Review: ‘Halftime’ sincerely captures Jennifer Lopez’s highs and lows 

Review: ‘Halftime’ sincerely captures Jennifer Lopez’s highs and lows 
“Halftime” is a documentary on pop superstar Jennifer Lopez. (AFP)
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Updated 19 June 2022

Review: ‘Halftime’ sincerely captures Jennifer Lopez’s highs and lows 

Review: ‘Halftime’ sincerely captures Jennifer Lopez’s highs and lows 

CHENNAI: Lauded at the ongoing Tribeca Film Festival, director Amanda Micheli’s taut new documentary on pop superstar Jennifer Lopez is enthralling and reflective.

Now streaming on Netflix, the smartly edited documentary offers a balanced view of the 52-year-old queen of the stage and is a study of her life and career, with a strong focus on her iconic 2020 Super Bowl Halftime show. And what a career it has been, with an amazing arc stretching from being a dancer, to an actress, singer and global icon. As a Latina, whose parents came from Puerto Rico to live the American dream in the Bronx, New York, Lopez had to struggle to be heard and to be seen. 

 

 

As a woman of color, she faced discrimination and humiliation, and was once asked if this bothered her — she quipped that it was expected. However, this documentary takes us behind the graceful one liners and showcases a star who says that at times she wanted to quit. The 95-minute documentary is marked by such sincere moments, but manages not to get bogged down by theatrical emotions. It steers away from the morose with uplifting scenes of Lopez doing what she does best — performing and preparing for one of the biggest shows in her career with a dedication and single-mindedness that will remind viewers why she is considered one of the best performers of this generation.  

Comparable to Beyonce's “Homecoming” and Janet Jackson's “Lifetime” documentaries, “Halftime” is a breezy tribute to Lopez and a fantastic gift for her millions of fans. The movie mostly documents her life in 2019, including her preparations for the Super Bowl show as well as her work on the film “Hustlers,” for which she gained a Golden Globes nomination. The film also touches on her life as a Latina under the Trump administration, with its notorious immigration policies, taking the work from a sugary pop documentary to something altogether more hard-hitting. 

“Halftime” is disarmingly honest and shot through with passion — a word that may as well be Jennifer Lopez’s middle name. 


What We Are Reading Today: Microbial Life History by Steven A. Frank

What We Are Reading Today: Microbial Life History by Steven A. Frank
Updated 19 August 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Microbial Life History by Steven A. Frank

What We Are Reading Today: Microbial Life History by Steven A. Frank

Design and diversity are the two great challenges in the study of life. Microbial Life History draws on the latest advances in microbiology to describe the fundamental forces of biological design and apply these evolutionary processes to a broad diversity of traits in microbial metabolism and biochemistry.

Emphasizing how to formulate and test hypotheses of adaptation, Steven Frank provides a new foundation for exploring the evolutionary forces of design. He discusses the economic principles of marginal valuations, trade-offs, and payoffs in risky and random environments; the social aspects of conflict and cooperation; the demographic aspects of age and spatial heterogeneity; and the engineering control theory principles by which systems adjust to environments. Frank then applies these evolutionary principles to the biochemistry of microbial metabolism, providing the first comprehensive link between the forces that shape biological design and cellular energetics.


Baldwin expects no charges over fatal movie set accident

Baldwin expects no charges over fatal movie set accident
Updated 19 August 2022

Baldwin expects no charges over fatal movie set accident

Baldwin expects no charges over fatal movie set accident
  • A criminal investigation into the shooting is still ongoing, and prosecutors have not yet ruled out charges against those involved
  • "I sincerely believe... (investigators are) going to say that this was an accident. It's tragic," said Baldwin in a rare interview

LOS ANGELES: US actor Alec Baldwin said he does not believe anyone will be criminally charged over the fatal shooting on the set of Western film “Rust,” telling CNN he has hired a private investigator to assess culpability for the tragedy.
Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins died after being hit by a live round that came from a gun Baldwin was holding as he rehearsed on the New Mexico set of the low-budget movie last October.
A criminal investigation into the shooting is still ongoing, and prosecutors have not yet ruled out charges against those involved.
“I sincerely believe... (investigators are) going to say that this was an accident. It’s tragic,” said Baldwin in a rare interview about the episode, a portion of which was aired Friday.
Baldwin told CNN he had replayed the events leading up to the shooting over and over for the past 10 months.
While insisting he does not want to “condemn” Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the film set’s armorer and props assistant, Baldwin pointed the finger of blame at her and assistant director Dave Halls, who handed him the gun moments before the shooting.
“Someone put a live bullet in the gun who should have known better,” Baldwin said.
“That was (Gutierrez-Reed’s) job. Her job was to look at the ammunition and put in the dummy round or the blank round, and there wasn’t supposed to be any live rounds on the set.
“There are two people who didn’t do what they were supposed to do,” he added.
“I’m not sitting there saying I want them to, you know, go to prison, or I want their lives to be hell.
“I don’t want that, but I want everybody to know that those are the two people that are responsible for what happened.”
Baldwin, who was both the star and a producer of “Rust,” has been the subject of a number of civil lawsuits over the shooting, including from Hutchins’s family.
He has previously said he was told the gun contained no live ammunition, had been instructed by Hutchins to point the gun in her direction, and did not pull the trigger.
But a recent FBI forensic report concluded that the gun could not have been fired “without a pull of the trigger.”
Meanwhile, Gutierrez-Reed has sued the film’s ammunition supplier, accusing him of leaving real bullets among the dummy cartridges.
On Thursday, her lawyer criticized the FBI for failing to carry out DNA or fingerprint testing to establish who had handled the live rounds found on set.
“It is inconceivable that the sheriff would not seek answers to this fundamental question and it raises a serious problem with the entire investigation,” said a statement from Jason Bowles.
Following Baldwin’s latest interview, lawyers for both Gutierrez-Reed and Halls told CNN that the actor was trying to deflect blame away from himself.
Baldwin also used the CNN interview to address former US President Donald Trump’s public intimation that he could have killed Hutchins on purpose.
Trump last year told a podcast that Baldwin — who frequently impersonated and ridiculed the president on “Saturday Night Live” — was a “troubled guy,” suggesting that “maybe he loaded” the gun.
Baldwin told CNN he was consequently worried that some of Trump’s supporters would “come and kill me.”
“Here was Trump, who instructed people to commit acts of violence, and he was pointing the finger at me and saying I was responsible for the death,” said Baldwin.
“There is just this torrent of people attacking me who don’t know the facts.”


REVIEW: ‘House of the Dragon’ fires up a feast for ‘Game of Thrones’ fans

REVIEW: ‘House of the Dragon’ fires up a feast for ‘Game of Thrones’ fans
Updated 19 August 2022

REVIEW: ‘House of the Dragon’ fires up a feast for ‘Game of Thrones’ fans

REVIEW: ‘House of the Dragon’ fires up a feast for ‘Game of Thrones’ fans
  • The prequel series premieres in the region on streaming platform OSN+ on Aug. 22

DUBAI: It’s here: The sequel/prequel to pop-culture tsunami “Game of Thrones” — the most-torrented show of its time and the series that network after network has since tried (and failed) to emulate.

Now, three-and-a-bit years on from the hugely unpopular “GoT” finale, here we are, back in George R.R. Martin’s intricately detailed world with a story focused on the ruling Targaryen family, but set a couple of centuries before the events of “GoT.”

The most pressing question, of course, is: Is “House of the Dragon” any good? The answer, happily, is a resounding yes. It’s very good — an epic, gripping fantasy that contains many of the elements that made “GoT” so huge: Lots of fighting, lots of flesh, lots of labyrinthine political plotting, lots of gore. And dragons.

Paddy Considine and Milly Alcock in ‘House of the Dragon.’ (Supplied)

The two shows share many of the same themes too: Honor, betrayal, sexism, pride, love versus duty, what’s ‘right’ versus what’s necessary, family versus friends, and more.

So, if you were a fan of peak “Game of Thrones,” then “House of the Dragon” — based on the six episodes made available for review, at least — will meet your approval.

While the first episode moves at a glacial pace — making the necessary character introductions and laying out backstory — thereafter the showrunners are content to leap forward several years at a time to the story’s crucial events, so we’re not subjected to long ‘road trips.’ This is a welcome departure from “GoT.” The story, though complex, whizzes along. And while the majority of the show is dialogue-heavy, there are a couple of terrific set pieces, including a bloody beach battle, to keep pulses racing.

Emma D'Arcy and Matt Smith in ‘House of the Dragon.’ (Supplied)

The cast — led by Paddy Considine as the good-hearted-but-fallible King Viserys; Matt Smith as his wayward, impetuous brother Daemon; and Milly Alcock (in the first five episodes) as the teenage Princess Rhaenyra, Viserys’ headstrong firstborn child — are in fine form, committing to their deliberately stilted speeches with gusto.

The thorny knot at the center of the political infighting is Viserys’ heir. He names Rhaenyra (ignoring Daemon’s claim) — going against centuries of tradition by naming a woman as heir — and when he does finally have a son by his new, much-younger wife, Lady Alicent Hightower — once Rhaenyra’s best friend — he refuses to change his mind, despite heavy pressure (some reasonable, some not). Cue courtly wrangling a-plenty.

Viewers will need to focus — often, it’s not what’s being said that’s important, but what’s being omitted or danced around in euphemisms that are as damaging as a sneaky dagger to the ribs. But that focus is richly rewarded by a show that more than stands up to the huge weight of expectation.


Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair talks Paris catwalks and London student life

Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair talks Paris catwalks and London student life
Updated 19 August 2022

Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair talks Paris catwalks and London student life

Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair talks Paris catwalks and London student life
  • The in-demand model is killing it on the catwalk and in the classroom

DUBAI: It’s been a breakout year for 21-year-old Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair. At last month’s Paris Haute Couture Week, she walked the runway for some of the world’s most renowned couturiers, including Lebanese designer Georges Hobeika and Giorgio Armani, attracting international headlines. A couple of weeks before that, she picked up her Bachelor’s degree (with first-class honors) in philosophy, politics, and economics from King’s College, London. 

Al-Zuhair signed to the prestigious Elite Model Management agency aged just 15. “I was having lunch with my family at a restaurant in Paris, and I was spotted by a former Elite agent who told me I should go to the agency and that they’d really like me. So I went, and within 10 minutes I got a contract, which was pretty surreal,” Al-Zuhair tells Arab News. 

Amira Al-Zuhair backstage prior to the Alexis Mabille Haute Couture Fall Winter 22-23 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on July 5, 2022. (Getty Images)

But she didn’t become a model full-time until she was 18. Instead, she had a gradual introduction to the industry with test shoots and editorials.

“School and my education have been a top priority,” she explains. “I’ve always been a bit of a nerd — I represented my school in national math competitions, I was head of the math team, and a member of the UK’s Youth Parliament. And then I focused on my degree. It’s still my goal today to become a lawyer.”

Al-Zuhair was born in Paris to a French mother and Saudi father. She was raised in London, however (“My father wanted me to follow his steps and graduate from a UK university,” she says). The family traveled frequently between the UK and Riyadh, so Al-Zuhair feels a strong cultural and emotional attachment to the Kingdom. 

Al-Zuhair walks the runway during the Alexis Mabille Haute Couture Fall-Winter 22-23 show at Paris Fashion Week. (Getty Images)

“I love Saudi. It’s a big part of who I am and I really appreciate everything that’s going on at the moment — the advancements in culture, education, economy, and infrastructure,” she says. “The current leadership has done an amazing job at putting the country at the forefront of the global stage, and I’m really proud to see these changes.”

Although Al-Zuhair grew up in Europe, she says she was raised with “traditional values” and that her religion is very dear to her. From the get-go, she was clear about what she would, or wouldn’t, be prepared to do as a model. 

“I think the industry is very accommodating,” she says. “It’s all about what boundaries you set. My agency is amazing – and these boundaries have been respected with all aspects of my work and with all my clients. I’ve been very fortunate to have a very good experience.”

Amira Al-Zuhair (third from right, front row) backstage at the George Hobeika show in Paris Haute Couture Week with Georges Hobeika and his son Jad. (Getty Images)

Paris Haute Couture Week was a triumph for Al-Zuhair — if you ignore the time that some guy on a bike tried unsuccessfully to steal her vintage purse. In the same month, she was also part of Dolce & Gabbana’s monumental show in Sicily, where the label celebrated 10 years of its Alta Moda line. Wearing a black habit and black dress with sheer panels, she was an absolute vision on the runway situated in the historic Piazza Duomo in Siracusa.

Al-Zuhair has also worked with some of the industry’s biggest names in the form of ad campaigns and editorials, including Tiffany & Co, Burberry, and Carolina Herrera. In 2020, she landed her first Vogue Arabia cover, attracting widespread praise. 

“It was shot in NEOM, and we were the first group to shoot there,” she says. “It was such an exhilarating experience because I discovered a whole new side of Saudi Arabia. It’s just one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen — the sea, the mountains, the land — you cannot get sick of the views. We had lots of trailers in the middle of the desert; it kind of felt like a movie set. I also got to meet lots of local Saudi production members and stylists. It was so nice to have that representation.”

Al-Zuhair walking for Alexis Mabille at Paris Haute Couture Week on July 5. (Getty Images)

Juggling a demanding modeling career and a full-time university course was no easy feat. “That that was one of the most difficult aspects — the balance. It requires a lot of discipline and good time-management because every second counts. Every day I had to study, exercise, eat, go to university and see my family. There weren’t enough hours. Once, I went to Milan for work, and within 48 hours I’d been in five different cities and four countries.” 

Al-Zuhair shows no signs of slowing down, though. She’s already applying to universities to continue her education and it’s clear that her modeling career is on a steep upward trajectory, with labels and brands clamoring to work with her. It seems that she’ll grab as many opportunities as possible.

“With each show you get a different atmosphere, mood and energy. There’s a different inspiration behind each collection, and that’s reflected in the clothes and the we way act and walk. I’m very grateful for all the opportunities that I’ve been given and to all of these designers for trusting me. It’s a big responsibility,” she says. “I see the work that goes into it behind the scenes, and it’s a very emotional experience. To me, fashion is an art and a form of self-expression. I’m honored to be able to present these collections and their designers’ works of art to the world.”


Cairo’s ‘Summer Portfolio’ photography show examines Egypt’s past and present

Cairo’s ‘Summer Portfolio’ photography show examines Egypt’s past and present
Updated 19 August 2022

Cairo’s ‘Summer Portfolio’ photography show examines Egypt’s past and present

Cairo’s ‘Summer Portfolio’ photography show examines Egypt’s past and present
  • From Cairo to Brooklyn, photographic consultancy Tintera aims to bring together global photographers

CAIRO: In an apartment block in Zamalek — Cairo’s affluent western district where heritage buildings whisk visitors back to the Egyptian capital’s grand past — is a surprising find: A white-walled gallery and consultancy called Tintera, which specializes in photography of Egypt by Egyptians and foreigners. It was established in 2019 by Heba Farid and Zein Khalifa, with the aim of raising the profile of both contemporary and historical photography of Egypt. 

“Photography’s power is in documenting our lives, conceptually as well as through documentary approaches,” Farid tells Arab News. “As certain images of Egypt are ever-present in the global collective memory — images of monuments and conflict tend to be what remain — our mission is to be a destination where an alternative image of Egypt emerges.”

Amina Kadous, ‘City Entrapped.’ (Supplied)

When photography first started to become widely popular in the 19th century CE, photographers from around the world travelled to Egypt to capture not just the country’s multitude of ancient monuments, but, as Farid says, “its abundance of light.” 

“Tintera is committed to elevating the status and value of fine art photography in Egypt,” Khalifa says. “We are exporting ‘another Egypt’ and, while doing so, building a strong collectors’ base, drawing the attention of curators, and engaging specialized and general audiences alike.”

Tintera’s “Summer Portfolio” show is an example of the founder’s aims, presenting works from their roster of more than 20 artists. 
In the main exhibition area, a large collection of portfolio boxes are on display alongside many framed or matted prints. Visitors are invited to handle the prints directly (with the provided gloves, of course) and there is a thin hanging rail installed so that they can curate their own selections. Such an intimate handling of fine-art photography is a rare treat that truly enhances the viewing experience. 

Each photographer’s work presents a different view and experience of Egypt and its people. Highlights include works by Amina Kadous, an award-winning Egyptian photographer with a background in visual art. In her ongoing series “City Entrapped” she explores how portraits of iconic Egyptian public figures, such as Presidents Sadat and Nasser, still exist in many public spaces. 

For Kadous, Cairo is a city that is always in constant change yet somehow stays the same. 
“A city trapped in its own past and stretching to an unknown future. Cairo, a city of icons that is itself iconic,” Kadous writes on her website. “I see through these breaths and gasps of time, endlessly in flux and endlessly in chaos. A city where the only thing that is constant is change.”

Nermine Hammam — an established visual artist with a background in film — employs her signature technique of digital manipulation, hand coloring and layering of images on a collection of black and white vernacular photographs taken on the beaches of Alexandria in “A’aru,” a series named for the ancient Egyptian concept of the afterlife. But, the Tintera founders explain in an article on Hamman’s website, here the artist “inverts” the concept. “Rather than it being an idyllic world yet to come, Hammam shows us a once-almost-perfect world on the brink of destruction. For Hammam, this … is the Alexandria of her past … a place of perceived innocence.”

Anthony Hamboussi, ‘Sharat il-Nil,’ from 15 Mayo Bridge, Agouza, Giza Governorate, Cairo Ring Road, 2014. (Supplied)

Egyptian Brooklyn-based photographer Anthony Hamboussi is one of the latest additions to the Tintera roster. In his series “Ring Road,” he examines the contemporary urban landscape of Cairo and neighboring areas which have morphed over the past century because of uncontrolled urban growth. His evocative photographs show how poor planning and mismanagement of heritage sites have put the city’s historic significance into a state of crisis.

The emerging Egyptian visual artist Maria Saba strikes a more intimate note in her “Urban Jungle” series, which captures the artist in a variety of poses in public urban spaces in Egypt and France, allowing her to examine issues relating to identity and place in the two countries and cultures in which she lives. The black-and-white photographs are nostalgic, melancholic and haunting; Saba seems to be searching for herself in the midst of these sprawling ever-changing urban landscapes. 

Tintera’s “Summer Portfolio” show runs until September 7 at the gallery.