DUBAI: The first season of “Only Murders in the Building” was a — largely unexpected — huge success. The comedy-mystery-drama was lauded for its ability to parody the ubiquitous true-crime docudramas and podcasts to often-hilarious effect while still managing to be a compelling, edge-of-the-seat whodunnit itself.
The second season — now showing in the region on Disney+ — continues to revolve around the trio of Charles Haden Savage (Steve Martin), an actor best known as the star of “Brazzos,” a 1990s detective drama; Oliver Putnam (Martin Short), a financially strapped theater director; and Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez), who is renovating her aunt’s apartment at the Arconia, the venerable New York building of the show’s title, where the two older men also live.
In season one, the three relative strangers initially bonded over their love of true-crime podcasts. And when a young man was murdered in the Arconia, the trio tried to crack the case themselves, while starting their own podcast. They wrongly accused a number of building residents (including penthouse dweller Sting) of being the murderer, eventually became suspects themselves, were exonerated, and eventually helped unveil the real perpetrator.
Season two picks up straight after the season one finale, which found the trio being led from the Arconia in handcuffs after the building’s board president, Bunny Folger, is found dead in Mabel’s apartment. They are interviewed and released and are free to once again attempt to solve a homicide while continuing their podcast. It quickly becomes clear that the real killer is trying to frame them.
So, season two involves the treading of plenty of similar ground, with the trio leaping to several poorly judged conclusions about who is responsible, Amy Schumer replacing Sting as the building’s resident A-list celeb (she turns out to be a huge fan of the podcast), plenty of bitching about neighbors behind their backs, and so on.
Happily, more of the same is exactly what was needed. The magic of “Only Murders” lies mostly in the chemistry between the lead trio. Short and Martin, you sense, are having a joyous time showing off their considerable comedy chops, honed over decades. And Gomez appears to spark a fire in both of them. But all three are also capable of delivering emotionally hard-hitting performances too.
The writing is also superb — razor-sharp, never flabby. Each 30-minute episode is packed with beautifully observed insults, snarky comebacks, and general silliness, all balanced with some genuinely thrilling moments of tension and jeopardy. It all makes for a hugely enjoyable show.
The announcement was made at a press conference in New Delhi on Thursday in the presence of Julia Morley, chairperson and chief executive of Miss World Organization, with Miss World 2022 Karolina Bielawska from Poland and Miss India World 2022 Sini Shetty in attendance.
“The decision to award India with this prestigious honour recognises the nation’s rich cultural heritage, its commitment to promoting diversity, and its passion for empowering women,” the Miss World Organization said in an Instagram post.
The 71st edition of Miss World is expected to take place in November this year. The final dates are yet to be revealed.
“India has the greatest hospitality in the entire world. It is my second time here … and you make me feel like home,” said Bielawska at the announcement.
India last hosted the Miss World pageant in 1996, in Bangalore, where Greece’s Irene Skliva won the title.
The country has also produced six Miss World winners: Reita Faria in 1966, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in 1994, Diana Hayden in 1997, Yukta Mookhey in 1999, Priyanka Chopra in 2000 and Manushi Chhillar in 2017.
Miss World 2022 was held in March last year in Puerto Rico, where Bielawska was crowned, beating runners-up Miss USA Shree Saini and Ivory Coast’s Olivia Yace.
Dubai restaurant Ossiano makes it to World’s 51-100 Best Restaurants list
Updated 09 June 2023
DUBAI: In anticipation of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023 ceremony, to be held later this month in Valencia, the list unveiled its 51-100 ranking, including the award-winning Ossiano located at Atlantis The Palm in Dubai.
Helmed by chef Gregoire Berger, Ossiano entered the global list for the first time at No. 87, making it a brand new entry for Dubai.
Chef Berger said in a statement: “We are incredibly honored to be included in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023 extended list. To be considered as one of the top 100 dining experiences in the world and to be amongst so many amazing professionals is such a fantastic achievement and showcases the team’s relentless hard work. At Ossiano, the entire staff, from the kitchen to the restaurant floor, always strive to serve an extraordinary experience and we look forward to continuing to raise the bar to drive Ossiano forward as a truly unique culinary destination.”
The announcement marks another milestone for Ossiano this year, which was ranked No. 4 and the highest new entry in the 2023 Middle East and Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
The renowned restaurant also retained its star at the Michelin awards ceremony held at Atlantis The Royal last month and was awarded Restaurant of the Year in the second edition of the world-leading restaurant guide Gault&Millau in April.
Emirati director Mohammed Saeed Harib talks new film about an aspiring Saudi wrestler
Updated 09 June 2023
DUBAI: If Dubai has a face, it was probably drawn by Mohammed Saeed Harib. The Emirati animator, artist and filmmaker behind the new film ‘King of the Ring’ — now screening in cinemas across the Middle East — has become an icon in his home country, and is responsible for so much of how the city presents itself to the world, with the characters from his animated series “Freej” welcoming tourists on FlyDubai, his robot design having guided visitors through Expo 2020, and now the newly redesigned characters Modesh and Dana serving as the city’s mascots.
It's no wonder, then, that Harib focuses more these days on the message behind what he’s making. He hasn’t lost his sense of fun, of course, but while he may have set out 20 years ago with a goal to entertain and lovingly poke fun at his own culture, he’s become much more aware that he is a cultural ambassador, and as the region’s artistic voice begins to boom louder, what is being said matters just as much as how it’s said.
“I’ve found it very important to use my skills to make sure that there are good products for kids growing up,” Harib tells Arab News. “My animated series ‘Siraj’ may not get as much media attention, but it’s been (out for) years and it’s still shown in schools. It’s funny, because I’d would rather be known for that kind of work, honestly.”
At first glance, “King of the Ring” (Malik Al-Halaba in Arabic) may be an odd fit for an artist with those intentions. It’s the story of a Saudi man who aspires to be a pro wrestler, far from Harib’s usual wheelhouse. But beneath the surface it’s something more.
“When I was approached, they cautioned me that this was not a slapstick film — it was a heartfelt story. I said, ‘Perfect, that’s exactly what I want to do.’ I wanted an action-comedy with some soul in it,” says Harib.
That was easier said than done, of course, especially in the circumstances Harib was handed. The film was shot in Abu Dhabi halfway through 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and ‘unprecedented times’ led to a production no one could have prepared for.
“Abu Dhabi was by far the most restrictive city during the pandemic, and so we had to adjust accordingly. It was a bit surreal checking into a hotel and having them repeat back to me, ‘So you’ll be staying here 90 days?’ And just as that was sinking in, Saudi Arabia stopped all flights, and we lost our lead actor,” says Harib.
He didn’t have much to compare this to. His last live action film, 2019’s “Rashid & Rajab,” was made over a six-year period in intimate locations near his home, with actors and crew he’d known for years, and producers he counts among his closest friends. “King of the Ring” was a major film, with an international cast — the first large-scale co-production between Saudi Arabia’s MBC, Abu Dhabi’s Image Nation and Vox Cinemas. And even with all that weighing on him, a pressing question jumped into his mind: ‘How the heck do I capture pro wrestling?’
“I was a big fan as a kid, but I haven’t really focused on it for years, and never with a filmmaker’s eye. But I became obsessed. We ended up having to build a wrestling ring in one of the board rooms of the hotel, just to practice the routines over and over again because I was so adamant on understanding what every movement meant,” says Harib.
“In the film, the wrestling starts very amateurish, both in its choreography and how it’s filmed. Then as the film goes on, my best directing comes just as the wrestling gets really good as well. We all were learning as we went — we grew up with the character,” Harib continues.
The director pushed himself further than he ever had before, guided through a harrowing experience by the yearning to become a better filmmaker than before he started — a goal he accomplished. It’s probably why he connected so strongly with the soul of the film, the chronicle of a man battling the limitations his society has placed on him.
“This story sheds light on struggling personalities — people who are fighting to find their voice when society dictates that you don’t go against the grain. There are judgmental figures around you telling you how you should act, how you should look, how you should betray yourself or what line of business to go into. We made this film to be a family picture because we want parents and kids to see this journey and gain something from watching this man fight to be something different and succeed,” says Harib.
Coincidentally, this is not the first film from the Gulf this year to deal with pro wrestling. “Sattar,” from Telfaz11, was a record-breaking hit in the Kingdom, but is substantively different from “King of the Ring.” While the former’s over-the-top comic sensibility fitted more with its YouTube comedy origins, Harib’s film is aimed at a very different audience.
“Last week, one of the stakeholders from Telfaz11 came to our premiere in Saudi Arabia, and he came up to me afterwards to tell me how happy he was that he’d come,” Harib says. “This was a film that kids should see, with a clear message. ‘I can’t recommend our film ‘Sattar’’, the man said, ‘if they’re not of a certain age. It’s wonderful both these films exist!’”
“Sattar” has singlehandedly redrawn the cinema landscape in the region, offering a roadmap towards the untapped commercial prospects for Saudi-related films in the Kingdom. In the UAE, on the other hand, “Sattar” didn’t perform nearly as well, showing that there is still work to be done in crafting films that appeal to both Emiratis and Saudis in equal measure.
“I hope we arrive at a point where we can enjoy each other’s films, but people need to know that while we are part of one family, we have differences,” Harib says. “There are many unique cultural nuances. The Emirati population, for example, did not have the same YouTube culture that has shaped Saudi appetites over the last decade. That material is a hard sell to audiences who are unfamiliar with it, and vice versa. There is a lot of work to be done in navigating these differences.”
And those differences, of course, are ever-evolving. Harib is working on a new season of “Freej,” and he’s constantly marveling at how different the country is from when he started the show in 2006. The characters he created barely exist in real life, as the Emirati people continue to evolve with the times, and cultural traditions begin to change with them.
“I’m working on a film about this now actually — an animated feature — and it’s my passion project. I’ve spent so long servicing companies, or governmental organizations, but this one is for me. It will take some time, though,” says Harib. “Perhaps in five years, we can sit down for an interview about it, and try to figure out how much the Gulf has changed once again.”
Simone Fattal explores the many cultures of the Mediterranean in Venice
The Lebanese artist’s installation also highlights the links between Venice and the Gulf
Updated 09 June 2023
Rebecca Anne Proctor
VENICE: Paris-based Lebanese artist Simone Fattal’s latest work is currently on display in the Church of San Lorenzo in Venice, Italy.
Fattal’s powerful installation is titled “Sempre il mare, uomo libero, amerai!” which translates from Italian to “Always the sea, freeman, you will love!” from the poem “Man and the Sea” by Charles Baudelaire, which describes the waves of the sea as the mirror of the soul. The sea, notes Baudelaire in his poem, is a natural and feminine element that generates and nourishes. Fattal’s work similarly offers a poignant and loving reflection of the Mediterranean, its constant changes, and the cultures it has separated and unified.
“Through my work I try to transcend the actual surface of things to make it more meaningful by recollecting old myths and stories,” Fattal tells Arab News. “I think this reconnection can bring a lot to a person, inside. There were hard times before us and there are hard times ahead of us.
“I create abstract art because it offers silence and silence is a constituent to art otherwise you can’t really go into it — art needs to be meditative,” she continues.
The works are part of the exhibition “Thus Waves Come in Pairs,” a line from the poem “Sea and Fog” by the late Etel Adnan. It runs at Ocean Space in Venice until Nov. 5 alongside other new commissions by Petrit Halilaj and Alvaro Urbano.
“There are many Mediterraneans: the geographical, the historical, the philosophical … the personal, the one we swim in,” Adnan once said. “It’s an experience to swim, it is something you can’t explain to somebody who never swam. This feeling of being held up by this water.”
Fattal’s installation comprises two sculptures that occupy the empty niches of the church’s large Baroque altar. One is “Young Boy,” an abstract figure colored burnt yellow. The other is “Bricola,” a large ceramic sculpture with rich natural hues inspired by the eponymous Venetian wooden poles used to guide boats through the city’s canals evocative of navigation. It also includes two monumental abstract figures “Máyya and Ghaylán” — a pair of lovers celebrated in classical Arabic poetry, whom Fattal separates and joins by rectangular glass plates on the ground evoking a golden sea — and “Contrast,” a series of pearly spheres made from pink Murano glass onto which Fattal has engraved an inscription in lingua franca, a mestizo language drawn from Italian, French, Spanish and Arabic that was once spoken by pirates, merchants, prisoners and slaves along the shores of the Mediterranean. These spheres lie on the floor on the opposite side of the space from the altar.
The inscription on the spheres is taken from the text of the earliest evidence of lingua franca, “Contrasto della Zerbitana” (The Conflict with the Woman of Djerba), a 14th-century poem about an argument between a sailor and the mother of a woman he mistreated, set on the island of Djerba, off the coast of Tunisia.
Poetry, as Fattal demonstrates in these new works, serves as a vehicle for past and present transmission from one language and culture to another. She portrays the complexities and forgotten memories that shape the colonial past and neocolonial present of the Mediterranean and its varied cultures and peoples.
“I wanted to link my work here not only to the church and the Mediterranean but also to the Gulf and the history of pearl trading there,” she tells Arab News. “I was also interested in how the Arab world connected to Venice through the trade of pearls — that’s where Venetian women once got their pearls: from the Gulf.”
Fattal also stresses that the works demonstrate other materials and skills that originated in the Orient, including glass blowing and velvet. Her works, at once poignant and melancholic, aim to resurrect the crucial historical link between Venice and the Orient, the East and the West, and show how the result of such trade is still with us — through cultures, traditions, languages, and art.
As Fattal notes: “All that you see in Venice that is beautiful are symbols of exchange of beauty that took place via the Mediterranean Sea.”
REVIEW: ‘The Legend of Zelda’ is a sprawling masterpiece
Updated 08 June 2023
LONDON: In 2017, “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” broke records and received glowing critical acclaim. It sold about 30 million copies and set the benchmark for open world exploration games for the Nintendo Switch.
The recent release of “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” had big shoes to fill, but it has already surpassed expectations, selling over 10 million copies within three days of its release.
There is a trend in games reviews to estimate how much time a game will take to complete, but with the new “Zelda” game this is almost impossible. Talk on social media is replete with gamers who have already spent 60 hours on it without really proceeding along the main narrative arc of the story.
Indeed, such is the enormity and complexity of the world that you are dropped into that it is almost a daunting game to invest in. But if you have the time — and, of course, the portability of the Switch allows for a supreme flexibility — then a world of wonder awaits.
Within five minutes of taking on the role of Link, the famous elfin like hero, you have lost the Princess Zelda that you have sworn to protect, had your sword reduced to a useless husk, and lost an arm in the process of unleashing an ancient evil lying dormant below Hyrule Castle.
Link awakes in a kingdom in the sky tended to by a benevolent ghost who replaces the missing limb with a powerful version of his own allowing Link a series of game changing powers. These are the essential difference from previous Zelda titles as the new arm allows Link to manipulate his environment, build unique weapons, reverse time, and ascend through solid structures.
The new powers are then unleashed on the vast open world of Hyrule and the floating islands in the sky above. Here more traditional challenges await from solving puzzle shrines, defeating a range of enemies, and completing a seemingly infinite number of quests from the major to the minor.
In addition to Link’s new arm powers, the game introduces “Zonai devices” that allow the hero to build rafts, gliders, sleds and more to navigate the huge gaming arena. However, a quicker alternative is to fast travel between shrines, but far more rewarding is the capture and taming of wild horses who can be named and stabled.
World exploring rewards curiosity and the approach to crafting ranges from making clothes suitable for the variety of environments, putting together all manner of weapons, to cooking meals that can see you through the tougher tests that lie ahead.
The storyline is the classic good versus evil, but the impact of the release of the evil — what the characters call “the gloom” — is skilfully done and makes the landscape feels suitable distinct from the game the preceded it.
This Zelda may not be a pickup and play, but its magnificent depth can easily be lost within.