The best TV shows of 2023 so far 

The best TV shows of 2023 so far 
Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey in ‘The Last of Us.’ (HBO) 
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Updated 30 June 2023
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The best TV shows of 2023 so far 

The best TV shows of 2023 so far 
  • As we reach the halfway point of the year, here are the must-see series of the first six months 

DUBAI: As we reach the halfway point of the year, here are the must-see series of the first six months.

‘The Last of Us’ 

Starring: Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey 

Video-game adaptations don’t have much of a screen pedigree, and the post-apocalyptic “The Last of Us” franchise is one of the finest in gaming history, so there was considerable pressure on the creators of HBO’s show to deliver something that, at least, wasn’t a complete disaster. Fans’ initial concerns over the casting of Pascal and Ramsey as the main protagonists — smuggler Joel and his ‘cargo,’ a young girl called Ellie who is mysteriously immune to the fungal infection that has turned the majority of mankind into zombie-like monsters — proved to be unfounded: their chemistry was a major part of the show’s success. Another equally important part was HBO’s decision to make the game’s co-director Neil Druckmann the series’ co-runner, along with super-fan Craig Mazin. They barely put a foot wrong. There was plenty of monster-fighting/evading action, but the crux of the story was the growing father-daughter relationship between the two lost souls on a road trip across America. As we wrote at the time, Druckmann and Mazin “managed the almost-impossible; creating a show that will satisfy (most of) the game’s fans, but enthralling enough to pull you in even if you know nothing of the source material.” 

‘Beef’ 

Starring: Ali Wong, Steven Yeun 

Korean director Lee Sung Jin’s comedy drama series was a delight from start to finish, with superb performances from both Wong and Yeun as struggling contractor Danny Cho and tightly wound small-business owner Amy Lau. The show starts from a simple enough road-rage incident that quickly escalates and begins to consume Danny’s and Amy’s lives. “Beef” was hilarious and moving, shocking and sad, and always enthralling. As our review said at the time: “what makes ‘Beef’ really sing is that Danny and Amy are both desperately trying to keep it together in ways that actually give them far more in common than they might like to admit.” 

‘Succession’ 

Starring: Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin  

It’s still rare for a show to come to an end (without being cancelled) while still being relevant. And rarer still for a finale to not make people wish the show had been cancelled after all. But Jesse Armstrong’s “Succession” — a critical darling throughout its run — thankfully managed to become one of the exceptions to both those rules. In its fourth and final season, the black comedy satirizing the media industry and big business in general got even blacker as the Roy family continued to squabble and scrabble to become the successors to patriarch Logan’s global entertainment empire. The finale was bleak, yes, but a fitting end to a show that never really allowed its central characters to lose touch with their inner inhumanity. 

‘Al-Maktab’ 

Starring: Saleh Abuamrh, Fahad Albutairi, Nawaf Alshbaili, Saad Aziz  

It’s hard for a remake to distinguish itself — let alone the 12th attempt at the same material. But “Al-Maktab,” MBC’s remake of the 2001 BBC hit “The Office,” brought with it all the irreverent joy and hilarious cringe of both the original and its much-heralded US remake, mixed with a flair and sense of humor that is distinctly Saudi. With Abuamrh as the bumbling boss of a mid-sized postal-service company, the show dutifully recreated many of the iconic moments of the Steve Carrell-led American version, but came into its own when it began to create original stories and situations, allowing its performances to grow out of their initial caricatures. As modern Saudi comedy continues its transition from youth-driven YouTube culture to mainstream media dominance, this was a gem hiding in plain sight that, as it went viral across the world, showed signs that the Kingdom’s humor could translate globally.   

‘Barry’ 

Starring: Bill Hader, Stephen Root, Sarah Goldberg, Henry Winkler,  

Another show that managed to stick its landing. “Barry” — the darkly humorous crime drama about a conflicted hitman trying to become a professional actor — ended this year after four consistently excellent seasons that have surely cemented Hader as one of the best actors — comedic or dramatic — of his generation. Not only that, but this often-grim final series in particular also showed that Hader has some serious directing chops; his use of lighting (or lack of) was particularly striking. The ending was pretty much perfect too. This wasn’t an easy series to sell to people — there’s nothing to really compare it to and it was deliberately highbrow at times — but it deserves to be remembered as a truly great TV show. 

‘Somebody Somewhere’ 

Starring: Bridget Everett, Jeff Hiller, Mary Catherine Garrison 

It’s strange that one of the most understated shows on television has such an array of flamboyant characters in it, but the cast members of this lovely comedy drama about a lonely, somewhat lost, 40-something woman returning to her home town and struggling with grief after the death of her beloved sister, always play it true — never looking to ham it up and go for the broad laugh. Each episode can bring you to tears of laughter and sorrow within moments of each other. The lead character, Sam (brilliantly played by Everett), is foul-mouthed and uproarious, joyful, loyal, and doesn’t conform to our general idea of what you have to look like to be happy with yourself, but also quick to judge, sometimes blind to others’ needs 

‘High Desert’ 

Starring: Patricia Arquette, Brad Garrett, Rupert Friend 

Apple TV’s detective comedy might be the year’s most chaotic show. Peggy is a drug addict looking to make a fresh start and in desperate need of some cash. She decides to set up as a private investigator and believes that a local spiritual guru with links to the mafia might be her shot at a big payday. Arquette is on top form as the charismatic mess that is Peggy, and supporting cast members Garrett, Friend, and a hugely entertaining Matt Dillon manage to hold up their end of the bargain too, with, as our review said, “some brilliantly unlikeable performances.”  

‘Silo’ 

Starring: Rebecca Ferguson, David Oyelowo, Common, Tim Robbins 

At the time of writing this dystopian sci-fi drama about a community living in an enormous underground 144-level silo, supposedly because the air outside is immediately fatal to humans, still has one episode left to run and we’re still not really sure what exactly is going on. While that might have been a frustrating situation with most shows, “Silo” is so tense and engaging that even with so much left unclear it’s been a hugely enjoyable watch. Ferguson is compelling as Juliette Nichols, an engineer who becomes the silo’s unwilling sheriff and is working to unravel the mystery of the silo’s origins and purpose. Robbins is also excellent as a manipulative mayor. “This is one dystopian world that you’ll want to revisit,” our review concluded. 

‘Black Mirror’ 

Starring: Aaron Paul, Zazie Beets, Annie Murphy, Salma Hayek 

The sixth season of Charlie Brooker’s anthology series that combines comedy, drama, horror and a frightening prescience was consistently satisfying, although, as our review acknowledged, it “lacks a stand-out episode to match the best of past seasons.” Its five episodes featured some stellar performances from the likes of Paul, Murphy, Josh Hartnett, Hayek and other A-listers, and some harrowing near-future storylines. Most entertaining of all, though, were Brooker’s constant attacks on/mockery of streaming platforms through the fictional Streamberry, designed to look a lot like Netflix, home to “Black Mirror.”  


Review: Cannes title ‘Everybody Loves Touda’ is a sparkling example of Nabil Ayouch’s work

Review: Cannes title ‘Everybody Loves Touda’ is a sparkling example of Nabil Ayouch’s work
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Review: Cannes title ‘Everybody Loves Touda’ is a sparkling example of Nabil Ayouch’s work

Review: Cannes title ‘Everybody Loves Touda’ is a sparkling example of Nabil Ayouch’s work

CANNES: Directed by Morocco’s Nabil Ayouch, Cannes Film Festival title “Everybody Loves Touda” is a compelling look at a single mother, Touda (an excellent Nisrin Erradi), who lives by the age-old dictum “never say die.”

Living in a small town, she is a bundle of music and mirth and her dances seem to bring cheer to her audience, but she soon faces unwanted attention.

The Cannes screening ended with a standing ovation, and Ayouch’s fourth outing at the festival seemed to garner far more audience appreciation than in earlier years. In 2012, his critically acclaimed drama “Horses of God” played in the Un Certain Regard section, which is second in importance to the main competition and is widely seen as a platform for experimental cinema. But Ayouch has also played in the In Competition section for the coveted Palme d’Or — his 2021 feature “Casablanca Beats,” the first title from Morocco since 1962 to vie for this honor, proved a sensation.

 Maryam Touzani and Nabil Ayouch attend the "Everybody Loves Touda" Photocall at the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival. (Getty Images)

Like his other movies, Ayouch approaches “Everybody Loves Touda” with fascinating realism that at times may appear a little too harsh. Having written the script with Mayam Touzani (“The Blue Caftan”), Ayouch may have given us formulaic fare, but he infuses Touda with a kind of determination that is awesome. Striving to relocate to Casablanca, where her deaf son would have better schooling and she herself could find greater opportunities, Touda begins to sing in village nightclubs, bearing with a grin the lecherous gaze of men drunk with delusion.

This is not the first time that Ayouch puts women in such precarious positions. His 2008 “Whatever Lola Wants” talks about the trials of a postal worker in New York who dreams of becoming an Egyptian belly dancer, and “Much Loved” (which played at in the Director's Fortnight section) created a storm with its exploration of prostitution in Morocco.

Peppered with lively music (by Flemming Nordkrog), Touda croons folkloric songs on liberation and other forms of women’s rights. The actress’s gripping performance causes the narrative to sparkle —Erradi has a remarkable on-screen presence that makes the movie a joy to watch.


Lebanese designer Georges Chakra puts on a show at the Cannes Film Festival

 Lebanese designer Georges Chakra puts on a show at the Cannes Film Festival
Updated 39 min 48 sec ago
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Lebanese designer Georges Chakra puts on a show at the Cannes Film Festival

 Lebanese designer Georges Chakra puts on a show at the Cannes Film Festival

DUBAI: Lebanese designer Georges Chakra is making a splash at the ongoing 77th Cannes Film Festival and has so far dressed a number of stars on the red carpet.

Australian actress Claire Holt hit the red carpet before the premiere of Kevin Costner’s “Horizon: An American Saga” in an all-white gown by the designer.

The Georges Chakra Couture look was created from white satin and chiffon and featured pleated detailing across the hips and a dramatic chiffon shoulder train. The look hailed from the designer’s Spring/Summer 2024 collection.

Meanwhile, Tunisian actress Dorra Zarrouk attended the “Women in Cinema” gala dinner hosted by Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Festival in a white satin bustier gown with a satin cape encrusted with hand painted gold feathers from the label’s Fall/Winter 2023-2024 line.

Dorra Zarrouk in Georges Chakra. (Getty Images)

Finally, Chinese actress and model Crystal Zhang chose a Georges Chakra Couture gold sequined gown with a draped veil from the Spring/Summer 2024 collection to attend the Marie Claire China event which took place on the sidelines of the festival.

Holt showed off her choice at the premiere of Costner’s latest film on Sunday. “Horizon: An American Saga” sees the director return to his favorite Western genre with a three-hour film that is just the first of four mooted chapters.

Costner put millions of dollars of his own fortune into the decades-long passion project.

“At a certain moment I just said OK, I'm going to do this myself. And so I mortgaged property, I raised the money,” he told AFP at the festival.

The early reviews were mixed, with The Hollywood Reporter deriding it as a “clumsy slog” while British newspaper The Telegraph said it was “earnest yet hopeful... (and) perhaps its full grandeur won't be fully realized until part two.”

Costner says he is unconcerned about risking his money.

“If they take it away from me, I still have my movie. I still have my integrity. I still listened to my heart,” he said.

 


US comedian Jerry Seinfeld heckled by Pro-Palestinian supporter at standup show in Virginia

US comedian Jerry Seinfeld heckled by Pro-Palestinian supporter at standup show in Virginia
Updated 20 May 2024
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US comedian Jerry Seinfeld heckled by Pro-Palestinian supporter at standup show in Virginia

US comedian Jerry Seinfeld heckled by Pro-Palestinian supporter at standup show in Virginia

DUBAI: Pro-Palestine protests disrupted US comedian-actor Jerry Seinfeld’s Saturday night comedy set in Norfolk, Virginia, resulting in one protestor being escorted out of the venue.

Seinfeld has been vocal in his support for Israel following Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack. The comedian also met with families of the hostages and visited a kibbutz during a trip to Israel in December.

In videos posted online, Seinfeld’s show can be seen being interrupted by a man who stood in the crowd and yelled toward the comedian that he was “a genocide supporter.”

Another video posted to Instagram shows the individual yelling, “Save the children of Gaza,” “No more American tax dollars for genocide” and “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

Seinfeld responded to the heckler, later joking, “This is exciting. I like this.”

Last week, several students walked out of Duke University’s commencement ceremony to protest Seinfeld speaking at the event.


‘Goodbye Julia’ wins big at Critics Awards for Arab Films in Cannes

‘Goodbye Julia’ wins big at Critics Awards for Arab Films in Cannes
Updated 19 May 2024
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‘Goodbye Julia’ wins big at Critics Awards for Arab Films in Cannes

‘Goodbye Julia’ wins big at Critics Awards for Arab Films in Cannes

DUBAI: Sudanese first-time director Mohamed Kordofani’s “Goodbye Julia” won the best feature film and best screenplay awards at the eighth Critics Awards for Arab Films that took place on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday.

French-Tunisian composer Amin Bouhafa, who worked on “Hajjan,” won the best music award for the Saudi Arabia-based film. 

Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania’s hybrid docudrama “Four Daughters,” which missed out on the Best Documentary win at this year’s Academy Awards, scored three prizes: Best director for Ben Hania, best documentary and best editing.

Amjad Al-Rasheed’s “Inshallah a Boy” picked up the best actress prize for Palestinian star Mouna Hawa and best cinematography for Kanamé Onoyama.

Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri nabbed the best actor prize for his role in “The Teacher” while Egyptian filmmaker Morad Mostafa’s “I Promise You Paradise” came out on top in the best short film category.

The awards ceremony is organized by the Cairo-based Arab Cinema Centre (ACC) and winners are voted on by 225 critics from more than 70 countries.  


Saudi Arabia’s RSIFF hosts ‘Women in Cinema’ gala in Cannes

Saudi Arabia’s RSIFF hosts ‘Women in Cinema’ gala in Cannes
Updated 19 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s RSIFF hosts ‘Women in Cinema’ gala in Cannes

Saudi Arabia’s RSIFF hosts ‘Women in Cinema’ gala in Cannes
  • Rosie Huntington Whitley, Richard Gere, Minnie Driver, Alexa Chung, Uma Thurman and Eiza González attended the event, among other international celebrities

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea International Film Festival (RSIFF) hosted the “Women in Cinema” Gala in partnership with Vanity Fair Europe in Cannes on Saturday, attracting celebrities from across the world.

Richard Gere poses with Mohammed Al-Turki. (Ammar Abd Rabbo)

The glitzy gala dinner took place after RSIFF presented the “Women in Cinema” panel discussion during the Variety Global Conversations event earlier in the day.

The panel featured Egyptian actress and model Salma Abu Deif, Indian actress Kiara Advani,  Thai actress, model and singer Sarocha Chankimha (also known as Freen), Saudi actress Adhwa Fahad, Saudi singer and actress Aseel Omran, and French-Senegalese director Ramata Toulaye-Sy. The talents spoke about their early beginnings, their career breakthroughs and their sources of inspiration during the panel talk.

Aseel Omran pictured at the event. (Ammar Abd Rabbo)

Those stars and many more attended the evening’s festivities at the iconic Hotel Du Cap.

“The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” actress Eiza González, model Ikram Abdi, supermodel Naomi Campbell and actress Dorra Zarrouk were among the star-studded guest list.

Rosie Huntington Whitley, Richard Gere, Minnie Driver, Raya Abirashed, Alexa Chung, Wallis Day, Lucas Bravo and Uma Thurman also attended the event. 

Yousra attended the event in Cannes. (Ammar Abd Rabbo)

“The Red Sea International Film Festival (#RedSeaIFF) and Vanity Fair Europe reunited to host the #WomenInCinema Gala, championing the achievements of rising female talent on both sides of the camera who are reshaping the film industry in Saudi Arabia, Africa, Asia and the Arab world,” the Red Sea Film Foundation posted on Instagram.

Saudi Arabia is playing a key role at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, having supported four projects that are screening at the event.

Eva Longoria and Eiza González snap a selfie. (Ammar Abd Rabbo)

“Norah,” “The Brink of Dreams,” “To A Land Unknown” and “Animale” will screen as part of the Un Certain Regard, Directors’ Fortnight and Critic’s Week programs at Cannes. The Red Sea Film Foundation supported the projects through the Red Sea Fund and the Red Sea Souk.

RSIFF CEO Mohammed Al-Turki has been spotted on multiple red carpets throughout the event so far and walked the opening night’s red carpet alongside Jomana Al-Rashid, CEO of the Saudi Research and Media Group.