Looking back: The best movies we watched in 2021

Looking back: The best movies we watched in 2021
“The Power of the Dog” (Supplied)
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Updated 31 December 2021

Looking back: The best movies we watched in 2021

Looking back: The best movies we watched in 2021

DUBAI: From a period Western to a German rom-com, we run down the year’s best movies.

“The Power of the Dog”

Director: Jane Campion

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst  

Here’s a controversial opinion: All riches aside, the character of Marvel’s Doctor Strange is a waste of time for the great Benedict Cumberbatch. While “Spider-Man: No Way Home” finds a seemingly bored Cumberbatch phoning it in, his turn in “The Power of the Dog” is a performance for the ages — a rancher named Phil Burbank in 1925 Montana who is as toxic a personality as he is a magnetic one; a man who knows that emotional abuse is most effective when coupled with moments of kindness and charm. The film’s quiet unease, punctuated with other-worldly New Zealand landscapes, feels unlike any film before it, with much to chew on long after it finishes. 

“The French Dispatch”

Director: Wes Anderson

Starring: Benicio del Toro, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chamalet 

Wes Anderson has a style that is easy to imitate — ornate, pastel, symmetrical, and obvious in in its artifice — but no one else on earth could make a film with the particular brilliance of “The French Dispatch,” Anderson’s love letter to the bygone Harold Ross-edited years of The New Yorker. His anthology is packed to the brim with great actors across its three main stories, Anderson is operating at the peak of his powers, with not a frame wasted and a delirious energy that feels like snacking on a box of old-timey ‘real cane sugar’ sweets. With Anderson, ‘pretentious’ never feels like a dirty word — nor should it. 

“The Green Knight”

Director: David Lowery

Starring: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Barry Keoghan

There have been countless films set in the world of King Arthur, but none has done more to strip away all that feels mystical and mythic about the Knights of the Round Table than David Lowery’s latest, which drags its star Dev Patel through the literal muck to bring to life a classic hero story reimagined as a search for meaning in a grimy and mundane world. Sir Gawain is a hapless oaf with no tale to be told, who sets off towards certain death so that he too may become a mythic figure like his many friends in Camelot — a goal that is less fulfilling than he initially believes.  

“Malignant”

Director: James Wan 

Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Mckenna Grace, George Young

James Wan has long shown the potential to be one of the finest filmmakers of his generation — a successor to cinema-loving auteurs of the past such as Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese — but his body of work had yet to prove it. With “Malignant,” he finally has a film that realizes his manic genius, a love letter to the VHS age of horror films with a style an energy that outdoes them all. While it may start as a seemingly predictable monster film, the longer the film goes on, the wilder it gets, but that’s when Wan is most in control. For horror fans, this was the most fun to be had at the movies this year. 

“The Lost Daughter” 

Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal

Starring: Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Ed Harris

Put Olivia Colman in anything and she’ll shine, but give the Oscar winner a character such as Leda in “The Lost Daughter” and she’ll stir your soul. Leda is a university professor on a solo holiday to Greece for the summer, whose peaceful days by the beach are interrupted by a loud, aggressive American family, including a young mother (Dakota Johnson) in whom Leda sees herself 15 years earlier. Each of the characters, and Colman’s most of all, are horribly flawed, often cruel for no reason, selfish and stubborn, but the tremendous empathy shown to each stops the film from becoming tiresome or alienating, instead allowing you to sit with broken people and root for them to find forgiveness — for themselves and each other. 

“I’m Your Man”

Director: Mara Schrader

Starring: Maren Eggert, Dan Stevens, Sandra Hüller

Don’t be surprised if you see this gem of a German romance remade into an A-list rom-com in a few years’ time, but you’d be wise to skip the wait. Maren Eggert plays a woman participating in a scientific trial for a new company that makes robots designed to be the perfect partner. Simple, warm and good-hearted, the brilliance of the film is in the generous, gentle performance from English actor Dan Stevens (speaking German) as the robot who just wants to love, trying to woo a woman who has no interest in being loved. 

“The Father”

Director: Florian Zeller

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Rufus Sewell

It won two Oscars earlier this year — for its writer Florian Zeller and lead actor Anthony Hopkins — and yet “The Father” still feels underrated. It’s not the Oscar-bait family drama that it seems to be — it’s actually one of the most devastating psychological thrillers in years; a horror film in the sense that it manifests on screen something that its characters fear most — in this case, living through dementia. The film follows the perspective of Hopkins’ character so closely that the viewer becomes as confused as he as his apartment changes around him, as faces that were once familiar now look like they belong to strangers. A searing, insightful, impeccably performed masterpiece, and the best of Hopkins’ long career. 

“Mayor”

Director: David Osit

Starring: Musa Hadid 

There are many, many Palestinian stories more immediately compelling, more fraught with suffering and more full of heroism than that of Musa Hadid, the mayor of Ramallah in Palestine’s West Bank. For director David Osit, that was the point. In Hadid, Osit found a complex, likeable politician trapped in a bureaucratic nightmare, a man whose desire to alleviate the pain of the people of his city is constantly at odds with the realities of occupation. While not made by an Arab filmmaker, “Mayor” nonetheless captures the spirit of Palestine unlike any film before it, complete with a sense of humor and a pointed glare towards real change. 

“Encanto”

Directors: Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Charise Castro-Smith

Starring: Stephanie Beatriz, María Celia Botero, John Leguizamo 

In Disney’s “Encanto,” a fictional town in South America is home to the magical Madrigal family, in which every member has a unique ability, except one. It’s that conceit that hooks us into this colorful, song-filled world. While Mirabel, the film’s non-magical lead character, may be our way in, it’s the whole family that makes us want to stay. As the film goes on, characters that seemed one-dimensional and pushed to the side are revealed to have rich inner struggles themselves, and as the film shows love and understanding to each of them, emotions rise to the heights of Lin Manuel Miranda’s soaring melodies. One of the best animated films in years. 


Pakistan’s first Cannes film a ‘dream come true’

Pakistan’s first Cannes film a ‘dream come true’
Updated 25 May 2022

Pakistan’s first Cannes film a ‘dream come true’

Pakistan’s first Cannes film a ‘dream come true’

CANNES: The debut screening of Pakistan’s first entry to the Cannes Film Festival felt like “a dream has come true,” one of its stars, Sarwat Gilani, said after the film received a prolonged standing ovation.

The movie, “Joyland,” seeks to break gender stereotypes in the country.

“It felt like the hard work that people do, the struggles that we face as artists in Pakistan, they’ve all come to be worth it,” Gilani told Reuters this week.

Gilani, a film and TV starplay, plays Nucchi in “Joyland,” which competes in the “Un Certain Regard” section, a competition focused on more art-house films that runs parallel to the main “Palme d’Or” prize.

(FromL) Pakistani actress Sana Jafri, Pakistani actress Sania Saeed, actor Ali Junejo, director Saim Sadiq, actor Alina Khan, Pakistani actor and model Sarwat Gilani, actress Rasti Farooq and film producer Apoorva Charan attend a photocall for the film “Joyland” at the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival. (AFP)

Nucchi belongs to a household that has long hoped for the birth of a son to continue the family line, with the consecutive birth of her three daughters not enough to please her conservative father-in-law.

And her brother-in-law Haider secretly falls in love with a transgender woman Biba, who fights for her right to work as a performer.
“Joyland” also explores the frustration of women seeking to pursue a profession, when Haider’s wife Mumtaz falls into a depression for being forced to stay at home and do household chores and stop working as a make-up artist.
“It’s not just about a love story anymore. It’s about real-time issues, real life issues that we all go through,” Gilani said. 
She said she hoped Pakistani movie-goers and critics would give “Joyland” as warm a reception as it received in Cannes.
“I’m very positive that at least our people will understand that this is also a kind of cinema that can be successful. If worldwide, then why not locally, nationally,” she said.
The Cannes Film Festival runs from May 17 to 28, with the prizes awarded on the last day. 


Saudi-Lebanese designer Talal Hizami takes us back to school with latest collection

Saudi-Lebanese designer Talal Hizami takes us back to school with latest collection
Updated 25 May 2022

Saudi-Lebanese designer Talal Hizami takes us back to school with latest collection

Saudi-Lebanese designer Talal Hizami takes us back to school with latest collection

DUBAI: Fashion lovers can expect a heavy dose of nostalgia with Saudi-Lebanese-Palestinian designer Talal Hizami’s latest collection, which he released as part of his ready-to-wear menswear brand Pacifism.

His high-school-inspired offering “Alma Mater” is a sartorial tribute to the London-born creative’s educational background and is in line with fashion’s ongoing obsession with looking back.

“It’s always important for me to try to depict very vivid stories of nostalgia through my collections and my shoots,” he said.

The collection is in line with fashion’s ongoing obsession with looking back. Photographed by Cheb Moha

Y2K nostalgia is currently a huge trend in Western fashion, much of it driven by a new generation of designers who came of age in the 2000s. Hizami, who turned 29 in February, made a show of it in the lookbook for “Alma Mater,” which was shot by Iraqi-Canadian photographer Cheb Moha against the backdrop of school lockers.  

When it comes to the clothing, the designer transports us back to school with his clever take on looks you might find the average high school student wearing in a school hallway. To start, the designer reinvents the varsity jacket, a symbol of US school jocks, by his utilization of Japanese nylon fabric.

There are also casual t-shirts bearing fictional school mascots. At Pacifism University, a bird wearing a maroon knit serves as the symbol for the college team’s Peaceful Doves. The word dove is also used to describe someone who advocates for peace, or in other words a pacifist.

The sporty vibe is dialed up with ultra-cozy terry cloth shorts and high socks.

There are also casual t-shirts bearing fictional school mascots. Photographed by Cheb Moha

Having studied in both the English and US school curriculum, Hizami wanted to merge all the experiences and essence of his emotions during his formative school years.

In addition to the Ivy League hopefuls and jocks, Hizami’s new collection offers the full high school experience with pieces aimed at the science aficionados and preppy crowd. Oversized coats are emblazoned with a periodic table-inspired print on the back that spells out “Pacifism” while school uniforms get a streetwear spin in the form of loose black slacks and button-up polo shirts.

But perhaps nothing screams nostalgia more than the collared rugby shirts. Big in the mid-80s, rugby-stripe pullovers have made a huge resurgence, showing up in the collections of J. Crew, Alexander Wang, Koche, and now, Pacifism.

Oversized coats are emblazoned with a periodic table-inspired print on the back. Photographed by Cheb Moha

“This collection is fitting, in particular for me, because I wasn’t very good at writing stories in school so this is a way in which I find it comfortable to story-tell,” said the designer, who founded his brand in 2019 and made his London Fashion Week debut a year later. 

The collection is set to release via two drops at the end of the month online on Pacifism’s website and select e-tailers.


Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes

Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes
Updated 25 May 2022

Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes

Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes
  • Hollywood director Brett Ratner reveals plans to visit Saudi Arabia to scout for shoot locations

CANNES: Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Culture Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez visited the Kingdom’s pavilion during the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday, to show his support for the burgeoning Saudi film industry.

“Our role is to support the sector with everyone in it. God willing, we will see success soon. Thank you everyone and I wish you a happy opportunity,” he said to a crowd of Saudi and international actors as well as filmmakers who had gathered at the pavilion.

The deputy minister was accompanied by Red Sea Film Festival Foundation CEO Mohammed Al-Turki, Saudi Film Commission CEO Abdullah Al-Eyaf and US director Brett Ratner, the face behind such hits as the “Rush Hour” film series and “X-Men: The Last Stand.” Ratner also produced the “Horrible Bosses” film series, “The Revenant” and “War Dogs.”

The deputy minister praised the work being done by Saudi creatives in the Kingdom and their contribution to the expanding industry, before touring the pavilion and meeting with select industry professionals.

Following his tour, Fayez addressed the press and Saudi creatives directly, saying: “You will have a brilliant future and we are ready, present and supportive of you.

“With regional programs that will come together, there will be great opportunities for filmmakers, actors, actors and actresses,” he added.

For his part, Ratner teased a big announcement, before saying that the details were being kept under wraps.

However, he did reveal plans to visit Saudi Arabia in order to scout for shoot locations.

“I am very excited to come to your beautiful country to film. I am going to come next week with his royal highness and friends and I am going to scout the whole country,” the producer said.

“The film is going to be unbelievable. We will be able to create a big buzz,” he added.

 


Saint Laurent to reportedly present menswear show in Morocco

Saint Laurent to reportedly present menswear show in Morocco
Updated 24 May 2022

Saint Laurent to reportedly present menswear show in Morocco

Saint Laurent to reportedly present menswear show in Morocco

DUBAI: Parisian luxury label Saint Laurent is reportedly set to present its spring 2023 menswear collection in Marrakesh on July 15, according to multiple reports.

Morocco was a great source of inspiration to the late Yves Saint Laurent, and a museum dedicated to the famed fashion designer was even unveiled in Marrakesh in 2017.

The legendary couturier purchased a villa in the Moroccan city in the mid-1960s and two decades later purchased the spectacular Majorelle Gardens to save it from destruction. A mausoleum was built for the designer at the site after his death in 2008.

His years there inspired many of his collections and continue to influence the storied house that bears his name.

Although it will be the first physical show that Saint Laurent will stage in the North African country, it isn’t the first time that the brand has showcased one of its collections in Morocco.

In 2020, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic and when all brands shifted to the digital world, artistic, creative and image director of Saint Laurent Anthony Vaccarello unveiled a 10-minute-long video for the spring 2021 ready-to-wear line with models seen walking on dunes in the Moroccan desert in lieu of a runway.

The men’s show in Marrakech will coincide with an exhibition focused on Saint Laurent’s longstanding relationship with Morocco. Entitled “Love,” the exhibition will run from June 5-Oct. 31 at Palácio Duques de Cadaval in Évora, Portugal.

 


Saudi pavilion hosts Oscar-winning Indian composer A. R. Rahman at Cannes Film Festival

Saudi pavilion hosts Oscar-winning Indian composer A. R. Rahman at Cannes Film Festival
Updated 24 May 2022

Saudi pavilion hosts Oscar-winning Indian composer A. R. Rahman at Cannes Film Festival

Saudi pavilion hosts Oscar-winning Indian composer A. R. Rahman at Cannes Film Festival

DUBAI: Oscar-winning Indian composer A. R. Rahman jetted to Cannes this week to attend the 75th edition of the city’s renowned film festival. 

Besides walking the red carpet and attending film premieres, the singer and songwriter was spotted at the Saudi pavilion where he was welcomed with Saudi coffee. 

“Taking pride in the Kingdom’s legacy of generosity, Saudi coffee is being prepared at the Cannes Film Festival,” the Ministry of Culture in Saudi Arabia shared on Twitter, adding images of Rahman at the Saudi pavilion. 

Saudi coffee is heavily associated with generational hospitality and generosity, providing a close connection to the country’s customs and traditions.

In January, the Ministry of Commerce announced that the commercial name of Arabic coffee will be officially changed to Saudi coffee in the Kingdom’s restaurants, cafes, stores and roasters. 

The announcement, by ministry spokesman Abdulrahman Al-Hussein, is in conjunction with a Culture Ministry initiative in naming 2022 as the “Year of Saudi Coffee” as a way to strengthen the identity and culture of Saudi Arabia.

The record producer was spotted on the red carpet during Cannes Film Festival  opening ceremony. He attended the premiere of French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius’s zombie comedy “Final Cut (Coupez!)”