Stars, royals gather for British Academy Film Awards

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Britain’s Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge arrive at the British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA) at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Britain, February 10, 2019. (Reuters)
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Britain’s Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge arrive at the British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA) at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Britain, February 10, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 11 February 2019
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Stars, royals gather for British Academy Film Awards

LONDON: Hollywood stars and British royalty were gathering Sunday in London for the British Academy Film Awards, where “The Favourite” is living up to its name and leading the race for trophies.
Yorgos Lanthimos’ royal tragicomedy has 12 nominations, including best picture, for the UK equivalent of the Oscars. Olivia Colman already won a Golden Globe for her performance as Queen Anne in “The Favourite” and is favored to take the best-actress prize
The 18th-century queen’s distant relative, Prince William, and his wife, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, were joining Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Viola Davis and other stars for a black-tie ceremony at London’s Royal Albert Hall. “Absolutely Fabulous” star Joanna Lumley is the host.
Front-runners for the prizes include the Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” lunar drama “First Man,” autobiographical Mexican story “Roma” and musical melodrama “A Star Is Born.” Each film has seven nominations.
The awards, known as BAFTAs , will be scoured for clues to who might triumph at Hollywood’s Academy Awards on Feb. 24, in what’s shaping up as an unpredictable awards season.
Colman is up against Glenn Close, who took Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe awards for “The Wife.” The other best-actress nominees are Lady Gaga for “A Star is Born,” Viola Davis for “Widows” and Melissa McCarthy for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?“
“I feel like I’m in a fever dream,” said McCarthy of recognition for the offbeat film, based on the story of a real literary forger.
Her “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” co-star Richard E. Grant has secured both BAFTA and Oscar nominations for his performance as an affable rogue.
“I’ve been working for 40 years, I’ve never won anything,” said Grant, who called this awards season “the ride of my lifetime.”
Best-actor contenders are Bradley Cooper for “A Star is Born,” Christian Bale for “Vice,” Rami Malek for “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Viggo Mortensen for “Green Book” and Steve Coogan for “Stan and Ollie.”
Best-picture nominees are “The Favourite,” Roma,” “A Star is Born” and two very different movies about racism in America: “Green Book” and “BlacKkKlansman.”
Nominees for best British film — a separate category — are Channel Islands thriller “Beast,” “The Favourite,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” fashion documentary “McQueen,” Laurel and Hardy biopic “Stan and Ollie” and crime thriller “You Were Never Really Here.”
British academy voters have all but ignored superhero blockbuster “Black Panther,” which is up for best picture at the Oscars and took top prize at the SAG awards last month. It has a single BAFTA nomination, for visual effects.
The red carpet glamor is unfolding against a backdrop of soul-searching and scandal about abuses in the entertainment industry.
Last week, the British academy suspended director Bryan Singer’s nomination as part of the team behind “Bohemian Rhapsody” after four men accused him of sexually assaulting them when they were minors.
BAFTA said the alleged abuse was “completely unacceptable” and incompatible with its values. Singer, who was fired while “Bohemian Rhapsody” was in mid-production in 2017, denies the allegations. The film itself is still nominated.
At last year’s BAFTAs ceremony, many women wore black as a symbol of opposition to harassment, abuse and inequality in the wake of allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
A British wing of the “Times’s Up” campaign founded last year is vowing to keep the campaign going and to double the number of women in film, on and off screen.
The number of female nominees is up this year, but there has been criticism of the academy’s failure to nominate any female filmmakers in the best-director category. Only one woman has ever won the directing prize, Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker” in 2010.
BAFTA chairwoman Pippa Harris said only 10 percent of films entered for the awards were directed by women.
“It needs to be 50 percent,” said Harris, who called the gender imbalance an industry-wide problem.
“There has been a traditional problem with getting females to be noticed in terms of their TV work and then get picked up to make feature films,” she said. “Men seem to find that transition much easier.”


Book Review: Rebuilding shattered Aleppo armed with faith and hope

Philip Mansel’s book “Aleppo: The Rise and Fall of Syria’s great Merchant city,” has been updated and is also available in paperback. (Shutterstock)
Updated 21 February 2019
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Book Review: Rebuilding shattered Aleppo armed with faith and hope

BEIRUT: Aleppo, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and once a model of coexistence, is now a mesh of rubble and shattered lives. 
Philip Mansel’s book “Aleppo: The Rise and Fall of Syria’s great Merchant city,” has been updated and is also available in paperback.
An eminent specialist of the Levant, Mansel attempts in the first part of his book to explain how harmony gave way to an implacable cataclysm. In the second part, the author has carefully selected a collection of travel writings on Aleppo from the 16th century to the 21st century. 
The ruthless and pitiless destruction of Aleppo shows the vulnerability of cities. Mansel believes that cosmopolitanism, literally meaning cosmos (world) in a city (polis), is an elusive concept. When politics and economics go wrong, rules are broken, and anything can happen even in a city like Aleppo. 

The author focuses on Aleppo’s history since the Ottoman Empire. The people of Aleppo, angered by the Mamluk excessive taxation, welcomed their defeat by the Ottoman army. Aleppo remained loyal to the Ottoman rule for 400 years and became one of the most important trading centers in the Levant. 
Caravans from India, Iran, the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula passed through the city on their way to Iskenderun, Smyrna, and Constantinople. Already, in 1550, a French diplomat claimed that Aleppo was the most important commercial center of the Levant.
A century later, Aleppo was still trading with the Ottoman Empire and although its external trade with foreign countries was diminishing, its multiracial and multireligious population lived peacefully. Even during the French Mandate (1923-1946), the cosmopolitan population of Aleppo was united against the French.
Syria’s independence granted by France on Jan. 1, 1944, was followed by the proclamation of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, triggering the departure of Aleppo’s Jewish population.
The subsequent establishment of the Assad regime caused a political and economic rift in the country, and particularly in Aleppo, with the affluent west and the impoverished east brutally attacked and decimated by Syrian and Russian armed forces with the help of Iranian soldiers, Lebanese and Kurdish militias.
While emigrants are preserving the memory of Aleppo in cities around the world, some inhabitants of East Aleppo are returning.
Destroyed but alive, destitute but armed with faith and hope, they embody the quality of those who have contributed to make Aleppo one of the most beautiful cities in the world. They are determined to rebuild knowing that their shattered lives remain the hardest to repair.