Oscars: the show must go on... without a host

Hollywood's biggest night is set to take place in Febuary 2019 without a host for the first time in 30 years, after comedian Kevin Hart pulled out of the gig. (AFP)
Updated 22 February 2019
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Oscars: the show must go on... without a host

LOS ANGELES: Hollywood’s biggest night — the Oscars — is set to take place next month without a host for the first time in 30 years, after comedian Kevin Hart pulled out of the gig and no suitable replacement was found.
Though organizers have yet to confirm the plans, entertainment insiders say the show’s producers are forging ahead with preparations for the 91st Academy Awards on February 24 with no emcee.
If all goes ahead, it would be the first ceremony without a host since the 1989 gala — one widely seen as one of the most embarrassing ever, featuring an infamous duet between actor Rob Lowe and... Snow White.
As gala organizers struggle to overcome a steady decline in viewership, many say the failure to find a host is actually good news.
“It’s a blessing in disguise,” Tim Gray, awards editor at entertainment magazine Variety, told AFP.
“People have been saying for years that the format — the same since 1953 — needs to change and they’re trying to cut down on running time. So personally, I think it’s a great idea not to have a host.”
Hart, who is currently starring opposite Bryan Cranston in “The Upside,” was named to host the Oscars in early December.
But the backlash was swift — homophobic tweets he made several years ago reemerged, prompting an outcry on social media, and he withdrew just a few days later.
“I have made the choice to step down from hosting this year’s Oscar’s (sic)....this is because I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists,” he tweeted.
“I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past.”
So why can’t the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences find someone else?
The previous two shows have been hosted by late night funnyman Jimmy Kimmel. Comedian Chris Rock emceed in 2005 and 2016 and TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres hosted in 2007 and 2014.
All have apparently indicated they weren’t interested in the gig this year.
“I think a lot of people, especially when it comes to hosting the Oscars ... think nowadays it’s not worth accepting (to host) because of the scrutiny,” Gray said.
“It’s kind of a thankless job,” he added.
“A lot of hosts have said it’s a difficult job because you walk into that room, there are 3,000 people, and all they want to know is who won in each category.”
In recent years, several hosts were raked over the coals. Actor Neil Patrick Harris got rumbled over his 2015 effort and said he would never do it again. James Franco and Anne Hathaway were a dud in 2011.
The Academy declined several requests by AFP for comment on the hosting situation or the show’s possible format.
But according to several trade magazines, organizers are considering having multiple A-listers — probably actors — introduce various segments and the award presenters.
“The Academy awards regularly had multiple hosts in the 1970s and 1980s and the telecast worked very well,” said Dave Karger, a special correspondent for IMDb (the Internet Movie Database).
“So if this year’s producers are able to book big stars to perform in skits and present the prizes, I don’t think the show will suffer at all.”
Gray said the big challenge will be how to make the show entertaining — both to those attending and for people watching on television — while sticking to the promise of a three-hour telecast.
“I think the hostless situation is going to force them to come up with something imaginative,” he said.
“And the fact that the show is going to be different could keep the energy going.”


Netflix’s latest Arabic original ‘Dollar’ stars Lebanese icon Adel Karam

‘Dollar’ is set for release on Aug. 8. (Supplied)
Updated 17 July 2019
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Netflix’s latest Arabic original ‘Dollar’ stars Lebanese icon Adel Karam

DUBAI: Netflix’s latest Arabic original is set to hit TV screens on Aug. 8 and is called “Dollar,” the streaming company announced this week.  

The drama is set in modern-day Lebanon and stars Lebanese film veteran Adel Karam — who starred in “The Insult,” which was nominated for an Oscar in 2018 — and Algerian-Lebanese actor Amal Bouchoucha.

The fast-paced series tells the story of advertising mastermind, Tarek (Adel Karam), who is tasked with coming up with a million dollar idea for the launch of a new bank. He’s got it, but will only share his idea with the CEO. Something’s off and the bank’s hard-hitting young CFO, Zeina (Amal Bouchoucha), can sense it. The series follows the situation as Zeina tries to piece together exactly what is going on.

Helmed by Syrian director Samer Berkawi, the director behind such regional hit shows as “Al-Hayba” and “Half Day,” the series was produced by Cedars Art Production - Sabbah Brothers and written by Hisham Hilal.

It is latest Middle Eastern series to join Netflix’s cadre of shows and growing roster of Arabic-language productions, but marks a shift from the streaming company’s penchant for Arab thrillers such as “Paranormal” — Netflix’s first Egyptian drama, based on the best-selling Arabic horror series by late Egyptian author Ahmed Khaled Towfik — and “Jinn,” which told the story of teenagers battling supernatural powers and faced backlash over its portrayal of young people in Jordan.

Despite the drama, on and off the screen, “Dollar” will premiere on Aug. 8, with all 15 episodes available to watch immediately.

Director Berkawi lauded the versatility of his cast in a released statement.

“I’m truly excited to be working with Netflix on our new series ‘Dollar’ and am confident that the show will appeal to Netflix’s audiences worldwide. This project is an exciting one, bringing together themes of suspense and drama that showcase Amal Bouchoucha’s onscreen talents, as well as Adel Karam’s versatility beyond the comedy that he is known and loved for,” he said.

“Dollar” will be subtitled in 20 languages.