
“So we need producers to invest in quality series and tell the rest of the world our story. We have good actors, they just need good directors and means.”
For now, Abu Alqumsan said he was unsure of the impact such shows would have.
“TV dramas are a weapon, but in the face of Israel, local productions are of a low level,” he said.


Italian fashion pioneer Nino Cerruti dies

Updated 15 January 2022

Italian fashion pioneer Nino Cerruti dies

  • Cerruti, who dressed many a Hollywood star in his heyday, introduced “casual chic” into men’s fashion when he created the first deconstructed jacket in the 1970s
  • He was one of the leading figures in men’s ready-to-wear fashion in the 20th century

ROME: Pioneering Italian fashion designer Nino Cerruti has died at the age of 91, it was on reported Saturday.
Cerruti, who dressed many a Hollywood star in his heyday, introduced “casual chic” into men’s fashion when he created the first deconstructed jacket in the 1970s.
He died at the Vercelli hospital in the northwest region of Piedmont, where he had been admitted for a hip operation, the Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported on its website.
Cerruti was one of the leading figures in men’s ready-to-wear fashion in the 20th century, with a style that was at once elegant and relaxed.
“A giant among Italian entrepreneurs has left us,” said Gilberto Pichetto, deputy minister for economic development.
Tall and slim, he always insisted he be the first to try on his creations, many of which were kept at the textile factory his grandfather founded in the northern town of Biella in 1881.
“I have always dressed the same person, myself,” he once said.
Born in 1930 in Biella, Cerruti dreamt of becoming a journalist.
But after his father died when he was 20, he was forced to give up his philosophy studies to take over the family textile factory.
In the 1960s, he met Giorgio Armani and hired him as a creator of men’s fashion.
The duo made a profound mark on the world of fashion, before Armani branched out on his own with his own fashion house in 1975.
Cerruti opened his first shop in Paris in 1967, launching his luxury brand into global fame.
“Clothes only exist from the moment someone puts them on. I would like these clothes to continue to live, to soak up life,” he said.
While French students protested in 1968, he revolutionized fashion by asking male and female models to walk down the catwalk in the same clothes.
“Trousers have given women freedom,” said the designer, who in the 1970s created his first line of women’s clothing.
The man nicknamed the “philosopher of clothing” dressed American actors Richard Gere and Robert Redford as well as French star Jean-Paul Belmondo.
He also made cameo appearances in Hollywood films “Cannes Man” (1996) and “Holy Man” (1998).

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This year’s Oscars show will go on, with a host

Updated 11 January 2022

This year’s Oscars show will go on, with a host

  • Walt Disney Co’s ABC said plans remain in place to hold the Oscars on March 27 in Los Angeles
  • This year’s ceremony will have a host, ABC Entertainment President Craig Erwich said at a Television Critics Association event

LOS ANGELES: The Academy Awards will have a host for the first time since 2018 and return to their longtime home at the Dolby Theatre, broadcaster ABC said on Tuesday.
While other awards shows have been postponed because of a surge in COVID-19 cases, Walt Disney Co’s ABC said plans remain in place to hold the Oscars, the highest film honors, on March 27 in Los Angeles.
This year’s ceremony will have a host, ABC Entertainment President Craig Erwich said at a Television Critics Association event. He provided no details. “It might be me,” he joked.
The Oscars were handed out by celebrity presenters but had no host in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Ratings for the telecast have fallen in recent years, dropping to a record low of 10.4 million people in the United States in 2021. Viewership of other awards shows also has declined.
Fans of British actor Tom Holland have suggested he should host this year’s Oscars after the smash success of his movie “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” possibly with his co-star Zendaya.
Holland told The Hollywood Reporter in December that he would “love” to host the awards. “If they ask me to, I would, and it would be very fun,” he said.
Previous hosts have included late-night host Jimmy Kimmel and comedians Chris Rock and Ellen DeGeneres.
ABC said in a statement that the 2022 Oscars will take place again at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
Last year, the awards moved to the historic Union Station train station in downtown Los Angeles with a small crowd of nominees and guests to protect against COVID.
Nominations for the Oscars will be announced on Feb. 8.

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Women’s periods may be slightly late after Covid vaccine: study

Updated 07 January 2022

Women’s periods may be slightly late after Covid vaccine: study

  • The slight increase in menstrual cycle length is not clinically significant

WASHINGTON: Women vaccinated against Covid-19 saw a slight delay in their period of almost a day compared to those who were unvaccinated, a US government-funded study said Thursday.
But the number of days of bleeding was not affected, according to the research carried out on nearly 4,000 individuals and published in “Obstetrics & Gynecology.”
Lead author Alison Edelman of the Oregon Health & Science University told AFP the effects are small and expected to be temporary, a finding that is “very reassuring” as well as validating for those who experienced changes.
The study can also help counter anti-vaccine misinformation on the topic, which is rampant on social media.
The slight increase in menstrual cycle length is not clinically significant. Any change of fewer than eight days is classified as normal by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics.
Period cycles generally last about 28 days, but the precise amount varies from one woman to another, as well as within an individual’s lifetime. It can also change during times of stress.
For their study, the scientists analyzed anonymized data from a fertility tracking app, among women aged 18 to 45 who were not using hormonal contraception.
Some 2,400 participants were vaccinated — the majority with Pfizer (55 percent), followed by Moderna (35 percent) and Johnson & Johnson (seven percent).
About 1,500 unvaccinated women were also included as a comparison.
Among the vaccinated group, data was collected from three consecutive cycles before vaccination and from three more consecutive cycles, including the cycle or cycles in which vaccination took place.
For unvaccinated individuals, data was collected for six consecutive cycles.
On average, the first vaccine dose was associated with a 0.64-day increase in cycle length and the second dose with a 0.79-day increase, when comparing the vaccinated to unvaccinated group.
The immune system’s response to the vaccine could be behind the change.
“We know that the immune system and the reproductive system are interlinked,” said Edelman.
A revved-up immune system might have an impact on the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis — what Edelman calls the “highway of how your brain talks to your ovaries, talks to your uterus,” or simply the “body clock.”
Specifically, the production of inflammatory proteins called cytokines appears to disrupt the way this axis regulates the timing of menstrual cycles.
The changes seem most pronounced when vaccination takes place early in the follicular phase, which starts on the first day of the menstrual period (bleeding) and ends when ovulation begins.
In fact, a subgroup of people who received two injections of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines during the same cycle, as opposed to two different cycles, saw an average increase in cycle length of two days — but the effect again appears temporary.
The team now hopes to gather more data on subsequent cycles among vaccinated women to confirm a long-term return to baseline, and expand the study globally so they can differentiate the effects between vaccine brands.


Grammys postpone ceremony, citing omicron variant risks

Updated 06 January 2022

Grammys postpone ceremony, citing omicron variant risks

  • The attempt at a back-to-normal show had been scheduled for Jan. 31st at the newly renamed Crypto.com Arena
  • Last year, like most major awards shows in early 2021, the Grammys were postponed due to coronavirus concerns

LOS ANGELES: The Grammy Awards were postponed Wednesday weeks before the planned Los Angeles ceremony over what organizers called “too many risks” from the omicron variant.
This came as a signal of what could be the start of another year of pandemic upheaval for awards season.
The attempt at a back-to-normal show had been scheduled for Jan. 31st at the newly renamed Crypto.com Arena with a live audience and performances, but no new date is on the books. The Recording Academy said it made the decision to postpone the ceremony “after careful consideration and analysis with city and state officials, health and safety experts, the artist community and our many partners.
“Given the uncertainty surrounding the omicron variant, holding the show on January 31st simply contains too many risks,” the academy said in a statement.
Last year, like most major awards shows in early 2021, the Grammys were postponed due to coronavirus concerns. The show was moved from late January to mid-March and held with a spare audience made up of mostly nominees and their guests in and around the Los Angeles Convention Center, next door to its usual home, the arena then known as Staples Center.
It was a big night for Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, but the live performances that set the Grammys apart from other awards shows were set separately with no significant crowds, many of them pre-taped.
“We look forward to celebrating Music’s Biggest Night on a future date, which will be announced soon,” the academy statement said.
Finding that date could be complicated, with two professional basketball teams and a hockey team occupying the arena. The Recording Academy made no mention of a possible venue change in its statement.
The move was announced around the same time the Sundance Film Festival canceled its in-person programming set to begin on Jan. 20 and shifted to an online format.
The multitalented Jon Batiste is the leading nominee for this year’s honors, grabbing 11 nods in a variety of genres including R&B, jazz, American roots music, classical and music video.
Justin Bieber, Doja Cat and H.E.R. are tied for the second-most nominations with eight apiece.
The Grammys’ move could be the beginning of another round of award-show rescheduling after another winter coronavirus surge, with the Screen Actors Guild Awards planned for February and the Academy Awards for March.