Category Archives: Film

‘KINGDOMS OF FIRE’, STARRING KHALED NABAWY ·

New for Stage Voices, from our Mideast correspondent. Keep an eye out for:

KINGDOMS OF FIRE 

By: Adam Sullivan

International Egyptian Actor Khaled Nabawy, the Mel Gibson of the Middle East,  as Tuman in Kingdoms of Fire

The producer of the series is Yasser Hareb

Kingdoms of Fire is directed by Peter Webber.

The story of the kingdoms of fire, a dynamic war of two worlds as the Ottoman’s strive to occupy Cairo. Sultan Selim I is faced with the opposition of the people of Cairo led by the knight turned Mamluk leader Tuman.

Available on Netflicks, Eslam Omar at Ahram Online Arts writes:

“Written by Mohamed Suleiman Abdel-Malek and Ahmed Nada and directed by British Peter Weber, Mamalek El-Nar stars many Arab actors including Mahmoud Nasr, Kinda Hanna, Rashid Assaf, Mona Wassef and Egyptian star Khaled El-Nabawy who plays the role of Tuman Bay II, the last Sultan of the Mamelukes in Cairo.

“This character is the one I wanted to play the most in my entire life,” the 53-year-old Egyptian actor was quoted in Al-Ahram on Thursday, adding that the series “is the fruit of 15 months of hard work, between August 2018 and October 2019.”

“Tuman Bay is the man of the people who said the famous quote ‘I am leaving and Egypt will remain’. He is the knight of all ages who sacrificed his life for the sake of his country and refused to rule for a long time before circumstances forced him out,” added El-Nabawy, who was introduced to cinema by director Youssef Chahine in 1994 before starring in many important films and TV series, proving his talent as an actor.

“El-Nabawy has also shown excitement over broadcasting on the Arab widely seen Saudi network, praising the “generous production and harmonised cooperation” with the directors and producers.

“Mamalek El-Nar is produced by Genomedia, a production company founded in 2016 by Yasser Hareb, who describes their core mission as “to invest all of our resources to enlighten and inspire people for the sake of a better future for mankind.”

“We are proud to announce the serial, which we hope will start a new phase in the Arab drama, and we are proud to begin its broadcast on MBC,” Hareb was quoted as saying to several Saudi media platforms.”

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10198930/    

https://twitter.com/KhaledElNabawy?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor  

https://twitter.com/YasserHareb  

https://www.facebook.com/KingdomsOfFire/

 

FILM ACADEMY MIGHT CHANGE OSCAR RULES DUE TO CORONAVIRUS ·

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 04: Oscar statue at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater on February 04, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

(Brandon Katz’s article appeared in the Observer, 3/20;  via Pam Green.)

We’re such Oscar fanatics that mere days after this year’s ceremony we began predicting the nominees and winners of the upcoming 93rd Academy Awards. But with major theater chains closing its doors for weeks on end due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s unclear how the 2021 Oscars will proceed. Films both major and independent are cancelling or delaying their debuts left and right. To compete in the prestigious ceremony, a movie actually needs to be, you know, released.

In response to the Hollywood downturn, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is considering rule changes for qualification. Typically, a film must have a minimum seven-day theatrical run in a Los Angeles theater to qualify for the Oscars. But with hordes of films being re-routed to video-on-demand and other at-home platforms, that may need to change temporarily.

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A FIRST LOOK AT STEVEN SPIELBERG’S WEST SIDE STORY ·

(Anthony Breznican’s article appeared in Vanity Fair, 3/16; photo: Vanity Fair; via the Drudge Report.)

The director talks about reimagining the musical that riveted him as a child.H 16, 2020

Steven Spielberg has been making West Side Story in his head for a very long time. As a boy in Phoenix in the late 1950s, he had only the soundtrack, and he tried to picture the action and dancing that might accompany it. “My mom was a classical pianist,” says the filmmaker. “Our entire home was festooned with classical musical albums, and I grew up surrounded by classical music. West Side Story was actually the first piece of popular music our family ever allowed into the home. I absconded with it—this was the cast album from the 1957 Broadway musical—and just fell completely in love with it as a kid. West Side Story has been that one haunting temptation that I have finally given in to.”

The film, out December 18, is both a romance and a crime story. It’s about dreams crashing into reality, young people singing about the promise of their lives ahead—then cutting each other down in bursts of violence. It’s about hope and desperation, pride and actual prejudice, and a star-crossed couple who find love amid it all on the streets of New York.

West Side Story became a global sensation when it hit Broadway in 1957, with a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim that made generations swoon, snap, and gasp. The show was both dazzling and gritty, layering a Romeo and Juliet romance between Tony and Maria over a contemporary story of street gangs, racism, and violence in the shadows of rising skyscrapers. When director Robert Wise and choreographer Jerome Robbins adapted it into a film in 1961, West Side Story broke the box office record for musicals and dominated the Oscars, winning 10 awards, including best picture. Six decades later, the stage show has toured the world and been revived repeatedly. (A new production, directed by Ivo van Hove, opened on Broadway in February.) Of course, it’s also so commonly performed at high schools and community theaters that if you haven’t seen it, it’s probably because you were in it.

Threaded throughout the story is the question of who has the right to call a place home and why people who are struggling look for reasons to turn on each other. “This story is not only a product of its time, but that time has returned, and it’s returned with a kind of social fury,” Spielberg says. “I really wanted to tell that Puerto Rican, Nuyorican experience of basically the migration to this country and the struggle to make a living, and to have children, and to battle against the obstacles of xenophobia and racial prejudice.”

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MAX VON SYDOW, STAR OF ‘SEVENTH SEAL’ AND ‘EXORCIST,’ DIES AT 90 ·

(Robert Berkvist’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/9; photo: BFI.)

Widely hailed as one of the finest actors of his generation, Mr. von Sydow formed a close relationship with the director Ingmar Bergman and became an elder pop culture star.

Max von Sydow, the tall, blond Swedish actor who cut a striking figure in American movies but was most identified with the signature work of a fellow Swede, the director Ingmar Bergman, has died on Sunday. He was 90.

His wife, Catherine von Sydow, confirmed the death in an emailed statement. No cause was given.

Widely hailed as one of the finest actors of his generation, Mr. von Sydow became an elder pop culture star in his later years, appearing in a “Star Wars” movie in 2015 as well as in the sixth season of the HBO fantasy-adventure series “Game of Thrones.”He even lent his deep, rich voice to “The Simpsons.”

By then he had become a familiarly austere presence in popular movies like William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist,” Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report,” Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters” and, more recently, Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”

But to film lovers the world over he was most enduringly associated with Bergman.

If ever an actor was born to inhabit the World According to Bergman, it was Mr. von Sydow. Angular and lanky at 6-foot-3, possessing a gaunt face and hooded, icy blue eyes, he not only radiated power but also registered a deep sense of Nordic angst, helping to give flesh to Bergman’s often bleak but hopeful and sometimes comic vision of the human condition in classics like “The Seventh Seal” and “The Virgin Spring.”

In “The Seventh Seal” (1958), Mr. von Sydow played Antonius Block, a strapping medieval knight who returns from the Crusades to his plague-ravaged homeland only to encounter the stern, ghostly pale, black-hooded figure of Death, played by Bengt Ekerot. To stave off the inevitable, Block challenges Death to a game of chess, and in the long intervals between moves he searches the countryside for some shred of human goodness.

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LIZA MINNELLI OPENS UP ABOUT MOM JUDY GARLAND, WORKING WITH FOSSE AND GOING TO REHAB ·

(Marc Malkin’s article appeared in Variety, 2/4.)

Liza Minnelli is getting ready to be photographed for the cover of Variety. She’s wearing an off-the-shoulder black beaded shirtdress and perched on a director’s chair. As she adjusts herself, trying to find the right position to extend her bare legs, she screeches, “I’m getting f—ed by a chair!”

As if on cue, the room goes silent. But before anyone can blink, Minnelli’s distinctive throaty cackle bounces off the walls. It’s the permission everyone in the room needs to howl at what they can’t believe they just heard.

At 73, Minnelli is still the consummate entertainer, taking an awkward moment and turning it into a bawdy joke about getting intimate with a piece of furniture.

Minnelli isn’t a Hollywood icon — she’s a show business legend. Over the course of her career, she’s won four Tonys, two Grammys, an Emmy and an Oscar. But even before she danced her first step, sang a single note or memorized a line of script, she was famous.

“I was born and they took a picture,” Minnelli says.

That’s what happens when your mom is Judy Garland and your dad is Vincente Minnelli.

A few days before the shoot, Liza is settling in for a rare interview. She’s sitting on the couch in the living room of her modest Los Angeles-area apartment. The room is cozy, with a grand piano squeezed into the corner. Her Oscar for “Cabaret” sits on a low table alongside a copy of a 1972 Time magazine with Minnelli on the cover. On a table next to the couch are her Tonys, while a collection of additional awards crowd a sideboard near the entryway.

Hanging on one wall are reproductions of iconic Warhol paintings of Minnelli and her parents. The unending fascination with Garland continued last year with the release of “Judy.” Renée Zellweger is the favorite to win the Oscar for her transformation into Garland during the last months of her life. Minnelli has no interest in seeing the film. All she will say right now is “I hope [Zellweger] had a good time making it.”

Minnelli is wearing her signature black turtleneck and leggings, a look that originated out of comfort rather than fashion. “It’s what I’d wear to dance class because it was easy,” she explains.

She is a dancer at heart. She insists that’s all she ever wanted to be, but she was raised on movie sets and in concert halls. Singing and acting were inevitable. In fact, a one-sentence report in Variety on May 7, 1947, reads, “Liza Minnelli, 14-month-old daughter of Judy Garland, makes her acting bow in Metro’s ‘The Pirate,’ which her father is directing.” The headline: “In Ma’s Footsteps.”

When she was 19, Minnelli became the youngest person to win the leading actress in a musical Tony for her turn in the 1965 Kander and Ebb musical “Flora the Red Menace.” Four years later, she received her first Oscar nomination for her performance in the romantic comedy “The Sterile Cuckoo.”

Then came “Cabaret” in 1972. The Bob Fosse-directed big-screen adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name earned eight Oscars, including one for Minnelli’s work as American expat Sally Bowles in 1930s Berlin during the rise of Nazism.

Joel Grey, Minnelli’s “Cabaret” co-star, who took home an Oscar for his role as the Master of Ceremonies, first met her through Hal Prince when she made her nightclub debut at the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles. “She was this fresh, bursting, bright-eyed talent,” Grey remembers. “You could see that connection to her mother and father. You just knew that she was somebody that was going to happen. She was so tender and frail and fragile and strong at the same time.”

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MARTIN SCORSESE: I SAID MARVEL MOVIES AREN’T CINEMA. LET ME EXPLAIN. ·

(Martin Scorsese’s article appeared in The New York Times, 11/6.)

When I was in England in early October, I gave an interview to Empire magazine. I was asked a question about Marvel movies. I answered it. I said that I’ve tried to watch a few of them and that they’re not for me, that they seem to me to be closer to theme parks than they are to movies as I’ve known and loved them throughout my life, and that in the end, I don’t think they’re cinema.

Some people seem to have seized on the last part of my answer as insulting, or as evidence of hatred for Marvel on my part. If anyone is intent on characterizing my words in that light, there’s nothing I can do to stand in the way.

Many franchise films are made by people of considerable talent and artistry. You can see it on the screen. The fact that the films themselves don’t interest me is a matter of personal taste and temperament. I know that if I were younger, if I’d come of age at a later time, I might have been excited by these pictures and maybe even wanted to make one myself. But I grew up when I did and I developed a sense of movies — of what they were and what they could be — that was as far from the Marvel universe as we on Earth are from Alpha Centauri.

For me, for the filmmakers I came to love and respect, for my friends who started making movies around the same time that I did, cinema was about revelation — aesthetic, emotional and spiritual revelation. It was about characters — the complexity of people and their contradictory and sometimes paradoxical natures, the way they can hurt one another and love one another and suddenly come face to face with themselves.

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Photo: Flipboard.com

THE EXTRAORDINARY GENIUS OF DONAL MCCANN ON STAGE ·

(Derek O’Connor’s article appeared in The Irish Times, 9/23.)

Derek O’Connor remembers the actor, who was a giant of Irish theatre

I never saw Diego Maradona play football. I never saw Nijinsky dance. And I never saw Miles Davis play the horn.

But baby, I saw Donal McCann act.

So, you know what? Fundamentally, I’m good.

I’m not quite sure that they make actors like Donal McCann any more. I’m not quite sure that they ever did. Twenty years after his passing, McCann is far from forgotten. Talk to anyone with a passing knowledge of Irish theatre, and chances are that they’ll acknowledge him as a giant, one of the greats, a master of the form.

But then talk to someone who witnessed him ply his trade – scratch that, his vocation – and the tone changes to one of reverence, of something resembling awe, a single question left unspoken . . . How did he do that?

I came to the party late. The first time I saw McCann onstage was in a Gate Theatre production of Juno And The Paycock, playing Seán O’Casey’s poetic wastrel Captain Boyle. Little more than a decade later, he would be dead at the ridiculously early age of 56, from pancreatic cancer. I didn’t see him on purpose, either – I was on a school trip. Juno was (as it remains now) on the Leaving Certificate curriculum. An enthusiastic English teacher – one Declan Fitzpatrick – insisted we experienced the work onstage.

Captain Boyle is one of the great archetypes, in that the character so exquisitely personifies a particular strain of Irish male, as prevalent now as ever. With a pitch-perfect wingman in the shape of John Kavanagh’s wired and wiry Joxer Daly, McCann’s Boyle was both pantomime turn and Falstaffian tragedy, sometimes within the same scene, sometimes within the same sentence. I had never – and have never since – seen anyone so utterly alive on the stage. How did he do that?

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Photo: The Irish Times

THE RELEASE OF OLEG SENTSOV AND THE PLIGHT OF THOSE LEFT BEHIND ·

(Masha Gessen’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 9/10.)

Russia released its most famous prisoner on Saturday. Oleg Sentsov, a forty-three-year-old Crimean journalist and film director, returned to Ukraine after serving five years of a twenty-year sentence. He was one of thirty-five Ukrainian citizens released by Russia in exchange for Ukraine freeing an equal number of Russian citizens. Human-rights groups around the world, activists, and some politicians had been working to draw attention to Sentsov’s case since he was arrested, in May, 2014. In a moment when the U.S. government appears to have dropped human rights from its international agenda, Sentsov’s story shows that a concerted international effort on behalf of one man can still yield results, but it also highlights the limitations of such efforts. Several dozen more Ukrainian citizens, sentenced on equally spurious charges, remain in Russian prisons.

Sentsov was convicted of terrorism ostensibly for setting fires to the doors of the offices of the ruling Russian party, United Russia, in Crimea, and plotting to blow up a monument to Lenin. The prosecution provided no evidence of Sentsov’s participation in either the fires (an established part of radical protests in Russia, usually regarded as crimes against property) or a plot to destroy the monument. The court offered no explanation for why an alleged plot to blow up an inanimate object was viewed as terrorism.

Sentsov was born in Crimea, in an ethnic Russian family. Like most Crimeans, he grew up speaking Russian, but, like an apparent minority of them, he identified strongly as a Ukrainian citizen, and opposed the Russian occupation. He took part in the revolutionary movement that brought down the Ukrainian President, in February, 2014. At the conclusion of his trial, he declined to ask the Russian court for leniency, because, he said, he did not recognize its authority over him.

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Photograph by Ovsyannikova Yulia / Ukrinform / ZUMA

SONDHEIM:  RICHARD LINKLATER’S ‘MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG’ TO BE FILMED OVER 20-YEAR SPAN ·

(Mia Galuppo’s article appeared in the Hollywood Reporter, 8/29; via the Drudge Report.)

Blake Jenner, Beanie Feldstein and Ben Platt will star in an adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical ‘Merrily We Roll Along.’

 Beanie Feldstein, Blake Jenner and Ben Platt will star in an adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical Merrily We Roll Along.

Richard Linklater will be directing the project, which is being backed by Blumhouse, and will shoot over a 20-year span. The director shot his Oscar-winning Boyhood over 12 years.

The much-beloved musical, based on the 1934 play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, follows Franklin Shepard, a talented composer of Broadway musicals that abandons his friends and career to become a producer of Hollywood movies. The story begins at the height of his Hollywood fame and moves backwards in time, showing important moments in Frank’s life.

Jenner will portray Shepard, while Feldstein will play Shepard’s friend, theater critic Mary Flynn.

Ginger Sledge will produce with Jason Blum for Blumhouse, along with Jonathan Marc Sherman and Linklater.

Principal photography has been completed for the first segment of the film.

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Photo: Justjared.com