Review: Up for an Oscar, ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ is a heart-warming joy to watch
Updated 57 min 54 sec ago
CHENNAI: Short documentary “The Elephant Whisperers” is in the running for the Best Documentary Short Film at the upcoming Academy Awards and after watching the Indian Netflix offering, you may well find yourself wondering how Academy voters are going to resist the extremely moving documentary about two adorable baby elephants and their warm-hearted caretakers, Bomman and Bellie.
They live in the lush and delightfully picturesque terrain of Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. With its myriad colors, varied vegetation and fantastic species – captured vividly by Karan Thapliyal and others — the film kept me absorbed for all of its 41 minutes.
Helmed by Kartiki Gonsalves with narration penned by Priscilla Gonsalves, “The Elephant Whisperers” is crisp and refreshing. As one writer put it, it is this year’s “My Octopus Teacher” — the 2020 Oscar-winning documentary tracing the bond between a filmmaker and an octopus.
The core story here is about two elephant calves, Raghu and Ammu, who are treated like their own children by the couple.
When Raghu's mother is killed, forest officials hand the baby to Bomman and Bellie. There are some moving visuals of how the “parents” take care of the calf. There is more joy to come when another calf, Ammu, is also handed over the couple. The two babies hit it off, and it is lovely to watch them play and tussle with eachother.
Scenes of Bomman giving the animals a bath and later playing football with them remain etched in my memory. The couple feed them just like they would their own children and the feeling of affection is captivating and wonderfully translated on screen.
As the environment becomes a buzzword in the media, it is especially touching when Bomman says we live off the forest, but we should also protect it. And despite the fact that Bellie's husband was killed by a tiger, she gets over her fear of the forest and begins to mingle with it. Later, when Bomman and Bellie get married, it seems like they have forged a perfect union not just with each other, but also with the rich forest that they call their home.
Review: ‘Shotgun Wedding’ is a rom-com action flick that is big, dumb – and lots of fun
Updated 02 February 2023
LONDON: Cinema, in its purest form, is about escapism. And what could be more escapist than a rom-com starring Jennifer Lopez as a bride whose extravagant beach wedding is gatecrashed by a group of pirates?
Throw in Josh Duhamel as her slightly dopey husband, Lenny Kravitz as a handsome ex-boyfriend and Jennifer Coolidge as her future mother-in-law and you have got just about everything you need for a couple of hours of mindless entertainment.
Just as Darcy (Lopez) and Tom (Duhamel) are having doubts about their imminent nuptials, they find themselves the only ones not taken hostage by a band of fearsome brigands. Sneaking around their luxury destination wedding, the feuding couple must put aside their doubts and team up to save their family and friends.
High art this is not – but that is no bad thing. “Shotgun Wedding,” directed by “Pitch Perfect” and “Sisters” helmer Jason Moore, is a goofy, lovable riot. It flips a bunch of rom-com tropes on their head, has a charismatic lead in Lopez and – most importantly – does not take itself too seriously.
It also has a secret weapon in Coolidge, who is finally getting the plaudits her stellar comedic talents have long deserved, and who absolutely runs away with the movie as Tom’s mother, Carol.
It is not all seamless, for sure. There are some hinky effects work on the set pieces, a few narrative leaps that are telegraphed about an hour in advance, and some rather plodding exposition right around the time the action starts to ramp up.
But “Shotgun Wedding” is such dumb fun it is hard to hold a grudge. It won’t alter your perceptions, and it won’t make you reassess your life choices, but it will make you laugh. And, let’s face it, watching J-Lo whoop a bunch of terrorists is a decent way to spend a couple of hours.
Saudi social media star Osama Marwah nominated for a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award
Updated 02 February 2023
DUBAI: Saudi social media star and YouTuber Osama Marwah has been nominated for the Favorite Arab Star prize at the 2023 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award, it was announced on Wednesday.
“When we were younger, we watched Nickelodeon. Today, we are among the nominees,” he wrote to his 4.2 million followers on Instagram. “Thank God. If it wasn’t for God and you, we wouldn’t be anything. Good luck to my creative friends who are also nominated.”
Best known for his vlogs and prank videos, Marwah is competing with Syrian comedian and social media personality Amro Maskoun, Jordanian YouTuber Raghda Kouyoumdjian – famous for her short comedy skits and lip sync videos; and Rozzah, a 19-year-old Jordanian content creator with more than 4.2 million followers.
The Favorite Arab Star award honors talents from the Middle East and North Africa.
First-time nominees for this year’s edition include Jenna Ortega, Jack Harlow, GAYLE, Joji, Nicky Youre and Letitia Wright, among others.
“Stranger Things” leads the pack with six nominations, followed by “That Girl Lay Lay,” “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” and “The Fairly OddParents: Fairly Odder” with four nominations each.
Fans around the world can now cast their votes across 31 categories on the official Kids’ Choice Awards website, with an additional 32 international categories available in regions around the world.
Review: ‘Extraordinary’ shows there’s still life in the superhero genre
New British comedy series is as clever as it is risqué
Updated 02 February 2023
LONDON: Shows such as “The Boys” and “Invincible” have shown that, though the superhero genre can often feel a mite overcrowded, there remains some scope for creative (albeit alternative) freedom.
Into that space steps “Extraordinary” — a UK comedy series that’s part of the first wave of British content commissioned by Disney+ under its Star banner.
Created and written by Emma Moran, “Extraordinary” is set in a world where everybody gets a superpower when they turn 18 years old. Everybody except Jen (Mairead Tyers), that is, who is about to turn 25 and still doesn’t appear to be gifted in any way whatsoever. Jen lives with her flatmate and best friend Carrie (who channels the deceased in her job at a solicitors), Carrie’s feckless boyfriend Kash (who can turn back time and dreams of being a vigilante), and their cat (who may not even be a cat at all).
Given that starting premise, you might expect a narrative arc of loving self-discovery and acceptance — not least because Disney is behind the show. And while there is an air of predictable familiarity about this eight-episode first season, “Extraordinary” carves out an identity all its own with a charming blend of risqué humor and observational affirmation.
Without giving too much away, Jen is such a likable lead character because Tyers makes her so wonderfully, fallibly human. Sure, there might be flying delivery drivers and invisible muggers, but people still go on awkward first dates, still humiliate themselves during job interviews, and still get let down by their lazy boyfriends, even if said boyfriend has the ability to reverse his mistakes by squeezing his eyes shut.
There are some missteps, certainly — a few of the gags feel overused, for example, and some of the supporting characters feel a little flimsy and cartoonish — but “Extraordinary” has a novel concept, an exciting young creator with bags of ideas, a talented bunch of actors who buy into the silliness of it all, and enough energy and pep to live up to its name.
Iraqi artist Suad Al-Attar’s granddaughter discusses new book about the painter’s life, career
Her mystical paintings — reflecting on themes of love, loss, and longing — have since been acquired by the British Museum and the Arab Museum of Modern Art, and displayed at Leighton House, the Barbican Centre, and the UNESCO Center in Paris
Updated 02 February 2023
DUBAI: Baghdad-born artist Suad Al-Attar was a trailblazer for women in her homeland. In the 1960s, while still a teenager, she reportedly became the first female artist to have a solo exhibition in Iraq.
Her mystical paintings — reflecting on themes of love, loss, and longing — have since been acquired by the British Museum and the Arab Museum of Modern Art, and displayed at Leighton House, the Barbican Centre, and the UNESCO Center in Paris.
Now, the artist’s granddaughter, UK-based art historian Nesma Shubber, is publishing a 100-image monograph looking back at Al-Attar’s long life and career. It is based on interviews with her grandmother, now in her early eighties but still active as an artist.
“To walk into her flat and see her painting these masterpieces is actually quite a privilege to have experienced,” Shubber told Arab News.
Al-Attar was, it seems, destined to be an artist. When she was a child, her mother, who briefly studied painting in Beirut, presented Al-Attar with her own paintbox. Her brother would also chaperone her on trips to the riverside to create drawings and paintings of sunsets. Her late sister Layla was also a significant figure in Iraq’s art scene — a talented artist herself, and the director of the Iraqi National Art Museum.
With the approval of Al-Attar’s parents, a room in their residence was turned into her makeshift studio. “By her own admission, she wouldn’t have really gone so far into the art world if it wasn’t for them proactively encouraging and supporting her,” added Shubber.
In 1957, Al-Attar exhibited her work at her high-school graduation show, boosting her confidence, at a time when the country was culturally booming. “Iraq, in those times, was one of the forefront Middle Eastern countries for artistic creation and production,” explained Shubber. “I think at that early exhibition, she really felt like she was a part of something. She was on a path to something great.”
1976 was a life-changing year for Al-Attar. Like many other Iraqis, her family left the country and moved to the UK. She has lived and worked in London ever since. Being away from her homeland has had a major impact on her art, as have the decades of conflict that it has suffered.
The 2003 US invasion of Iraq, in particular, informed her powerful pen drawings and watercolors of women screaming as bombs were falling. “She kind of repeated (this motif). I think it was fixed in her head,” said Shubber.
In general, though, Al-Attar’s other-worldly paintings transport the viewer to a peaceful, dreamlike world of united lovers, mythological creatures, idyllic visions of Iraq, and paradisiacal gardens.
Her work is often symbolic, using motifs from Mesopotamian history. Her use of such symbols, reflecting an era of ancient glory, was particularly heightened during the turbulent Nineties with the outbreak of the Gulf War. It’s a nostalgic reminder of what used to be — creating a vision of home for herself .
There is a sense of melancholy and longing in Al-Attar’s work. On the back of a painting created in 2000, entitled “Tender Embrace,” she has written a few lines from an Arabic poem: “How many tears we shed the night we parted/Excusing our sorrow by saying ‘It’s only the rain.’”
Though Al-Attar is well known in the Arab world, she hasn’t chased international recognition. “She never employed PR or a manager,” said Shubber. “She told me that she doesn’t regret that. What she wants isn’t aligned with that need.”
When researching her 216-page monograph, as well as interviewing Al-Attar, Shubber looked through old catalogs and exhibition invitations. The book includes a selection of vintage snapshots of Al-Attar with voluminous hair and kohl-lined light eyes. “Obviously, she’s a glamorous person,” Shubber said. “She is stylish beyond the canvas. Design, style, and color translated into her home life.”
For Shubber, working on this book has reaffirmed what she saw in her grandmother all along. “The one thing that I was in awe of, all over again, was just how prolific she has been — she has made so many paintings,” she said. “It really is her essence. She was born to do it.”