What We Are Playing Today: Akfosh

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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.

 

 


Olivia Newton-John, ‘Grease’ star and singer, dies aged 73

Updated 08 August 2022

Olivia Newton-John, ‘Grease’ star and singer, dies aged 73

  • Olivia Newton-John gained worldwide fame as high-school sweetheart Sandy in the hit musical movie ‘Grease’

LOS ANGELES: Australian singer Olivia Newton-John, who gained worldwide fame as high-school sweetheart Sandy in the hit musical movie “Grease,” died Monday, her family said. She was 73.
The entertainer, whose career spanned more than five decades, devoted much of her time and celebrity to charities after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992.
Newton-John “passed away peacefully at her ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends,” said a statement from her husband John Easterling posted on her official social media accounts.


Cannibals, comedy and a cinema icon share Venice limelight

Updated 26 July 2022

Cannibals, comedy and a cinema icon share Venice limelight

  • The world's oldest film festival runs from Aug. 31 to Sept. 10
  • Among the leading lights expected to show up on the red carpet will be Timothée Chalamet, Sadie Sink, Adam Driver, Olivia Wilde and others

ROME: A Marilyn Monroe drama, a cannibal road movie and a black comedy about family life are among the stories showcased at this year’s Venice Film Festival.
The world’s oldest film festival, regarded as a launch pad for Oscar contenders as awards season approaches, runs from Aug. 31 to Sept. 10, and features dozens of hotly anticipated movies both in and out of competition.
Among the leading lights expected to show up on the red carpet will be Timothée Chalamet, Sadie Sink, Adam Driver, Olivia Wilde, Harry Styles, Penelope Cruz, Ana de Armas, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman, Christoph Waltz and Sigourney Weaver.
International art house directors will share the stage with established Hollywood figures, as pictures by Darren Aronofsky, Andrew Dominik, Alejandro Inarritu, Luca Guadagnino, Joanna Hogg, Koji Fukada and Jafar Panahi get their first outing.
Four originals by the TV streaming giant Netflix line up in the 23-title competition section, including Dominik’s “Blonde,” which stars de Armas in a fictionalized take on the tragic life of US actress Monroe.
For the first time, Netflix gets the honor of opening the festival with Noah Baumbach’s “White Noise” starring Driver and Greta Gerwig — a satiric chronicle of family life that is based on a novel of the same name by Don DeLillo.
One of the most anticipated films is likely to be “Bones and All” featuring Chalamet alongside rising star Taylor Russell as impoverished cannibal lovers in a picture directed by Italy’s Luca Guadagnino.
“It analyzes the poorest and most marginalized in America, the failure of the American Dream,” the festival’s artistic director, Alberto Barbera, said on Tuesday.
Festival regular Cate Blanchett, who presided over the jury in 2020, returns a competition hopeful the film “Tar,” directed by Todd Field — a fictional tale about a famed composer and conductor, who leads a major German orchestra.
“Tar” is one of nine US-produced movies in competition, with five from France, four from Italy and two from Iran — including “No Bears” by Panahi, who is serving a six-year prison sentence in Iran after being convicted of propaganda against the Islamic Republic in 2010.
Venice often provides a first glimpse of future Oscar winners such as “Birdman” in 2015. Its director, Inarritu, returns to the city’s Lido Island with his latest movie — “Bardo” a Spanish-language Netflix comedy set in Mexico.
Likewise Martin McDonagh premiered “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” in Venice in 2017 which went on to scoop multiple awards. His follow-up “The Banshees Of Inisherin,” set in Ireland and starring Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell, will get its first showing on the Lido.
As ever, some of the out-of-competition films will get as much attention as those pushing for the Golden Lion top prize.
These include psychological thriller “Don’t Worry Darling,” directed by Wilde and featuring Florence Pugh and Styles, “Dead For a Dollar,” a Western by Walter Hill starring Waltz and a documentary “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” by Evgeny Afineevsky.

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UK to host 2023 Eurovision instead of Ukraine

Updated 25 July 2022

UK to host 2023 Eurovision instead of Ukraine

LONDON: Britain said Monday it had reluctantly agreed to take Ukraine’s place as hosts of next year’s Eurovision song contest after organizers said there was no prospect of the event going ahead in the war-torn country.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said it was his “strong wish” for Ukraine, this year’s winner, to host the 2023 edition and found it “deeply regrettable” that was no longer possible, with the BBC stepping in to host.


Depp’s lawyers urge judge to leave jury verdict intact

Updated 12 July 2022

Depp’s lawyers urge judge to leave jury verdict intact

  • Depp’s lawyers argue that if Heard’s team had concerns, they should have spoken up at the time

FAIRFAX, Virginia: Lawyers for Johnny Depp are urging a Virginia judge to leave his $10 million defamation judgment intact after attorneys for his ex-wife, Amber Heard, asked the judge to set aside the verdict on multiple grounds, including an apparent case of mistaken identity with one of the jurors.
In court papers filed Monday, Depp’s lawyers dispute arguments from Heard’s team that the jury’s verdict was nonsensical and unfounded. They also say that the Heard team’s complaints about the juror’s identity are irrelevant.
Last month, a civil jury in Fairfax awarded $10.35 million to Depp after they found he was defamed by Heard when she wrote a 2018 op-ed piece in The Washington Post about domestic violence.
The jury also awarded $2 million to Heard on her counterclaim that she was defamed by one of Depp’s attorneys after he called her allegations a hoax.
Heard’s lawyers filed motions earlier this month asking the judge to toss out the verdicts on a variety of legal theories.
On Monday, Depp’s lawyers filed their response. They argue that there was nothing inconsistent in the fact that the jury awarded judgments in favor of both Depp and Heard. They said the jury verdict form allowed jurors to be very specific about which statements were libelous, and that the verdict makes sense when you look at the specific statements cited by the jury.
As for the confusion over the juror’s identity, Depp’s lawyers say it’s too late for Heard’s team to object. According to court papers, a summons went out to a 77-year-old man. But the man who responded in his place was his 52-year-old son, who has the same name and lives at the same address.
Depp’s lawyers argue that if Heard’s team had concerns, they should have spoken up at the time because it was apparent that the man who served was not 77 years old, even though court paperwork described him as such.
Judge Penney Azcarate has not yet indicated if she plans to hold a hearing to hear arguments on the motions to set aside the verdict.
The verdict in Depp’s favor in Virginia came about two years after a similar trial in the United Kingdom in which Depp sued a British tabloid after he was described as a “wife beater.” The judge in that case ruled in the newspaper’s favor in 2020 after finding that Heard was telling the truth in her descriptions of abuse.
Jurors in the Virginia case were not told that the judge in the British case had ruled against Depp.


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.”