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From ‘Barbenheimer’ to ‘Poor Things’: Top 10 contenders for Oscars 2024 Best Picture

From ‘Barbenheimer’ to ‘Poor Things’: Top 10 contenders for Oscars 2024 Best Picture

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From 'Barbenheimer' to 'Poor Things': Top 10 contenders for Oscars 2024 Best Picture

The best picture field for Sunday’s Oscar ceremony features more diverse films than in previous years, ranging from comedy about dolls and crazed reanimated corpses to tragedies about the atomic bomb and Auschwitz.

The ten films from 2023 that are competing for Hollywood’s highest honour are listed below.

American Fiction pulls off an incredible achievement. It is incredibly funny and exposes ugly hypocrisy and systemic racism.

Jeffrey Wright plays a Black author who loses faith in the publishing industry after discovering that they only want his books to be about crack cocaine and deadbeat dads. The novel becomes a sensation when he says precisely that, in jest.

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The sharp satire won the top prize at the influential Toronto Film Festival and is the frontrunner for the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Winner of the Cannes Film Festival Hollywood is enthralled by Anatomy of a Fall, a complex French legal drama about a woman suspected of her husband’s death. It is the front-runner for finest script that was created. It might be in queue for more because of a creative awards marketing that highlighted the film’s endearing dog hero extensively.

Can it follow in the recent footsteps of South Korea’s Parasite to become just the third Palme d’Or winner to win best picture? It might be a dark horse. The Oscars have already been won by merely nominating Barbie for best picture. Greta Gerwig’s feminist parody was the highest-grossing film of the year, taking in $1.4 billion, and bringing legions of pink-clad admirers to theatres. It also inspired a plethora of memes.

No film – even its unlikely release twin Oppenheimer – dominated the global conversation more than Barbie, and the movie has featured prominently in the Oscars telecast’s promotional push. But can it win? High-profile snubs for its director, and its star Margot Robbie, suggest it could struggle to score prizes beyond costume design and best song.

A charming, witty, old-fashioned drama, The Holdovers follows an unlikely trio stranded together over the winter holidays at a 1970s New England boarding school. The film reunites star Paul Giamatti with director Alexander Payne. Their previous collaboration, 2004’s wine-country road trip movie Sideways, is an all-time classic.

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Snubbed by Oscar voters for Sideways, Giamatti has a strong claim for best actor this time, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph is a shoo-in for supporting actress honours.

If any film can stop Oppenheimer from claiming the Best Picture, it may be The Holdovers. But that is still a long, long shot. Yes, it is three-and-a-half hours long. But Martin Scorsese’s sumptuous drama about the murders of Native Americans in 1920s Oklahoma was just too beautiful – and important – for Academy voters to ignore.

Aside from its A-list leading men Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon perfectly cast Indigenous star Lily Gladstone in a vital, tragic role. Her performance as a wealthy, naive wife could be the first by a Native American to earn an acting Oscar, even if the meandering film itself left many voters cold.

Perennial nominee Bradley Cooper’s latest bid to woo Oscars voters, Leonard Bernstein’s biopic Maestro – which he writes, directs and stars in – racked up an impressive seven nominations.

Yet the film seems likeliest to win just the Oscar for best make-up. That would be a bittersweet, if fitting, legacy for a film that made unwanted, early headlines for Cooper’s giant prosthetic nose. Maestro never truly escaped the so-called Jewface controversy, despite warm reviews.

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It is hard to recall an Oscars with a more dominant frontrunner than Oppenheimer. Christopher Nolan’s drama about the father of the atomic bomb drew critical acclaim, grossed nearly $1 billion, and has won just about every top prize Hollywood has to offer. A grand, old-fashioned blockbuster for grown-ups, shot on a $100 million budget, Oppenheimer is overwhelmingly expected to buck the recent trend of smaller, indie movies winning best picture.

It would be the biggest upset since a loss for La La Land – which was mistakenly announced as best picture in 2017 – if it did not take the night’s final prize. No film had a longer journey to the Oscars than Past Lives, which reduced hardened festivalgoers to sobbing wrecks when it debuted at Sundance back in January 2023.

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Amir Khan’s £11.5m luxury wedding venue finally opens for guests

Amir Khan’s £11.5m luxury wedding venue finally opens for guests

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Amir Khan's £11.5m luxury wedding venue finally opens for guests

After a series of delays, Amir Khan’s extravagant £11.5 million wedding venue has finally witnessed its first marriage ceremony.

The grand “Dubai-style” Bolton tower made its debut on May 18, 2024, with a spectacular celebration as the venue’s inaugural bride and groom marked their special day in lavish style.

Amir Khan missed the grand opening of the venue as he was in Saudi Arabia for the Undisputed Heavyweight Title fight between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk.

Dubbed “The Balmayna,” the venue is situated across from a car wash and a fly-tipping spot, drawing previous criticism for its resemblance to an office building and being labeled as “tacky.”

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In January 2024, broken fridges, sofas and dirty mattresses were seen dumped around the venue, sparking criticism from locals.

One said: “The venue is walled off, but all around it is full of fly-tipping.

“It is absolutely awful and needs cleaning up. It is disgusting. There are black bin bags with rubbish spilling out of them as well as old matrasses and everything else, including broken furniture.

But images from the wedding showed how staff had quickly managed to fix these issues as the building’s lavish marble floors and chandeliers were on display for all guests to see.

A Balmayna spokesperson said: “The first love story at the Balmayna.

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“So elegant, so magical, simply a dream.
“We wish our bride and groom the most happiest of blessings. Such a stunning backdrop for your memories.”

Work on the venue has taken far longer than expected, with Amir Khan investing an initial £5 million since plans were first revealed in 2013.

He invested more money into the project and blamed the delays on “unprofessional management”.

But now, the venue is open for couples wanting to get married and it promises a “royal experience” and “a touch of magnificence and excellence in every celebration”.

The Balmayna features a waterfall and palm trees inside, along with a floral design.

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In another posh room with red velvet sofas and an armchair, books about designers Chanel and Louis Vuitton plus butterflies in a domed display case can be seen.

There are also candles and pamphlets about The Balmayna – which translates as Enamelled in Arabic.

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Gary Oldman talks sobriety and ‘Harry Potter’ at Cannes

Gary Oldman talks sobriety and ‘Harry Potter’ at Cannes

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Gary Oldman talks sobriety and 'Harry Potter' at Cannes

 British actor Gary Oldman, who plays a washed-up alcoholic writer in new Cannes film “Parthenope”, said Wednesday he is celebrating 27 years sober.

  about his role in the “Harry Potter” films, which upset some fans of the boy wizard.

Oldman made the remarks at a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival after the premiere of Paolo Sorrentino’s “Parthenope”. The Italian coming-of-age drama, inspired by mythology, traces a beautiful young woman as she drifts through Naples and Capri.

Oldman appears briefly as famed novelist John Cheever, who in real life struggled with severe alcoholism — a part that Oldman said was not much of a stretch. “I just celebrated 27 years of sobriety,” he said, to applause.

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“My wife actually found a quote where (Cheever) says, ‘My shaking hand reaches for the phone to ring Alcoholics Anonymous, and instead it remains at the whiskey, the gin, the vermouth,’” Oldman continued.

“I’ve been there. I know what that means. So coming to this role, there were things that I just instinctively understood. “When Paolo said to me, ‘I want you to play this sad, melancholic, drunken poet,’ I went, ‘Yeah, I kind of know what that is!’”

In the film, Cheever strikes up a bond with Parthenope, who adores the author’s books but has grown disenchanted with her life.

Actors always ‘hyper-critical’

Oldman was also asked about negative comments he recently made about his own performance as Sirius Black in film adaptations of J. K. Rowling’s beloved Potter books.

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Addressing why he had called the role “mediocre”, Oldman clarified that he did not mean to “disparage anyone out there who are fans of Harry Potter and the films”.

Instead, he regretted that he had not already learnt the character’s tragic fate in later books when he first took on the role in 2004 movie “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”.

“Had I known from the very beginning — if I had read the five books and I had seen the arc of the character — I may have approached it differently,” he said. “I may have looked at it differently and I may have painted in a different colour.”

Besides, Oldman said, actors are “always hyper-critical” of their own work. “If I watched a performance of myself and thought ‘My god, I’m fantastic in this,’ that would be a sad day. Because my best work is next year.”

Reviews of “Parthenope” ranged from “exquisite” to “utterly vacuous”, though most critics praised Oldman’s fleeting appearance. 

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Palestinian films ‘more important than ever’, directors say in Cannes

Palestinian films ‘more important than ever’, directors say in Cannes

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Palestinian films 'more important than ever', directors say in Cannes

Veteran Palestinian film director Rashid Masharawi was abroad when the Gaza war broke out last year, so he decided to hand over the camera to other filmmakers still inside the besieged territory.

“They are the story” of Masharawi’s project, which he presented at the Cannes Film Festival in France, more than seven months after the conflict erupted. “They were fighting to protect their lives, their families, to search for food, for wood to make a fire,” said Masharawi

The result is a collection of short films called “Ground Zero” recounting the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and ensuing humanitarian disaster from the perspective of civilians on the ground.

In one, a mother displaced by the conflict plops her daughter in a large white bucket and, with a clean Turkish coffee pot, gently pours water over her to bathe her. In another, a man recounts his 24-hour ordeal under rubble after the building he was in collapsed.

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Masharawi directed the 20 teams in Gaza from abroad — a process he described as “very, very, very difficult”.

“Sometimes we needed to wait one week to 10 days just to be in contact with somebody, or just to have internet to upload material,” said Masharawi, who was born in Gaza.

At other times, teams were busy searching for a tent, finding insulin for a director’s mother, or “an ambulance to go and save some kids”.

The films are part of several Palestinian tales screening at the festival, including Mehdi Fleifel’s Athens-set refugee drama “To A Land Unknown”.

‘Gatekeepers’

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Palestinian militant group Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

The militants also took 252 hostages, 124 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the Israeli army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed more than 35,000 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry. Thousands of miles away from the conflict, Israel’s pavilion in Cannes is promoting its filmmaking.

Palestinian cinema does not have its own tent at the event, but Algeria has made space for its filmmakers at the other end of the international market in Cannes. “Our narrative and storytelling is more important than ever,” Norway-based Palestinian director Mohamed Jabaly said.

He finished filming his latest project, “Life is Beautiful”, just before the war started. A close friend who shot the last scene of the film has not survived the war. “He was killed while waiting for food aid,” said Jabaly.

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Munir Atallah, of US-based Watermelon Pictures, is hoping to bring the quirky family portrait to North American audiences, saying Palestinians have “for too long been shut out by the gatekeepers of the industry”.

One Palestinian who has already found viewers in the United States is Cherien Dabis, who made 2009 film “Amreeka” and co-directed hit Hulu series “Ramy”. But the shooting of her latest film — a historic epic — was disrupted by the Gaza war.

One of the crew on the ground in the occupied West Bank town of Ramallah, Ala Abu Ghoush, has responded by making a documentary about the stalled project, which they are calling “Unmaking Of”.

“The film is really asking the question: What is the importance of doing films and art in this kind of situation, in this war?” said Abu Ghoush. 

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