Watching over: The best TV shows of 2021 worth binging again

Watching over: The best TV shows of 2021 worth binging again
‘Succession’ (2018-). Supplied
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Updated 30 December 2021

Watching over: The best TV shows of 2021 worth binging again

Watching over: The best TV shows of 2021 worth binging again

DUBAI: From the Korean drama that got everyone talking to the inside story of The Beatles’ final album, here’s our pick of the year’s top television.

“Squid Game”

The wildly entertaining Korean survival drama was surely the year’s buzziest show, if not its best. Yes, the acting of the wealthy VIP observers was appalling, but the overall quality of the show was enough to outweigh the clumsiness of the rare English-language sections. The conceit — people in horrible debt risking their lives playing a series of children’s games for the chance to win more than $35 million — was simple-but-brilliant, and creator Hwang Dong-hyuk also mixed in dark humor and a scathing critique of capitalism and class divides.

“Succession”

Creator Jesse Armstrong’s critical darling returned for its third season and the story of the dysfunctional Roy family — owners of a media conglomerate — remained as horrific, hilarious and compelling as ever; a beautifully pitched blend of drama, political intrigue and dark comedy. The ensemble cast was in tremendous form throughout, and the addition of Adrien Brody as billionaire investor Josh Aaronson was inspired. HBO has already renewed the show for a fourth season, and on the strength of this year’s showing it’s easy to imagine a fifth and sixth will follow. 

“Line of Duty”

There are many who would argue that Jed Mercurio’s gripping police procedural series about a team investigating corruption in the police force has now veered too far past the sublime into the ridiculous. It’s still not clear if the sixth season — which brought in the excellent Kelly MacDonald as this year’s cop-to-be-investigated DCI Jo Davidson — was the final one. If it was plenty of people will be dissatisfied with the ‘big reveal’ of the supposed mastermind hidden in the police force. But there’s also an argument to be made that the underwhelming nature of said villain was entirely in keeping with the show — proving that no one is really ever in control of anything. 

“Sixty Minutes”

This psychological thriller hung on a compelling central performance from Syrian actor Mahmoud Nasr as Adham, a hard-to-read psychiatrist who — it turned out — had his own mental disorder that made him extremely dangerous to women, including his patients. Egyptian actress Yasmine Rais also shone as Adham’s wife, who was driven to commit a crime by her husband’s actions. “Sixty Minutes” only consisted of nine episodes, but proved — in a region where bloated 30+-episode seasons are the norm — that’s more than enough to tell a good story well.

“The Beatles: Get Back”

An absorbing, intimate look at a month late in the life of probably the biggest pop band in history, lovingly compiled from hours and hours of old footage by director Peter Jackson. “Get Back” was a brilliantly constructed document of four old friends who had conquered the world trying to work out how to move forward now that their lives had changed in oh so many ways. Knowing they only managed to do so by splitting up made it all the more poignant, but the great thing about Jackson’s work was that it showed how, when the four Beatles were able to simply make music and forget about the commercial and personal pressures pulling them apart, they still had enormous fun together.

“Mare of Easttown”

2021 provided some fantastic mini-series — honorable mentions include two from the UK starring the brilliant Stephen Graham, the prison drama “Time” and the heartbreaking COVID drama “Help” — but the pick of the bunch starred another Brit, Kate Winslet, as an American cop in a run-down small town. Winslet was superb as DS Mare Sheehan, investigating the murder of a young woman while dealing with her wreck of a personal life — including a divorce, a son lost to suicide, a custody battle for her grandson, and the unwanted company of her mother. It was a slow-burn drama in which the entire cast shone without anyone being showy, and that said plenty, without being preachy, about grief, love, sexual politics and power.

“Newton’s Cradle”

Writer-director Tamer Mohsen delivered a gripping drama about Hana and Hazem — played by the excellent Mona Zaki and Mohamed Mamdouh — who decided to have their child born in the US, in the hope that US citizenship would grant him greater opportunity. Hana headed to America alone, and once there discovered some disturbing information about Hazem, including infidelity and his possible involvement in serious crimes. Mohsen’s writing was compelling throughout, the realism of the dialogue drew you in, and every episode left you eager to watch the next one. 

 


Celebs remember late Tunisian designer at Alaia show in Paris

Model Karlie Kloss attended the show. (Instagram)
Model Karlie Kloss attended the show. (Instagram)
Updated 04 July 2022

Celebs remember late Tunisian designer at Alaia show in Paris

Model Karlie Kloss attended the show. (Instagram)

DUBAI: The who’s who of the fashion industry, including French model Tina Kunakey and Jordanian Romanian footwear designer Amina Muaddi, attended a runway presentation by Alaia on Sunday.

The label, founded by late Tunisian couturier Azzedine Alaïa, released a statement ahead of the ready-to-wear Spring 2023 show that explained why the latest offering is being marketed with the slogan “Rough and Real.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ALAÏA (@maisonalaia)

“Real – as creation should remain far from the likes, far from the screen. These clothes are meant to be worn, meant to be touched and felt. Raw and imperfect, to effect and affect,” a statement signed by creative director Pieter Mulier read.

Shown on the eve of couture week in Paris, Mulier’s third collection for the iconic fashion house took natural fabrics and elevated them into fashion statements. Entire cowhides were shaped into skirts and lengths of boiled cashmere were transformed into cocktail dresses worn with high-heeled fur booties in a line that was equal parts raw and chic.

“It’s about taking all the codes of Azzedine and explaining them to the young generation that don’t really know it,” the designer said backstage, according to WWD. “It’s basically empowering women in a different way than other brands can do,” he added.

The Belgian designer explained that he took many cues from one of Alaia’s 1984 collections, while one design was a replica of a 1992 creation by the Tunisian creative talent that never made it onto the runway.

The glittering front row added to the glamor at the event, with Kunakey joined by her husband, French actor Vincent Cassel, as well as Naomi Campbell, Elle Macpherson, Karlie Kloss and Laura Harrier.

They took in the show in a gutted out space that is set to be a future Alaïa flagship store and offices.

Known to be a fan of the fashion house, Kunakey has showed off Alaia looks on a number of occasions, including in September 2020 when she attended a lavish Bulgari bash in Rome.

For the occasion she donned an elegant fuchsia-colored gown with a scooped, exposed back and a halter neckline. She elevated the look with a selection of sparkling Bulgari diamond rings and a serpent necklace.


Restaurateur Natasha Sideris talks Saudi plans, new dining concept in Dubai

Natasha Sideris is the founder and CEO of Tashas Group. (Supplied)
Natasha Sideris is the founder and CEO of Tashas Group. (Supplied)
Updated 04 July 2022

Restaurateur Natasha Sideris talks Saudi plans, new dining concept in Dubai

Natasha Sideris is the founder and CEO of Tashas Group. (Supplied)

DUBAI: It’s one of Dubai’s most buzzed about eateries and while the Instagram-worthy Flamingo Room readies to open its doors in Riyadh later this year, we caught up with restaurateur Natasha Sideris to find out more about her success and worldwide expansion plans.

The founder and CEO of Tashas Group, which has a portfolio of varied dining concepts, shed light on why she sees Saudi Arabia as a growing market, as well as her plans for new dining outlets.

“Our decision to expand into Saudi was informed by two things. Firstly, the location that we have found for Flamingo Room by tashas is extraordinary in Bujairi Terrace. Secondly, I think that there are wonderful opportunities in the country. It is a previously untapped market with a large population that is open to new concepts,” Sideris told Arab News.

“As with any new market, there will be challenges,” she added, explain that “we have spent eight years in the UAE forging great relationships with suppliers, shopfitters (and) photographers. It will take time to build relationships with new suppliers, but we are well on our way.”

Curating the concept specially for the Kingdom’s market, the group will open the destination restaurant in a three-storey building inspired by Najd architecture in Diriyah, on the banks of Wadi Hanifah.

The group, which was founded in South Africa and operates out of Dubai in the UAE, has seven brands under its umbrella: tashas, Le Parc by tashas, Flamingo Room by tashas, Avli by tashas, Galaxy Bar, Collective Africa, and 1701.

In addition to its expansion into Saudi Arabia, in the next six to 12 months the group plans to open five other locations, in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, South Africa and London.

“We are going to enter the UK market slowly and sensibly,” Sideris revealed. “The pandemic, as well as Brexit, have made a major impact so we want to make sure we adapt the concept to the market and, all going well, we will expand the number of locations. “

The group is also introducing a brand new concept in Dubai’s Alserkal Arts hub. Called Nala, the project will offer diners luxury quick-service, something the founder said is important to her.

“This concept is close to my heart and we have been working on it for a couple of years. So many people are strapped for time yet would like to eat beautiful food in a stunning environment. Our goal is to serve our guests freshly prepared meals quickly and provide fantastic quality at the same time.”


Louvre Abu Dhabi partners with Paris’ Musée d’Orsay to showcase 150 Impressionist works

‘Women in the garden’ by Claude Monet. (Supplied)
‘Women in the garden’ by Claude Monet. (Supplied)
Updated 04 July 2022

Louvre Abu Dhabi partners with Paris’ Musée d’Orsay to showcase 150 Impressionist works

‘Women in the garden’ by Claude Monet. (Supplied)

DUBAI: The Louvre Abu Dhabi has partnered with Paris’ Musée d’Orsay on what is billed as one of the most significant Impressionist exhibitions ever to be held outside France — the upcoming “Impressionism: Pathways to Modernity” show.

Set to run from Oct. 12, 2022, to Feb. 5, 2023, the exhibition will bring together more than 150 works alongside etchings, costumes, film and photography to explore why Impressionism was considered so shocking in the 19th century.

Art enthusiasts will be able to enjoy works from Impressionist masters such as Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Paul Cézanne.

Widely seen as a rebellious artistic movement, Impressionism is marked by its shift away from the academic convention and traditions of 19th century European painting, with pioneers known to have regularly caused a stir. In fact, Manet’s “Olympia” is regarded as one of the most scandalous paintings of the time and caused controversy when it was first displayed at the 1865 Paris Salon, while Monet achieved fame for his relaxed style, which was a far cry from the hyper-realistic paintings of the previous era.

The artistic movement “saw some of history’s bravest and most visionary painters embrace and extoll new ways of seeing, making art, and living. They celebrated this thrilling new reality, representing truthful observations of nature and modern life,” the museum’s website reads.

The upcoming exhibition on Impressionism comes as the Louvre Abu Dhabi expands its international collection with the recent announcement of two loans from the Philippines’ Ayala Museum.

Set to be on show until June 2023, the museum’s first-ever showcase of artifacts from the Philippines features two items that date back to the 10th-13th century. The first loan is a gold cup that was recovered from Nabua in the Camarines Sur province of the Philippines. It highlights the striking similarity of Filipino works to the Chinese gold and silverware acquired by Louvre Abu Dhabi in 2019.

The second artifact is a funerary mask from the city of Butuan in the Philippines. It places emphasis on immortality being the universal hope of mankind when faced with death, according to a released statement. This artifact is currently showcased alongside other historical items from the Levant and South America that exemplify this shared tradition.


Model Shanina Shaik kicks off wedding season in style

Model Shanina Shaik has starred in a number of fashion campaigns. (File/ Getty Images)
Model Shanina Shaik has starred in a number of fashion campaigns. (File/ Getty Images)
Updated 03 July 2022

Model Shanina Shaik kicks off wedding season in style

Model Shanina Shaik has starred in a number of fashion campaigns. (File/ Getty Images)

DUBAI: Part-Saudi model Shanina Shaik kicked off wedding season in style by attending the nuptials of fellow Victoria’s Secret model Nadine Leopold and tech entrepreneur Andrew Barclay.

The pair tied the knot at an undisclosed location and while Shaik respected the couple’s privacy and did not post shots of the wedding, she did take to Instagram to show off her wedding attire and shared a short video of fireworks at the reception.

Shaik opted for a cream-colored silk shirt that grazed her baby bump and captioned the photo of her outfit, which she shared on Instagram Stories, “bestie’s wedding.”

The growing baby bump is not news to Shaik’s 2.9 million Instagram followers, who learned of her pregnancy in May.

The catwalk star took to Instagram on Mother’s Day to share the happy news followers, posting three images of her bump with an extended caption in the form of a letter.

“To the new love of my life, thank you for choosing me to be your Mum. I have always wanted you for as long as I can remember, and at times my patience was tested. The timing had to be right, and I can say with confidence that I am ready to be your guide, your protector and your best friend,” she said.

The 31-year-old model, who is of Saudi, Pakistani, Lithuanian and Australian descent, is expecting the baby with her partner Matthew Adesuyan, the head of a record label in Los Angeles.

“As each month goes by during this precious journey of pregnancy, I am learning what the role of being a mother entails. I worry a lot, especially about your wellbeing and development. It’s a feeling that I’ve never experienced before, not even about myself. I would do anything for you, be anything for you and sacrifice anything for you,” she added.

She praised her own mother mentioning that she was raised by an “amazing woman” who taught her a lot about motherhood. “She has set the bar high and I don’t want to disappoint you. I want to raise you as she raised me.”

The mom-to-be ended the lengthy caption saying: “Sharing you with the world today is the most precious gift I could possibly receive on Mother’s Day. Mummy and Daddy can’t wait to meet you!”

Since sharing the news, Shaik has treated fans to regular updates about her pregnancy, including a post late last week that she captioned “baby kicked,” as well as her prenatal stretching tips and skincare routine.


UN report with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture spotlights pandemic’s effect on arts scene

The report’s findings were unveiled in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)
The report’s findings were unveiled in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)
Updated 03 July 2022

UN report with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture spotlights pandemic’s effect on arts scene

The report’s findings were unveiled in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)

DUBAI: While lockdowns, postponements and cancellations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic seem largely in the past, the socio-economic upheaval is still being reckoned with — and the international arts and culture scene is just one of many sectors that has been left reeling.

A new report released by UNESCO in partnership with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism (DTC), titled “Culture in Times of COVID-19 Resilience, Recovery and Revival,” explores the major global trends that have reshaped the cultural sector due to COVID-19 and provides solutions for its revival.

Research for the report began in September 2021 when the DCT partnered with UNESCO to publish the first global assessment of the impact of COVID-19 across all cultural domains since the advent of the pandemic.

The findings were released during an event late last week in Abu Dhabi where both the DCT’s Chairman Mohamed Al-Mubarak and Ernesto Ottone Ramirez, UNESCO assistant director general, were present.

“Lockdowns experienced by many countries destroyed jobs and business in the culture sector,” Ramirez told Arab News. “This had a severe impact on the sector with more than 10 million jobs lost in 2020 alone and a 20 to 40 percent drop in revenues across the sector.”

Venue-based activities such as theaters and museums — as well as World Heritage sites — were hit hard.

“UNESCO reported that about 90 percent of museums and cultural institutions closed worldwide and about 90 percent of countries saw their World Heritage sites fully or partially closed in 2020,” he added.

“Many artists and cultural professionals have lost their livelihoods; pre-existing inequities have been deepened — including for women and girls — further amplifying social and   economic insecurities. These impacts have brought leading decision-makers and cultural professionals to further rely on the social and economic role of culture as a road to recovery,” stated the report.

Cultural and creative industries, as well as artists, also suffered greatly, emphasized Ramirez and the report. “The estimate is that in 2020 there was a $750bn contraction in the Gross Value Added generated by the cultural and creative industries globally, relative to 2019,” he told Arab News. “We need strong policies that support these industries and the artists. Artists and cultural professionals should not only be adequately recognized henceforth but appropriately credited for their work and contribution.”

Recognizing the importance of museums, cultural institutions and heritage sites is also vital. 

“They not only preserve heritage but offer equal access to culture and provide vital education, social inclusion, cultural diversity and well-being,” said Ramirez.

While the culture sector is beginning to recover, what the pandemic has taught those in the field is that it cannot move forward in today’s world without developing and sustaining a collective ecosystem.

“This includes data-driven policies, inter and intra-sectoral collaboration, economic investment, infrastructure, regulations, socio-economic support and capacity-building,” explained Ramirez.

Crucially, he emphasized, “if we are to preserve our culture, we must ensure the continuity of its creation by supporting artists and professionals in adapting to a changing world; providing equal access and opportunities across the cultural value chain; ensuring social protection and fair retribution for all; harnessing technological change to support innovation and facilitate a diversity of cultural expressions.”

The cultural sector, even in its weakened state, caused many to question what they value and prioritize. Culture in that light is often a source of comfort, connection and beauty for many. Take it away and we lose a vital part of our wellbeing and our communication with others.