From ‘Severance’ to ‘Peaky Blinders,’ here are 2022’s must-binge shows

From ‘Severance’ to ‘Peaky Blinders,’ here are 2022’s must-binge shows
“Severance” is an Apple TV+ series. (Supplied)
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Updated 29 July 2022

From ‘Severance’ to ‘Peaky Blinders,’ here are 2022’s must-binge shows

From ‘Severance’ to ‘Peaky Blinders,’ here are 2022’s must-binge shows
  • Welcome returns, grand finales and dazzling originals have made it a great year for the small screen

‘Severance’

There are still some big shows to come, but if “Severance” doesn’t top most of 2022’s end-of-year TV roundups, it’ll be a huge surprise. Hugely engaging, beautifully shot and brilliantly acted, this Apple TV+ series arrived with little fanfare (possibly because it’s very much a slow-burner, so reviewers seeing only the first couple of episodes may have been less-wowed than if they’d seen the whole thing), but turned out to be one of the finest shows in years. A dystopian psychological thriller with some heavy doses of black comedy, the show focuses on a group of employees at a mysterious tech giant, Lumon Industries, where they volunteered for a medical procedure that severs their non-work memories from their work memories. Mark (Adam Scott) is the leader of a team that begins to unravel a company conspiracy. “Severance” is disturbing, thought-provoking, funny, moving and wholly original.

‘Station Eleven’

HBO’s adaptation of Emily St. John Mandel’s 2014 novel set 20 years after a flu pandemic causes civilization to collapse would’ve made waves whenever it was broadcast. Arriving as it did in the midst of an actual pandemic just gave it an extra edge. Post-apocalyptic shows are rarely uplifting, but this one — which focuses on a group of survivors (and their back stories) who have built new lives as wandering performers (the Traveling Symphony) making an annual round trip to various settlements — contained real optimism about how humanity and culture might prevail when our infrastructure and technology collapses. There is plenty of grim stuff too, mostly caused by a violent cult whose leader is inspired by the (fictional) titular graphic novel. The show is anchored by three superb performances from Himesh Patel, Mackenzie Davies and Matilda Lawler — the latter two playing older and younger versions of the symphony’s lead actress Kirsten. It’s an intense ride with a great payoff.

‘Ozark’

The so-tense-it-hurts fourth and final season of “Ozark” was a fitting end to a great run. The Byrde family — Marty (a wound-tight Jason Bateman) and Wendy (a captivating Laura Linney) and their kids Charlotte and Jonah — began the season still in over their heads laundering money for a ruthless Mexican drug cartel, but still believing they could get out clean and return to Chicago. The deeper we got into the season, the less likely that appeared. Instead, it was Marty’s former protégé Ruth Langmore (a faultless Julia Garner) who was starting to make the journey to respectability and wealth that the Byrdes so longed for. This was a twisted roller-coaster ride of a final run that left us wanting more — more of the great writing, more of the spot-on directing, more of the stunning cinematography, more of the pitch-perfect acting.

Read Arab News review here.

‘Stranger Things’

The Eighties-set sci-fi phenomenon continued its ‘let’s-go-darker’ trajectory in its fourth season as the teen heroes faced their most horrific enemy yet: A humanoid demon called Vecna who brutalizes his victims. With three storylines taking place in three different locations (including Russia, where police chief Hopper is incarcerated), this was an ambitious, sprawling story arc from showrunners the Duffer Brothers. But they piled on the tension, the drama, the jeopardy and the thrills for the show’s biggest and best season yet.

Read Arab News review here.

Peaky Blinders’

Another dark, downplayed crime saga that wound things up this year, “Peaky Blinders” didn’t spare the viewers’ feelings with an unremittingly bleak final season that saw the Shelby family, led by Tommy (the excellent Cillian Murphy), falling apart from grief, trauma, substance abuse, stress, rivalry and more. There was a palpable heaviness to the show — appropriate given that Tommy’s double-dealing constantly placed him in mortal danger, while he and his family threatened the lives and livelihoods of so many others.

Read Arab News review here.

‘Slow Horses’

A spy thriller with a twist. That twist being: These spies are hapless, disgraced burn-outs. But “Slow Horses” is not a comedy — although it’s very funny in parts, mainly thanks to Gary Oldman’s scene-stealing turn as the foul-mouthed Jackson Lamb, the leader of a gang of British Secret Service outcasts exiled to a tiny, filthy office away from the real action of ‘The Park’ (MI5 HQ in the show). It’s a gritty, fast-paced, twisty tale of power struggles, betrayal and vengeance told with real flair by a solid ensemble cast.

Read Arab News review here.

‘Better Call Saul’

There are just a couple of episodes left in this series that began as a prequel spin-off from the much-loved “Breaking Bad” and has gone on arguably surpass that show. Bob Odenkirk continues to excel in the role of a lifetime as the lowlife lawyer Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill, making out that everything’s great while his life is falling apart, but the stardust in this show is sprinkled, it seems, over cast, crew and creator in equal measure. It’s a show made by an entire team at the top of their game and an absolute joy to watch.

Read Arab News review here.

‘Only Murders in the Building’

A show that manages to have its cake and eat it. “Only Murders…” is both a snarky parody of the true-crime dramas and podcasts that are so globally popular and a compelling murder-mystery in its own right. The second season delivers more of what made the first so great, including razor-sharp writing, the stunning design of the sets and costumes, the vibrant cinematography and, most importantly, the chemistry between the central trio: Steve Martin as Charles Haden Savage, Martin Short as Oliver Putnam, and Selena Gomez as Mabel Mora.

Read Arab News review here.


Lebanese influencer Karen Wazen spends the day with Angelina Jolie

Lebanese influencer Karen Wazen spends the day with Angelina Jolie
Updated 34 sec ago

Lebanese influencer Karen Wazen spends the day with Angelina Jolie

Lebanese influencer Karen Wazen spends the day with Angelina Jolie

DUBAI: Lebanese influencer and entrepreneur Karen Wazen took to Instagram to share a photograph of herself with Hollywood superstar Angelina Jolie at a cocktail event hosted by French label Guerlain in Paris. 

“This was very special,” the eyewear designer said in a caption to the post. 

“As part of my ongoing collaboration with the maison I was honored to attend an intimate cocktail (event) at Guerlain’s iconic boutique — 68 Avenue des Champs-Elysees — with Angelina Jolie, as well as Guerlain’s experts from its bee conservation program,” Wazen told her 7.9 million followers. 

“Together we discussed the brand’s bee conservation program, including the Bee School, founded by Guerlain and led by its employees, a volunteer program developed to educate young children across the world on the bee’s importance to ecosystems and biodiversity for which I am excited to host here in the Middle East in 2023,” she said. 

In March 2022, the By Karen Wazen founder was announced as the first regional ambassador for the beauty house.

Wazen is representing Guerlain’s full skincare line as a long-time advocate for the brand. The Dubai-based influencer has said she shares the same principles and passions as the house, including sustainability, and both aim to empower women across the region.

“I am very proud to become the Middle Eastern ambassador for Guerlain,” Wazen said at the time. “As a house whose DNA and heritage are in complete, authentic alignment with my own ethos, I look forward to this beautiful and exciting new chapter together.”


Model Gigi Hadid shares insights into her mom life

Model Gigi Hadid shares insights into her mom life
Updated 03 February 2023

Model Gigi Hadid shares insights into her mom life

Model Gigi Hadid shares insights into her mom life

DUBAI: Palestinian-Dutch model Gigi Hadid this week shared rare insights into her life as mother to two-year-old daughter Khai, whom she co-parents with former boyfriend Zayn Malik.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal Magazine, the 27-year-old single mom said that she has “a very mom morning routine.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

“Whatever time she’s (Khai) waking up, I’m waking up,” said Hadid, which is usually between 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

Hadid added that for breakfast, she eats whatever her daughter is having. “I make her pancakes and sausages every day,” she said. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

“For Christmas, she asked me what I was going to ask Santa for and so I said I wanted a new pancake pan. I ordered myself, via Santa, this cool pancake pan — each little circle pancake is a different animal, so she can have lion pancakes or llama pancakes. It’s really fun,” Hadid added.  

Unlike what you might think, Hadid does not have a strict workout routine. Running after her daughter is her exercise, she said. “We walk a lot. We do yoga together. With lifting her and running around all day and going to the park, I get moving,” she said. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

The model also said that she has found an easy way to keep her busy schedule in control. She said she is skilled at organization, scheduling and making sure her many projects get the time they need. 

“That also helps me give a lot of time to Khai,” she said. “(My schedule) is so janky. It can be like Khai’s craft paper. This month it’s (on) a yellow piece of paper. And it’s literally a square calendar with six lines to make seven days. I take a picture on my phone, and I edit through the month then I’ll do all the edits and rewrite it the next month.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

In September, Hadid celebrated her daughter’s second birthday at an intimate party, sharing a picture of a multi-layered cake decorated with characters from Peppa Pig, which seems to be Khai’s favorite cartoon show. 

Khai’s name is a nod to Hadid’s Palestinian grandmother Khairiah.


Golden Globe-winning actor Brian Cox talks witty memoir, role in HBO’s ‘Succession’ at Emirates Lit Fest

Golden Globe-winning actor Brian Cox talks witty memoir, role in HBO’s ‘Succession’ at Emirates Lit Fest
Updated 03 February 2023

Golden Globe-winning actor Brian Cox talks witty memoir, role in HBO’s ‘Succession’ at Emirates Lit Fest

Golden Globe-winning actor Brian Cox talks witty memoir, role in HBO’s ‘Succession’ at Emirates Lit Fest
  • 60-year veteran honors parents’ struggle with autobiography
  • Considers himself ‘overrated’ like ‘overblown’ Johnny Depp

DUBAI: Golden Globe-winning actor Brian Cox certainly knows how to make some noise. The award-winning veteran, known for his portrayal as the angry Logan Roy in HBO’s “Succession,” has an extensive resume spanning six decades across theater, television and films.

Arab News met Cox at the Emirates Literature Festival to discuss his recently released autobiography. The memoir, “Putting the Rabbit in the Hat,” a candid yet highly emotional and hilarious book, journeys through his poverty-stricken childhood to his theater days and a formidable career in Hollywood where he acted in blockbusters including “Troy,” “The Bourne Identity” and “Braveheart.”

Born in 1946 in Dundee, Scotland, Cox lost his father to pancreatic cancer when he was only 8 and dealt with his mother’s struggles with mental health for years, ultimately being raised by his elder sisters. “Writing the memoir was a cathartic experience — I wanted to honor my parents. It was really about my mum and dad and what they went through during a particularly difficult time in the country,” Cox tells Arab News.

Cox was born in 1946 in Dundee, Scotland. (HBO/David Russell)

As a child, he found solace in film and television — often escaping to the cinema. “There were 21 cinemas in Dundee, and I was a regular at every single one,” he writes. Then, one afternoon, while watching Albert Finney in “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning,” he experienced a life-altering moment — if a working-class Englishman can make it in movies, so could he. “I just thought that was very liberating — I felt that Albert was a good muse for me,” says Cox.

As the book tells the tale of his rise to stardom, his shortcomings — professionally and personally — not to be missed are the witty jabs at industry A-listers, including Edward Norton, Steven Seagal and Johnny Depp. Although he turned down a role in “Pirates of the Caribbean” (with no regrets), he does comment on Depp’s acting.

“Personable though I’m sure he is, he is so overblown, so overrated. I mean, ‘Edward Scissorhands.’ Let’s face it, if you come on with hands like that and pale, scarred-face makeup, you don’t have to do anything. And he didn’t. And subsequently, he’s done even less.”

His book tells the tale of his rise to stardom. (HBO/Graeme Hunter)

Was he not worried that his no-holds-barred comments may burn bridges? He clears the air. “I happened to say that Johnny Depp was overrated, but I don't think that — I think we’re all overrated. With Johnny Depp, I think he’s a creature rather than an actor. Edward Scissorhands is an extraordinary creation, and there’s a place for it, but at the same time, I think he’s clearly talented and successful in his time. So I wasn’t dismissing him. I just felt that, like us all, he’s overrated. I’m part of that overrated,” explains Cox. His thoughts on Steven Seagal: ‘He’s as ludicrous in real life as he is on screen,” he writes.

His Logan Roy character sees him as the patriarch of the Roy family and a mean media magnate. Critics have often compared Roy’s character to Rupert Murdoch’s, but Cox believes that isn’t the case. “One of the things that I keep emphasizing about Logan is that he’s not like any of the people he’s compared to — he’s self-made and didn’t inherit anything.

“So his stakes are that much higher because he created it — he wants to know how his creation will be carried on. And he’s a misanthrope,” he says. Another complex part of his character includes his love/hate relationship with his children. “His Achilles heel — the thing that causes the most grief — is that he loves his children. If he didn’t love them, he’d be far better off — but he does,” elaborates Cox.

In 2020, Cox won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series Drama for “Succession” — an award he respects but doesn’t necessarily take too seriously. “It’s the work — that’s the main thing. I’m not interested in awards — I’d rather have a job than an award.”


Lebanese actor Georges Khabbaz discusses his new hit show

Lebanese actor Georges Khabbaz discusses his new hit show
Updated 03 February 2023

Lebanese actor Georges Khabbaz discusses his new hit show

Lebanese actor Georges Khabbaz discusses his new hit show
  • Khabbaz spent decades building an international reputation, winning best actor at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2007 for his acclaimed film ‘Under the Bombs’
  • ‘You have to deal with a lot of baloney,’ says the acclaimed Lebanese actor, writer and director

DUBAI: If you want to understand what it means to be Lebanese, there may be no better prism to look through than the work of Georges Khabbaz. In the three decades Khabbaz has been active, he has been a pillar of Lebanon’s arts scene, the true king of the Lebanese stage. He has written, directed and starred in dozens of plays and television shows, chronicling nearly every aspect of life in the Levantine nation, all with an honesty and fearlessness that have led some to call him the country’s true face.  

Khabbaz has also spent decades building a reputation across the region and the world, winning best actor at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2007 for his acclaimed film “Under the Bombs” and working as a writer on Nadine Labaki’s Oscar-nominated 2018 film “Capernaum.” Now 46 and coming off the immense global success of last year’s Netflix film “Perfect Strangers,” in which he played Walid, Khabbaz is now writer and star of the hit MBC series “Brando El Sharq,” a show that is more than another feather in his cap — it’s the culmination of his career thus far.  

Khabbaz on set with his “Brando El Sharq” co star Amal Arafah. (Supplied)

“Quite simply, this series is an encapsulation of 30 years of my life,” Khabbaz tells Arab News. “I’ve taken a journey of decades, and put all that I’ve been through — the striving, the yearning, the success and the heartbreak — into 10 episodes, and kept the truth of it intact.” 

The series follows a filmmaker — a character representing Khabbaz at his lowest — who is desperate to get funding for his debut film and fulfill his dreams of becoming a renowned director. He’s a man in love with film history, dreaming of Charlie Chaplin and “Casablanca,” and while art is his escape from reality, it is but a fleeting one. His father’s health is deteriorating, and, desperate for money, he begins a pursuit of the biggest star in the country, the titular Brando of the East, to finally bring his plans to fruition. 

What makes this story distinctly Lebanese, in Khabbaz’s mind, is multifold. The country, a veritable mosaic of cultures and influences, is full of art-obsessed creatives, but lacks avenues for those creatives to thrive.  

Nadine Labaki and Georges Khabbaz on the set of “Perfect Strangers.” (Supplied)

“There are so many educational and cultural hardships, but we fight for our dreams and ambitions harder. We rely on our work, and we rely on each other, because we don’t have an environment that supports us,” says Khabbaz. “A lot of the system we live in works against us. It exists to snap our wings off so that we can’t achieve our dreams. There’s a lot of bullying that stops us from fighting for our passion, especially at the beginning of a career. Frankly, you have to deal with a lot of baloney.”  

Khabbaz, of course, feels he’s earned the right to make these sorts of grand proclamations about the state of his country.  

“From the beginning, I had to work hard to discover what audiences in Lebanon are truly feeling,” says Khabbaz. 

The magic of theater lies in its immediacy. People have to show up each night to buy tickets, and once they’re sitting there, performers can keenly feel their engagement from the stage. As Khabbaz wrote and performed plays, he worked to fine tune what it was that his audience really cared about, and to find common ground in their concerns, rather than just pander to them. 

“There is a big audience in front of you that needs to be satisfied, but it doesn’t work if you don’t stay honest with yourself and true to your work. They will never be satisfied, nor will you, if it doesn’t come from a place deep inside you,” says Khabbaz. “I couldn’t lose hold of myself and my own feelings to satisfy them. And that has not always been easy. In fact, over 30 years, that has been a constant struggle, one I’m always concerned about.” 

A still from “Brando El Sharq.” (Supplied)

Ultimately, that is what “Brando El Sharq” is really about, in Khabbaz’s eyes. While its style pulls from his artistic heroes — Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, and the Coen brothers — its true exploration is of a man in desperate pursuit of his dreams who’s in danger of losing his artistic heart in the process. 

“The idea evolved from the thought that, while looking for yourself, you shouldn’t lose yourself,” says Khabbaz. 

In telling this story, Khabbaz was careful not to limit the show to any one genre. Like life, it jumps genres depending on the day, flush with joy, sorrow and everything in between. 

“This series is tragedy, comedy, parody, satire, musical, romance and suspense. It’s theater and it’s cinema in one. This series is my scientific lab,” he says. 

There’s more than one reason for that panoply of storytelling style. Khabbaz is an actor first and foremost and, for actors, great parts are defined by their dimensions.  

“Any actor would love to play this role because it’s so diverse and inclusive of everything you learn about acting. A skilled actor loves to move from one emotion to another very quickly,” says Khabbaz.  

As “Brando El Sharq” concludes its first season, Khabbaz is hard at work on his next film, “Yunan,” the latest from Syrian filmmaker Ameer Fakher Eldin, the man behind 2021’s acclaimed film “The Stranger,” staring Ashraf Barhom. In “Yunan,” Khabbaz plays a depressed writer living in exile who learns to love life again after meeting an elderly woman on a remote island.  

For Khabbaz, the film is a testament to how far he’s come. Why? Because the elderly woman is played by the iconic German actress Hanna Schygulla, star of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “The Marriage of Maria Braun” (1979) and the defining star of the New German Cinema movement, now approaching her 80th birthday.  

“I still have so many dreams and goals in the world of cinema and theater, but this is one of them. The opportunity to collaborate with a genius is deeply humbling,’ says Khabbaz.   

Khabbaz is aware of the esteem he’s built in Lebanon and across the region, and as the positive reviews for his latest series roll in, he’s finally able to look back on his own journey with pride, and reflect on what all the praise represents.  

“I’m just like all the people in the audience. I’ve always chosen the subject of my work based on what I know people can connect to, what we have in common. I’m just like all these people that look up to me, and perhaps they look up to me because I’ve shown them that I’m like them for years through my work,” says Khabbaz. “I think they see me, someone who looks just like them, as an example of what they can accomplish.” 


Tripoli’s futuristic fair placed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger 

Tripoli’s futuristic fair placed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger 
Updated 03 February 2023

Tripoli’s futuristic fair placed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger 

Tripoli’s futuristic fair placed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger 

DUBAI: Designed in 1962 by the renowned late Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, the Rachid Karami International Fair in Tripoli, Lebanon is now on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger, which was updated Jan. 25.  

The site — a symbol of mid-20th century modernization in the Lebanese architectural landscape and of the historical cross-cultural relations between Brazil and Lebanon — has been neglected and abandoned for decades.  

Lebanese architecture expert Dr. Wassim Naghi is hopeful that this will be a positive step for this significant site.  

Oscar Niemeyer in 1977. (AFP)

“Frankly speaking, with the ongoing situation in Lebanon (being) a long series of bad news and negative vibes since October 2019, I can tell you this is the best news I’ve heard in the recent tragic history of Lebanon,” he told Arab News.  

He explained that, through this listing, the site, which has lacked financial backing and proper maintenance for 60 years, has a good chance of attracting the donors and funds necessary to revive it.  

The huge fair, named after the former Lebanese prime minister Rachid Karami, was built from reinforced concrete and stands in a 70-hectare site. Its central building is a covered hall shaped like a boomerang. Its purpose was to host international exhibitions.  

Niemeyer, who famously gave Brasilia its bold buildings, showed Karami and the press a model of the site. “It was a total shock in the media,” said Naghi. “It was something very futuristic. They didn’t expect to see these volumes and an outstanding acrobatic structural system. . . It was the talk of the town — and the world, by the way.”   

The site faced several delays and was never actually used, mostly down to the outbreak of Lebanon’s civil war, during which the fair was occupied by Palestinian militias and the Syrian Army.   

The fair has, somehow, miraculously survived, but it remains in “critical condition,” stresses Naghi. Because it is also located near the seaside, humidity and salt have contributed to its degradation. There have also been some partial collapses in recent times.  

“We might witness a total collapse, and that would be a huge loss,” Naghi said. “Not just a loss for Tripoli and Lebanon, but for humanity.”