‘Goodfellas’ actor Ray Liotta dead

Actor Ray Liotta attends the ‘No Sudden Move’ premiere during the 20th Tribeca Festival in New York on June 18, 2021. (AP Photo)
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Updated 26 May 2022

‘Goodfellas’ actor Ray Liotta dead

  • Ray Liotta’s publicist in Los Angeles confirmed his death, saying the actor died in his sleep and that there were no suspicious circumstances
  • Liotta, whose turn as mobster Henry Hill in Scorsese’s crime masterpiece, ‘Goodfellas,’ won universal admiration, was shooting a film in the Dominican Republic when he died

LOS ANGELES: Actor Ray Liotta, who starred in Martin Scorsese’s gangster classic “Goodfellas,” has died in the Dominican Republic, the country’s cinema authority said Thursday. He was 67.
Liotta, whose blistering turn as real-life mobster Henry Hill in Scorsese’s crime masterpiece won universal admiration, was shooting a new film in the country when he died, a spokeswoman for the Dominican Republic’s General Direction of Cinema said.
“We understand that he was accompanied by his (fiancee) and that the (fiancee) asks that you please respect her grief,” the spokeswoman told AFP.
Liotta’s publicist in Los Angeles confirmed his death, saying the actor died in his sleep and that there were no suspicious circumstances.
He was working on a movie called “Dangerous Waters” at the time of his death.
Liotta’s breakout came in 1990 when he was cast alongside Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in what is widely considered one of the greatest films of the 20th century.
“Goodfellas” won one Oscar, and was nominated for five others, and scenes from the movie continue to resonate as cultural touchstones more than three decades later.
A year before “Goodfellas,” Liotta had played baseball star “Shoeless Joe” Jackson in beloved sports movie “Field of Dreams,” opposite Kevin Costner.
The film was nominated for three Oscars, including best picture.
Tributes began to be paid soon after news of Liotta’s death broke, with “Goodfellas” co-star Lorraine Bracco, who played his on-screen wife, Karen, saying she was “utterly shattered to hear this terrible news.”
“I can be anywhere in the world & people will come up & tell me their favorite movie is Goodfellas,” she tweeted.
“Then they always ask what was the best part of making that movie. My response has always been the same... Ray Liotta.”
Despite branching out to show his breadth as an actor, Liotta had recently returned to the world of mob films, with roles in Steven Soderbergh’s “No Sudden Move” and “The Sopranos” prequel “The Many Saints of Newark.”
Liotta was born in Newark, on the US East Coast, in December 1954.
Variety reported he was left at an orphanage at birth and adopted when he was six months old.
At the University of Miami he performed in musicals, and after graduating landed a role in a soap opera that would provide him with three years’ work to 1981.
His first movie came in 1983, but it wasn’t until 1986’s “Something Wild” opposite Melanie Griffith and Jeff Daniels that he came to wider attention.
The comedy-action-romance was screened at Cannes and scored Liotta a Golden Globe nomination for supporting actor.


What We Are Playing Today: Akfosh

Updated 01 July 2022

What We Are Playing Today: Akfosh

  • This Arabic card game is a great deal of fun to play with a large group

Akfosh is an Arabic game that contains 55 picture cards on various subjects, including Saudi cultural items, well-known locations across the country, and even fruit and vegetables.

The Saudi-specific fashion items include the shemagh (male headdress), burqa, madas (sandal), dallah (coffee pot), finjan (coffee cup), and miswak (twig to clean your teeth). The landmarks include Jeddah’s fountain and the Kingdom Center in Riyadh, while the other cards feature Arab-related icons such as tents and camels.

The game allows between two and eight players to participate. There are different styles of playing, with the most popular having every player with one card face down in front of them, and the rest of the deck placed in the middle. When the game starts, each player flips their card to see it and then tries to grab a matching one from the middle first. The player with the most cards wins.

Akfosh is one of my favorite Arabic card games and is a great deal of fun to play with a large group. It relies on your visual observation, and it gets everyone competitive because it is so fast-paced.

Carrying the small box is quite easy, it fits perfectly in my handbag. I always have my Akfosh cards with me if I know many people will be at a gathering or outing. It is a fun activity that brings people together.

The game suits all ages and can be found across the Kingdom at Virgin megastores, Jarir bookstores, and even through online platforms such as Noon, Lifestyley and Amazon.



Hollywood actors Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas united by humor in ‘Official Competition’

Updated 18 June 2022

Hollywood actors Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas united by humor in ‘Official Competition’

  • Throughout the film, directed by Argentinians Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat, the deadly sin of vanity is experienced with great intensity

MEXICO CITY: What is art? Do awards make you a better artist? Are blockbuster movies only for pseudo-actors? These are some questions unleashed in “Official Competition,” a comedy starring Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas and Oscar Martínez in a battle of egos.
Throughout the film, directed by Argentinians Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat, the deadly sin of vanity is experienced with great intensity. It is felt from the beginning, when an old businessman (José Luis Gómez) seeks to leave his mark on history by financing a film about two brothers fighting to the death directed by a renowned filmmaker — even though he never read the novel in which it is based.
The director is Lola Cuevas (Cruz), a relentless woman with no filter, passionate about film down to the smallest detail, but with a rather unconventional approach.
“She believes that her actors must suffer to get a better result,” Cruz said in a recent interview from New York, where the film was shown at the Tribeca Festival ahead of its theatrical release on Friday in the US.
“She’s a very peculiar character, very quirky, but that’s why she’s so fascinating. When I read it (I said) ‘how wonderful, how lucky to be able to play a person like that, a being with no filters who says everything she feels and thinks and doesn’t care what people think of her’”, the Academy Award-winning actress added.
One of Lola’s first jaw-dropping comments on the film is that “an artist without children has a great advantage, he can create freely, without fear. When there are children, there is panic.”
Cruz, who is a mother of two, disagrees with her character’s statement.
“You can take (motherhood) into your work, for sure it’s a big injection to creativity. Even if you are much more tired all the time, it doesn’t matter, it’s worth it,” said the actor, who recently was recognized with Spain’s 2022 National Film Award for her contributions to the art.
In “Official Competition”, Lola summons two equally recognized but diametrically opposed actors: Iván Torres (Martínez), a very experienced Argentine who has his own school, does theater and hates the deceptive glitter of fame; and Félix Rivero (Banderas), a star of international stature with many awards and blockbuster films, but who tends to be late for rehearsals. The tension is present from the first script reading and increases but, secretly, little by little, Iván and Félix begin to do things that they learn from the other, while trying to demonstrate their superiority.
“They are dangerous animals. They can destroy themselves in order to obtain the predominant position in that production,” said Banderas in a video call from New York.
For the Spanish actor, one of the points of the film is that “you can see how easy it is for people to become what they criticize.” He has avoided falling into the mistakes that Félix makes, despite having a world-renowned career, precisely as a result of meeting actors like his character in real life.
“My career was built little by little,” said Banderas. “I basically started in theater, which is very helpful, because theater confronts you with yourself very strongly every day, you have an audience that responds, or not, to whatever you’re doing, and you start analyzing yourself in a completely different way that cinema actors do. ... I think it’s sometimes very dangerous when you have a very successful career very early.”
In “Official Competition”, Lola acts as a referee, but also as a sparring partner, inciting confrontation between the two actors — if the tension is real, her film will be better, she thinks. One of the tests she puts them through to combat their egos is the destruction of their awards, including her own Palm d’Or and Silver Lion.
“You can take that very seriously, you can just think that is a very real exercise to any human being just to break that kind of attachment that we have to objects, and those objects that they represent things that we obtain in life,” said Banderas.
That was one of Cruz’s favorite scenes, along with another in which the director is alone on the floor talking to herself through a plastic tube, insulting herself.
“I think it’s a very funny and pathetic moment, where you also see the lost girl she has inside,” said Cruz, whose character sports big red, curly hair.
“It was a big statement,” she said of of Lola’s appearance. “She’s not trying to hide herself, she wants people to see her, to look at her. She thinks she always has the most interesting things to say in the room. She is such an egomaniac.”
Coupled with the great personalities of the three main characters, the film, shot in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain, takes place in a cultural complex whose gloomy and modern architecture contrasts with the absurdity of the scenes, but also makes it feel like a conceptual art performance.
“Being in those spaces brings up so many questions about art — What is wrong? What is right?,” said Cruz. “Being in that space is like all that information was floating everywhere in the room”.
The shooting began in early 2020 and was cut short in March by the coronavirus pandemic. They were able to resume it in September of that year.
“The nice thing about this is that I see the movie now and I don’t remember what was shot in March and what was shot in September. I think we recovered the tone that we had when we left the movie ... and luckily we didn’t lose inspiration,” said Banderas.
Playing a director has only fueled a spark that Cruz has since she was 16. The actor directed a documentary, 2016’s “Yo Soy Uno Entre Cien Mil,” as well as two short films for Agent Provocateur, a lingerie brand.
“It is something that I want to do for sure in my life,” Cruz said. “I am preparing a documentary now that is gonna take me a few years, because it’s complicated and requires different treatments, different locations. It’s not an easy subject to approach. I need time to do it right,” she added, without revealing any details.
Although they have known each other for about 30 years and consider themselves friends, “Official Competition” is the first film in which Cruz and Banderas have numerous scenes and dialogues together. Before, they had shared small scenes in Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory” and “I’m So Excited!”
“It was a pleasure and especially in a comedy world, although deep down it is a very thoughtful and complex film,” Banderas said. “Seeing her create a character ... that has nothing to do with her, that is so different from who she is, it was very beautiful.”

Night of Bangladeshi culture attracts 12,000-strong sell-out crowd to Jeddah’s Prince Majed Park

Updated 04 June 2022

Night of Bangladeshi culture attracts 12,000-strong sell-out crowd to Jeddah’s Prince Majed Park

  • The evening, which was part of Jeddah Season 2022, included a DJ set along with a variety of shows, folk dancing, musical performances and other cultural events, attractions and activities

JEDDAH: A night devoted to Bangladeshi culture attracted a sell-out crowd of more than 12,000 people to Jeddah’s Prince Majed Park on Friday, organizers said.

The evening began at 6 p.m. with a 60-minute DJ set and the entertainment continued until 12.15 a.m., featuring a number of shows, folk dancing displays and musical performances. The singers included Saleem and his band, Imran Khan and his band, Ishrat, and Jasmin Putul.

Putul told Arab News she was very grateful to the Saudi government, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for providing this cultural platform for Bangladeshis during Jeddah Season. She thanked the authorities on behalf of all the talents who performed at the event.

Sattam Mannaa, the park’s media coordinator, confirmed that more than 12,000 had turned up to enjoy the Bangladeshi entertainment and cultural events. Some people reportedly were seen queuing outside the park, unable to get in because all the tickets had been handed out.

Visitor Mustafa Khan, a journalist from Pakistan, said the event was very good, adding: “I am very thankful to the Saudi government and authorities for providing us with this opportunity to get together and share cultures and views. We hope such events will continue in the future as well.

“And we really love (the Kingdom) the same as our own country. We love it from the bottom of our hearts. Saudi Arabia is the home of Islam. We love Saudi Arabia and always will.”

Mohammed Firoz, a Bangladeshi journalist, told Arab News that the Saudi government provides great opportunities for people from other countries who live in the Kingdom to showcase their national cultures and traditions.

“Every one today enjoyed Bangladeshi culture,” he said. “These people also enjoyed the (previous) Pakistani, Indian and Indonesian cultural programs. They will also enjoy the forthcoming Philippines cultural events. In fact, these are very successful events.”

Prince Majed Park is one of nine zones hosting events during the 2022 Jeddah Season, and the activities there are aimed at families in particular. The entertainment in the 84,000-square-meter park includes live shows, a special children’s play area, shops, a horror house experience, as well as the weekly nights focusing on the cultures of other nations.

At least 12,000 people visit the park, free of charge, every day, organizers said, but the number has exceeded 20,000 on some weekend days.

Across all its zones, this year’s Jeddah Season has attracted more than two million visitors so far, officials said, including thousands of international tourists.


60s filmstar Claudia Cardinale honored in Tunisian birthplace

Updated 29 May 2022

60s filmstar Claudia Cardinale honored in Tunisian birthplace

  • Street named after actress Claudia Cardinale in La Goulette, a suburb of Tunis, where she grew up
  • Cardinale: ‘I still keep a lot of Tunisia inside me — the scenery, the people, sense of welcome, the openness’

TUNIS: Actress Claudia Cardinale may have been a sixties legend of Italian and French cinema, but in Tunisia, in the portside district where she grew up, she says she feels “at home.”
“I left very young, but I spent my whole childhood here, my adolescence,” said Cardinale, now 84. “My origins are here.”
To celebrate her connection to the North African country, authorities on Sunday named a street after her in the La Goulette suburb of the capital Tunis, where petals were scattered in a ceremony in her honor.
“You marked the world of cinema for almost half a century with your dazzling beauty, your charisma and through the roles you played,” said Amel Limam, the mayor of La Goulette.
“I am very honored, because it is here that I was born and spent my childhood,” Cardinale said. “I kiss you!“
The multicultural beachfront neighborhood was once home to a sizeable Sicilian population — including Cardinale’s parents.
Before Tunisia’s independence from France in 1956, more than 130,000 Italians were resident, and many of their ancestors had settled there before French colonial rule.
“I still keep a lot of Tunisia inside me — the scenery, the people, sense of welcome, the openness,” Cardinale told AFP.
In 1957, aged 19, Cardinale won a beauty contest for “the prettiest Italian” in newly independent Tunisia.
Her prize was a trip to the Venice film festival, where she caught the eye of influential cinema figures.
That led to her first film role, in Mario Monicelli’s Le Pigeon.
Soon afterwards, she moved with her family to Rome to pursue her career, which took off with a role in Luchino Visconti’s film The Leopard, alongside French film star Alain Delon and Hollywood legend Burt Lancaster.
That was the start of a long career that has continued into her 80s. After starring in The Pink Panther opposite David Niven in 1963, she shot to attention in the United States and Britain.
In one of her latest roles, she plays a grandmother in a film by Tunisia’s Ridha Behi, “L’ile du Pardon,” currently in post-production.
Her parents never recovered from their departure from Tunisia, which they experienced as an exile.
“It was very hard. My father never wanted to come back, that’s how much he dreaded the pain of what was for him a real heartbreak,” she said.
“My mother recreated Tunisia in Italy. She planted all Tunisian plants and kept on cooking Tunisian meals.”
But Cardinale said the Tunisian sense of hospitality can be a model for how to treat migrants.
The country “can and should be proud of its history,” she said.
And in an era when many Tunisians are willing to risk their lives boarding unseaworthy boats to reach Europe, she stresses the importance of “remembering this shared past to build the future.”
“The wind changes, and we’re all equal in terms of the need to leave,” she said.
“Tunisia for us was a welcoming land. I wish everyone in the world who needs to leave somewhere could receive the same welcome.”

Folk rappers from Ukraine win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Updated 15 May 2022

Folk rappers from Ukraine win Eurovision in musical morale boost

  • Kalush Orchestra beat out 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania,” a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms

TURIN, Italy: Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, as the embattled nation rides a wave of public support across Europe.
Kalush Orchestra beat out 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania,” a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms from an energetic, breakdancing band.
“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” frontman Oleh Psiuk said in English from the stage, referring to the port city’s underground steelworks where Ukrainian soldiers are surrounded by Russian forces.
Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognizable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.
“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.
Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.
Ukraine beat out a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, which sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national health care while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.
“Only at Eurovision do people celebrate bananas, heartbreaks and wash their hands in one and the same show,” Swedish fan Martina Fries told AFP Saturday ahead of the finale.
“Eurovision is a way to show that different countries can celebrate peacefully together.”

The joy of Eurovision is in its camp and theatrics, although the nearly three-month war in Ukraine hung heavily over festivities.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbor.
“Stefania,” written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on obscure flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb to perform their act.
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” have taken on outsized meaning as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.
President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the group for topping the contest.
“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom,” while European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine.”
Kalush Orchestra received special authorization from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.
Psiuk said he wasn’t exactly sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.
“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.”

Other contenders at Eurovision included Sweden’s break-up belt “Hold Me Closer” from Cornelia Jakobs, Greece’s somber “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord, and “Brividi” (Shivers), a gay-themed duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.
Italy won the competition last year with “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin, who performed their new single “Supermodel” during Saturday night’s finale.
Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.
After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.
Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.
Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant “Sentimentai.”
Meanwhile, Sheldon Riley of Australia — one of Eurovision’s few non-European entries — sang his self-affirmation ballad “Not the Same” through a sparkling face veil laden with crystals.
And since no Eurovision is complete without a smattering of gyrating and undulating bodies onstage, Spain’s Chanel came to the rescue with her energetic dancing and memorable “booty hypnotic” refrain.