Jokes, and selfies with Kobe Bryant, at Oscar nominees lunch

Oscar nominees including Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Gary Oldman, Timothee Chalamet, Daniel Kaluuya, Sally Hawkins, Margot Robbie, Saoirse Ronan, Greta Gerwig, Meryl Streep, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Sam Rockwell, Kobe Bryant, Mary J. Blige, Allison Janney, Laurie Metcalf, Jordan Peele, and Octavia Spencer attend the 90th Annual Academy Awards Nominee Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 5, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (AFP)
Updated 06 February 2018
0

Jokes, and selfies with Kobe Bryant, at Oscar nominees lunch

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif: The Oscar nominees’ luncheon is like an exclusive clubhouse where every member is an outstanding artist and film super-fan.
So the production designer of “The Shape of Water” is free to geek out over meeting Mary J. Blige, who herself shared a moment with Gary Oldman.
Actress Sally Hawkins embraced Margot Robbie while Greta Gerwig chatted with Meryl Streep. Jordan Peele talked shop with Willem Dafoe. First-time acting nominees Daniel Kaluuya and Timothee Chalamet high-fived every time they saw each other.
Even nominees who couldn’t attend were there in spirit, or at least in cardboard-cutout form. Street artist JR brought a life-sized cardboard portrait of “Faces Places” co-director Agnes Varda. He brought the Varda cutout on the red carpet and into the risers for the annual Oscars “class photo.”
But the person perhaps enjoying the Oscar luncheon the most was retired Lakers star Kobe Bryant. Nominated for his contributions to the animated short “Dear Basketball,” Bryant wore a beaming grin throughout the event, practically skipping his meal to pose for photos with his many fans in the room, including fellow nominees Allison Janney and “Logan” screenwriter James Mangold. Bryant said being in the Oscar mix is “better than all those championships put together.”
“I don’t know what’s going on!” the 39-year-old said, practically giggling. “I love this.”
An annual tradition since 1982, the Oscar nominees’ luncheon brings together the year’s nominated artists for a collegial meal, extended mingling and the group photo. This year’s event drew 170 of the 200 artists nominated.
Film academy president John Bailey explained the history of the film academy before telling nominees that they each embody “this 90-year academy history.” He dropped the words “envelope malfunction” in a passing reference to last year’s best picture flub, but more pointedly offered a new hashtag to replace #OscarsSoWhite, a criticism that inspired sweeping changes for greater inclusion in the film academy. Bailey’s new hashtag: “Oscars so 90th.”
He said the academy reinventing itself in “this era of greater awareness and responsibility in balancing gender, race, ethnicity and religion.”
Addressing those issues and perhaps the #MeToo movement, Bailey said, “I may be a 75-year-old white male, but I’m every bit as gratified as the youngest of you here that the fossilized bedrock of many of Hollywood’s worst abuses are being jackhammered into oblivion.”
Actress Laura Dern called for greater compassion and representation throughout the industry. She then announced every nominee’s name as each took their places on risers for a group photo.
“Radicals, subversives and wild ones,” Dern said, “Thank you for getting us through this last year with every one of your films somehow reflecting the wealth of emotions that we are all going through.”
Telecast producers Jennifer Todd and Michael De Luca briefly greeted the nominees, with Todd saying, “It’s our honor to produce the show in a year where the nominations are finally starting to reflect the world that we live in and the way it looks, speaks and tells stories.”
Then they brought actor-comedian Patton Oswalt out to give eventual Oscar winners tips for delivering memorable acceptance speeches.
“They’ve spared every expense bringing me here,” he quipped.
His first tip? Hustle to the stage. “If you need something to speed you up, think of the hot, murderous glares of your colleagues on your back as you’re moving up there. Let it fuel you.”
He also put the kibosh on “trips and falls” on the way to claim an Oscar. “We know it’s adorable,” Oswalt said. “Jennifer owns it. That’s her thing now.”
Jennifer Lawrence famously fell on her way to accept the best actress Oscar for “Silver Linings Playbook” in 2013.
Tip two? Be concise. And don’t say you didn’t expect to win.
“Yes you did,” he said. “You were nominated.”
He also cautioned against thanking managers and agents. “Just cover for yourself, all right?” he said. “You don’t want to explain to your grandkids why you thanked someone that Dateline just did a four-part series on.”
He told nominees they don’t need to hunch over at the microphone.
“Think Freddie Mercury, not Tom Waits,” Oswalt said. “Look up and project.”
Finally, he said, “be heartfelt and be meaningful.
“And when I say that,” he said, “I mean act that way.”


Middle Eastern art exhibition celebrates life and work of Kahlil Gibran

Updated 16 August 2018
0

Middle Eastern art exhibition celebrates life and work of Kahlil Gibran

LONDON: What is it about the work of the famed Lebanese poet, writer and artist Kahlil Gibran that touches the hearts of so many people across the world today, decades on from his death in 1931? An exhibition of art inspired by his writings held this month at Sotheby’s in London provided an opportunity to consider that question
“Kahlil Gibran: A Guide for our Times” was organized by the peace building movement, Caravan, and co-curated by Janet Rady and Marion Fromlet Baecker. It featured work by 38 artists from across the Middle East. The vision for the exhibition grew out of a recent book on Gibran titled “In Search of a Prophet: A Spiritual Journey with Kahlil Gibran” by the Rev. Canon Paul-Gordon Chandler, Caravan’s founding president.
Chandler is committed to breaking down cultural, racial and religious barriers. Through the Caravan initiative he has hosted numerous exhibitions using art to build bridges between the Middle East and the West. He sees the message contained in Gibran’s 1923 book “The Prophet” as profoundly relevant today.
Speaking to Arab News at the packed-out event, he said: “All the artists in this exhibition are trying to express how they have been inspired, challenged and encouraged by Gibran’s themes of peace, love and harmony for all of humanity. The thread running through all the work is the unique role that Gibran plays in reminding us that we are one family.
“The idea of the Caravan movement is that we are all journeying together, regardless of background, tradition or religion,” he continued. “The arts have a unique role in peace-building between the Middle East and the West.”
Lebanese-Syrian artist Rana Chalabi, who was raised in Lebanon, said she first read “The Prophet” at school, but made a point of re-reading it several times before starting work on her contribution to the piece, “On Giving.”
Her painting shows a throng of people gazing upwards at a transcendent figure — the Prophet — who seems to shimmer above the multitude in hues of gold.
“To me, Gibran’s Prophet represents an enlightened mystic,” she explained. “He was so ahead of his time and such a spiritual person.”
For Chalabi, Gibran’s work continues to resonate. “The wisdom of Gibran is very much needed today,” she said. “He could explain his ideas in a simple way to people. In his day he was misunderstood and branded a heretic by those who missed the essence of what he was saying and took his teachings at a very superficial level.”
Chalabi was clearly pleased to have been invited to submit work to Caravan’s exhibition.
“I believe in what Rev. Chandler is trying to do,” she said. “We have to bridge the differences in the world and try to understand each other’s religions, cultures and perspectives.”
Bahraini artist Lulwa Al-Khalifa showed a striking painting of a woman, titled
“Blind Faith.” The starkly expressive figure looks perplexed and stares out from the painting with an abstract and tense expression.
Al-Khalifa said: “There are a lot of emotions I wanted to convey through this work. I was exploring the concept of faith and how sometimes people have to abandon some of the ideas that give them their own sense of identity and take a leap of faith. I consider the question ‘How much of you are you prepared to surrender for your faith?’ Faith is surrender with cause but without proof. Sometimes people have to face ambivalence, fear and anxiety on this journey.”
Al-Khalifa also stressed how relevant Gibran outlook remains today.
“I love how Gibran explored many aspects of many themes. His thought process is very fresh and modern — even today,” she said. “It is not rigid, but very hopeful and expresses love and acceptance.
“I really believe that all people are united as human beings. But we try so hard to separate from each other, even though in reality we all have the same concerns and loves and hates. We should come together,” she continued.
Lebanese artist Christine Saleh Jamil echoed Al-Khalifa’s sentiments. “Gibran means so much to me. Reading his book ‘The Prophet’ taught me a lot about life, how to live peacefully and accept things in a harmonious way,” she said. “His message is very important today.”
Jamil created “The Wanderer,” a captivating image of Gibran as a child, for the exhibition. Her work, she said, was based on a photograph and inspired by Chandler’s book, which, she said, “took me back to my childhood in Beirut.”
“That’s why I chose to represent Gibran as a child and in this image you see his face set among birch trees, as he loved nature,” she explained.
Lebanon’s ambassador to the UK, Rami Mortada — a special guest at the event — spoke to Arab News about Gibran’s legacy.
“The interest shown here tonight and the big turnout is an indication of how the message he stands for is relevant, badly needed and timely in our world today,” Mortada said. “It is a message of harmony and peace, of removing barriers between nations and cultures, and of interfaith dialogue. This is what Gibran encapsulated. If I had to sum up his work up in one word, I would say (it is) inspirational.”
Another ambassador, Dr. Alisher Shaykhov from Uzbekistan, stressed that Gibran’s work is of truly global significance.
“Gibran’s fame extends far beyond the Middle East. He is a person who has succeeded in transferring the spirit of the Islamic people in a harmonious way,” he observed. “One of his most important messages is that of the unifying elements, rather than the differences, between religions. He has a gift of being able to express the feelings of the people. The artists here, imbued with his spirit, have transferred his message through their artworks in their own personal way.”
Art enthusiast Mira Takla said she had attended a number of ‘Caravan’ art events and always found their message very persuasive.
“As far as I am concerned these events do more for interracial understanding and comprehension and tolerance of different cultures than many other such initiatives,” she said.
Another guest. Anthony Wynn, gave a good example of Gibran’s cross-cultural appeal, pointing out that he had often heard Gibran quoted at weddings in the UK — particularly a verse from “On Marriage” from “The Prophet”:
“Love one another, but make not a bond of love/Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls/Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup/Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf/Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone/Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.”