The Annual Oscar Award Predictions by Lary Bs

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Lary is an old friend of mine, and I’m sure you’ve bumped into him many times around Beirut. He’s the candy man at night, but during the day, he’s a film expert whose tweets I follow every year around this time. So, this year, I asked if he’d like to publish his always spot-on predictions on the blog, and voila, behold the predictions before tonight’s ceremony!

Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave

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Runner Up: Gravity

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Best Actress: Cate Blanchett

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Runner Up: Amy Adams

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Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio

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Runner Up: Mathew McConaughey

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Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

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Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

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Best Adapted Screenplay: Before Midnight

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Runner Up: The Wolf of Wall Street

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Best Original Screenplay: Her

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Runner Up: Gravity

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Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)

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Runner Up: David O’Russel (American Hustle)

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Best Editing: 12 Years a Slave

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Runner Up: American Hustle

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Best Animated Feature Film: Frozen

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Runner Up: The Wind Rises

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Best Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty

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Make sure you follow @LaryBs for live tweets during the ceremony. 

Ghadi the Movie Review

1376536_756384591054633_864255363_nI absolutely adored this movie. You must watch it. I’ll be honest, the only reason I did go was lotsa friends were going, and Najib and I decided it’ll be a fun no-homo date night. I most definitely do not regret a second. The movie was absolutely perfect for me.

The art direction and scenery and locations were beautiful. Every character had their own charm, none of them were useless and each one captured elements of Lebanese society so brilliantly, put into the witty folksy charm that George Khabbaz embodies.

The trailers and teasers say virtually nothing about the movie, and that’s something I adore. I love walking into a theater with absolutely no idea what’s going to happen. This is not a comedy, although the boyish sarcasm and lighthearted poking we all love about Khabbaz had a significant presence, interrupting the heartfelt drama for a hearty laugh every now and then.

Ghadi is preachy, but not in the preachy kind of preachy. It’s also fair, and even though it takes a very strong stance against abortion (which I don’t really agree with), it deals a fair share of shame to the backwards mentality our society and religion imposes on us. Stuff like gender inequality, domestic violence, ostracizing the mentally challenged, racism and sectarianism.

It tackles all those thing in the most gentle of ways, never going overboard, but packing quite the punch. You fall in love with most of the characters, especially Ghadi. The storyline is brilliant, and for once, thankfully, the movie wasn’t centered around the Lebanese war. It’s uplifting and engaging, at times edge-of-your-seat, and others, laugh out loud (very loudly in Nemr’s case who was sitting next to me =P)

I don’t want to ruin anything for you guys, so I won’t mention the main plot points. I will sincerely recommend you watch it, as I’m sure you’ll love it the way I did. I’d even go as far as saying this is by-far my favorite Lebanese-made movie. It’s beautiful and very well made. It’s relevant, it’s accurate and tasteful in its exaggerations. You will all nod in agreement, and shake your heads in disdain when it pokes at societal embarrassments we still suffer from.

This movie gets a solid 9/10 for me, but only because I never give a full mark. Watch it, it hits theaters this week.

Was awesome seeing you all there, especially Najib, Maya, Pascale, Rita, Assaad, Patrick, Maria, Petra, Nemr, Tanguy and everyone else.

Nemr Abou Nassar’s Epic Feature Film Review

EpicLast night, I was at the avant premiere of Nemr’s new motion picture, Epic. It was awesome seeing so many cool folks from around Beirut, and naming them all here would be impossible, so allow me to say it was good seeing Alina, Patrick, Nemr, Amanda, Jimmy, Fida, Dima, Serena, Karl, Mario, Johnny, Rodge, Chris, Lara, all the Red Bull team and everyone else!

After a small hiccup thanks to our glorious General Security Bureau, the guys at VOX saved the day and the screening went ahead at 8:30PM, only without subtitles and no end credits (I could live with that =P)

Now, I have never seen one of Nemr’s official shows, unfortunately. It was always sold out, I wasn’t in Lebanon at the time of the show or I just couldn’t make it. After last night’s movie, I now realize Nemr saves his absolute best for those shows. It was hil-arious.

Many times during the movie, folks around me (and myself :P) would start clapping or cheer at what was being said on the gigantic VOX cinema screen which made the already gargantuan Nemr 15 meters taller. It was several selected scenes with the best jokes and moments of the 6 nights of the Epic tour.

Nemr tackled everything from Mini Studio and Jad Choueiry (who makes a special guest appearance in the movie), to politics, manly Lebanese men and other tailor-made material only a Lebanese person would ever truly appreciate. Most of the show was Nemr’s interaction, and often rebuttals, to hecklers in the crowd. At times, it did stretch a bit too long without getting boring, especially with the docile, I’m-too-proud-for-this-shit attitude Lebanese audiences have, but Nemr had some serious balls and went places I am sure no other comedian in the region would dare, so props to that!

All in all, the movie is packed with a lot of laughs, OOOOOhs, OW SNAPs and Wows. If you think of it, you’re paying much less than you would at his live show, seeing the best of the best, and you’re safe his comedic wrath where you risk being called a pedophile, a eunuch, or an oily saudi manly man! I think it’s awesome a Lebanese comedian has produced a feature film, and it’s definitely worth a watch. Go with a bunch of friends, be loud and obnoxious, you definitely won’t be disappointed and it’ll definitely get that serotonin pumping!

It starts in Lebanese cinemas this Thursday!

The Red Bull Music Academy Bass Camp Dubai Round Up

IMG_20130926_104128I was invited by the awesome people at Red Bull Lebanon and Red Bull UAE to the Red Bull Music Academy for the region, held for the first time away from Beirut, in Dubai. But, the absolutely amazing venue, organization and programs the Dubai team put together made us feel at home with talented people from the four corners of the world coming together to do one thing: make beautiful music.

The Red Bull Music Academy has been going on since 1998, and the point is to group 30 producers, vocalists, DJs, instrumentalists and other music industry folks under one roof for a series of lectures, workshops, studio time and live jam sessions in the host city’s most happening venues.

I’ll try to recap everything into the segments below.

The Venue

The venue couldn’t have been more perfect. It was a large villa in the Fahaydiyeh Historical District. It’s where the first folks settled in Dubai in the 1800s, and the original city wall’s ruins can be seen in the courtyard outside. Fitting to have this contrast between the historical, and the cutting-edge stuff that was happening in the 5 studios and the live room which were completely refitted, soundproofed and air-conditioned to provide every type of artist with the right gear and mood to make beautiful music.

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What was also nice is that non-musical inspiration was never short, with dozens of museums, artisanal shops and live graffiti by the famous Ruben Sanchez, you could have a stroll around in the milder than usual Dubai weather before diving back into the studios. All in all, awesome venue.

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The Participants

I made over two dozen new friends from all over the Middle East and South Asia. The Lebanon folks I mostly knew well, but after 4 days and nights at Bass Camp, we’ve become quite tight. Ronald Hajjar from Ronin & Nesta, Miran Gurunian from Pindoll, Liliane Chlela (my biggest bully on Twitter), Carl Ferneine from Loopstache and Eddy Ghossein from The Wanton Bishops were representing the diverse musical scenes in the +961.

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Other folks I got to meet and watch in action were

  • Adil Omar, aka Paki Rambo, the Pakistani rapper with collabs with Xzibit, Cypress Hill and even Slash under his belt.
  • Dirar Shawagfeh is the Jordanian drummer in El Morabba3 that Miran described as a “drum machine” because of his perfect timing and consistent awesome delivery on the drum set in the live room and at The Music Room.
  • Jibberish, a Dubai-based Sri Lankan rapper with really dope lyrics and beats to match. The English-speaking MC had me at his first music snippet where he suggests we’re at a place even too high for Wiz Khalifa.
  • Henry Bennett, a British artist based in Dubai that combines my two favorite music genres: electronic and classical. His cello performance at The Music Room is what blew me away personally.
  • Avo Demirjian, from Jordan’s Autostrad band that combines reggae, funk, oriental, rock music and even latin.

One beautiful collaboration was Sahej Bakshi from Dualist Inquiry with his guitar teaming up with post-dubstep, future garage Mumbai-based electronic music producer Sanaya Ardeshir from Sandunes and the multi-instrumentalist electronic and classical composer Henry Bennett on his cello and Zahed Sultan from Kuwait on the keyboards to exemplify what a perfect cross-cultural, cross-genre jam session should really be like.

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The Lecturers

Derrick May‘s lecture was so incredibly epic, I wrote a special post just for that. Apart from giving everyone a list of the equipment they can use and how to use it (his secret recipe basically), he gave a rare, first-hand story about how Techno music began in Detroit, Michigan in the 1980s. It was very enlightening and you could see it on everyone’s faces: they were really impressed and awed by this extremely funny, humble, and legendary man.

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Gareth Jones was the man that moved me the most at the Bass Camp. He was a master at what he does: making sounds come out of the vintage-looking modular synthesizers we all sometimes see, but never really understand. This man has helped shape modern recording history with his legendary work with big artists such as Depeche Mode. What struck me is how humble Mr Jones was. He would take the time to explain every single detail, and show you step-by-step how something’s made whenever you’d venture into his studio, and he stayed with us all the full-length of the Bass Camp, always there to help, chat and even have a couple of enlightening, existential talks whenever the call to prayer sounded and we’d pause the music out of respect for the prayers. His lecture made me want to get my own modular synthesizer and make sexy, spacey sounds. Here’s a short example of what it was like.

Kenny Dope‘s perfect fusion of House, Hip Hop, Latin, Jazz, Funk, Soul, Reggae and even Pop made the club night at DUST in Dubai absolutely epic. I haven’t had so much fun at a party in I don’t know how long. I guess when you get used to the same places, same music, same people, it’s kinda nice, but you don’t go all wild. Kenny Dope took us on a 4-hour long roller coaster with a rooftop packed of people from all over the world and the awesome RBMA crew and participants. It was truly amazing, and we had to delay our bus another 2 hours because no one wanted to leave and everyone wanted more. His lecture was also really nice, a good insight into how the scene goes down in Brooklyn and the states, with a man that has worked with legends like Madonna and Michael Jackson.

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The Studio Time

I spent most of the studio time with Ronald, since he was making stuff I understood and knew well: good House music. It was amazing to see the bass line form bit by bit, then have the creative input of folks like Carl Ferneine, Bashar Saii Hadaya and Gareth Jones, and finally, the vocals of Paki Rambo to create a track that is extremely beautiful, super catchy track that has a GTA 5 feel to it and will probably be called Los Santos (spoiler!)

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And when you witness the extremely complex process that involves over a dozen different machines and components and a handful of programs on the computer, you begin to realize that the cartoon below really sums it up nicely. I’ll also share the track once it’s available on SoundCloud!

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The music making in the live music scene was very different and I found it very delightful since I am not very familiar with it. Each instrumentalist starts jamming a tune, and the others feed off him/her, and vice versa, creating a beautiful, non-verbal back-and-forth that will hopefully yield some beautiful music, which it did at the RBMA. Artists from different parts of the world, and different parts of the industry, coming together to what turned out to be epic tracks and crowd pleasers that took only a handful of days to create.

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The Experience

It was magical. Thank you Red Bull for giving me the opportunity to be part of this. It was a pleasure meeting you all, especially the Red Bull UAE team like Joe, Fouad, Yara, Jailan, Marina, Vicky, Faraz and Mounir, and Red Bull folks from across the region like Maria, Amr, Fouad and everyone else. To all the artists, it was a pleasure spending those 4 days with you all and seeing you in action. To Jackson, Sam, Imad, Fady the conversations over Naked Pizza were amazing ones.

I encourage you all to check out all the awesome peeps I linked to above, and wait for the compilation album that will be released soon. I hope to see you all in the Sound Clash Beirut event in November and can’t wait for next year’s Bass Camp!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Review

What did you expect? Me to not watch a teen drama movie because I’m a heterosexual male? Well, I have two words for you: Emma Watson. I think she’s the perfect woman and even though to me, she’ll always be Hermione, I can’t not watch something she’s in. However, she might’ve been the reason I agreed to go watch it with my good friends Yara, Kim and Janeesh here in DC, but she wasn’t the only reason I enjoyed the movie.

I’m not a big fan of drama and usually don’t enjoy movies without enough CGI, psychoses and some nudity and sometimes a little bit of gore. What I do love more though, is a plot line with twists I did not anticipate and one where the chronological order is masterfully combined with bit by bit revealed to you in a way that makes you say “ahaaa” or “whaaaat” when you find out more each scene.

It’s a really touching story about a group of teens in high school about to go to university who become friends with a very troubled freshman. Each of the characters has a somewhat troubled past which isn’t directly evident. It’s nice how each one of their problems or disorders (my love of psyc kicking in) plays out and how they all evolve in the movie. It’s somewhat sad most of the time and you feel like you just need to hug Emma tight <3

I can’t really say more than that, I like for people to really enjoy a movie without any spoilers or expectations. All I wanted to say is that I went in expecting disappointment at seeing an actress I love playing a part I probably wouldn’t like, only to find out that she made the right call in starring in this movie. So, consider watching The Perks of Being a Wallflower if you’re in the mood for a very nice story that sort of disobeys the usual cliches of teen movie dramas, sprinkles in a little humor and sarcasm, lots of “awww” moments and pretty awesome twists in the plot.

IMDB Rating: 7.8/10
My Rating: 8/10

GO WATCH CABIN IN THE WOODS!

I might not be the best movie reviewer out there, but when it comes to Horror, I know my stuff. I watch every single horror movie ever made, whether crappy or not. Mostly independent stuff, but I never miss the big blockbuster ones either.

I was expecting this movie to be something awesome, after all, it’s from the guys who made SAW! So expectations were definitely high, and I’m glad to say, Cabin in the Woods exceeded it by a looooot.

I will not utter a word, because I would spoil it for you. All I will do is beg you to go and watch it. It’s a game-changer in the Horror genre, and even if you’re not a fan of Horror, your mind will still be blown away by the epicness of the storyline.

My Rating: 10/10
IMDB Rating: 7.8/10 (bullshit!)

The Avengers Review

Wow. That’s what I’m gonna start with. For a movie we’ve been hyped up about for almost 4 years, The Avengers certainly did not fail to impress and it definitely did not disappoint.

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) brings together Iron Man (Robert Downey Junior), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans) alongside Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to fight Loki (Tom Hiddlston) who plans to conquer Earth with an extra-terrestrial army.

That’s it, I won’t be saying any more than you already know about the plot. Instead, I’d like to talk about a few things I found special in this movie. First off, the special effects and CGI. As you can imagine, they were mind-blowing but what was nicer is how it seamlessly blended into the real, duping your brain for a second and freeing you from the painstaking questions of trying to figure out how they did that. Instead, you just enjoy it.

Another thing was how the movie isn’t full of cheesy, corny superhero talk which would make you cringe in pain. Instead, it’s a blend of witty, sarcastic and perfectly timed jokes and one-liners tailor-made to suit every character’s, well, character. It makes the movie all the more fluid and upbeat, with The Hulk and Thor for example wiping out hordes of alien soldiers, and then The Hulk, out of nowhere, punches Thor and knocks him off his feet, making you burst into laughter. There are plenty of other scenes which make you laugh out loud and make you thirsty to get as much screen time as possible from each and every character.

Which brings us to the cast, which was absolutely awesome. Everyone from Samuel L Jackson, to Robert Downey Junior and even Cobie Smulders (Robin Cherbatsky actress) made the cast a truly star-studded one, with none of them really taking the spotlight. In fact, you struggle in the movie to figure out who’s the main man (or woman). Captain America is generally regarded as the clueless old-timer and only takes the reigns for a little while to sort of inject some American patriotism and superiority into the movie (like when an American-made Camaro shreds a German-made Audi in Transformers). But, Iron Man was just as integral, The Hulk too and even the team members with no superpowers, Hawkeye and Black Widow were instrumental in the fight against Loki. If I had to choose though, I’d choose Iron Man, and I believe you’ll agree when you watch it.

All in all, the movie really lived up to my expectations. It was an extremely enjoyable and upbeat movie, with enough heartbreak but a lot more ass-kicking. Perhaps, dare I say, it is my favorite superhero movie since The Dark Knight. I know it’s absurd comparing them, but The Dark Knight set a new standard of storytelling and even though The Avengers might not be as game-changing, it most definitely is an absolutely perfect climax to the Marvel superhero build-up over the last few years.

Conclusion: go watch it, ASAP. Also, remember me when Tony Stark talks about Shawarma in the movie.

IMDB preliminary rating: 8.8/10

My Rating: 10/10

The Artist Movie Review

I absolutely loved, loved, loved this movie. The second I knew someone made a silent, black-and-white movie, I knew I was gonna go watch it. I always wonder how it would’ve been to watch the 4:3, black and white picture with nothing but a soundtrack. I though it would’ve been awkward, full of over-acting and annoying melodies. I was definitely wrong, at least when it comes to The Artist. The movie is hilarious, heart-breaking and immensely cute all at the same time.

It’s about George Valentin, a silent movie super-star, and Peppy Miller, a younger actress who would eventually become a star in “talkies” (talking movies). Silent movies become extinct, and Valentin finds himself out of favor, and soon enough broke. Peppy’s fame on the other hand, skyrockets. Their romance persists though, and their paths keep on intersecting.

The supporting actors were regulars we love and admire, in roles that will make you go “asshole” to an actor you usually associate with cuddliness and kindness or “awwwwwww” and almost shed a tear to an actor you’re used to as the mean guy. Above all, Valentin’s dog is my absolute favorite in the movie. I’d do anything to hug that tiny bundle of awesomeness which I felt played the biggest role in invoking laughter, intensity, sadness, compassion, fear and so much more in a movie where only a handful of words are uttered, at the very very end (spoiled it =P).

All in all, the silent movie experience was very enjoyable. You have to respect the actors and musicians, who let you follow the storyline with only an occasional phrase or two flashed on the screen. Go watch it, ASAP. It’s only playing in Sofil Center in Ashrafieh, which I think is pretty adequate, given its old-theater feel with the big comfy chairs and the smooth-edged silver screen.

IMDB: 8.4/10
Me: 10/10

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Review

I liked this movie. It’s different. It’s a movie about a disgraced journalist in Sweden which ends up moving out of the city into a rural town, aiding an aging businessman in finding out whatever happened to his niece who disappeared 40 years ago.

In Stockholm, a brilliant young hacker with a disturbed past and an unorthodox look and behavior struggles to make a living off the state’s welfare system. Eventually, she (Lisbeth) finds herself helping the journalist (Mikael), whom she had investigated previously, in finding the truth about Heriot (the missing girl).

Soon enough, a pattern of killing women emerges and the rural island where they’re investigating the disappearance of Herriot proves to be quite a complex mini-society of mostly psychotic relatives.

The twists and turns and sometimes graphic images make the movie awesome. There are instances in the movie where you’re gonna be like “fuck this shit” but then, another scene makes you go “hell yeah!”. Also, the movie’s makers are trolls. They drop obvious hints, making you feel like you’ve got it all figured it out, then the story takes a twist out of the blue which I found quite entertaining.

All in all, it’s a nice movie which is different. It combines several types of movies, with some cool action scenes, awesome mystery-solving plot and an ending to make the movie stand-out from the cliches we’re used to. So, I recommend you watch it, but, the length of it might make getting it on pirated DVD and watching it at home all the more appealing.

IMDB Rating: 8.2/10
My Rating: 8/10 

Intouchables Movie Review by Hady Chehlaoui

I loved this movie. It’s in French, I know, blekh… But, if you know just a little bit of French, combined with the English subtitles will eventually make you not sure if you were reading the English or magically understanding the French.

It’s a funny movie with plenty of witty jokes and some slapstick action. It’s also very touching and moving, but in a nice way. I’ll leave you to Hady’s review below. And by the way, Hady might’ve been a tad bit more moved than I was =P

IMDB Rating: 8.3/10
My Rating: 8/10 

A few months ago, Intouchables was released in France. It slowly became a nation-wide sensation, and broke all French box office records.

Intouchables was released on January 5th, and I obviously decided to head down to the movies to see what all the fuss was about….

Intouhables is the touching and hilarious true story of two worlds that meet. Philippe, a rich paraplegic aristocrat hires Driss, a young man from an impoverished urban suburb, to care for him, to everyone’s surprise. Driss is certainly not the most qualified candidate, but Philippe appreciates his lack of compassion and pity towards him, which almost makes him feel normal again. On the other hand, Driss appreciates his newfound lifestyle: taking showers in big golden bathtubs, driving Philippe in a Maserati, and flirting with the enigmatic secretary.  However Driss’s past slowly surfaces, menacing both men’s friendship.

Directors Nakache and Toledano deliver a feel-good movie, where Omar Sy (Driss) &François Cluzet (Philippe) both excel in making us lauch, cry, and even cry of laughter at certain times!  The buildup is phenomenal and the film gradually become funnier, till the final scene (which is most likely sponsored by Kleenex) where you’ll probably shed a tear or two!  Keeping in mind that Cluzet only uses his face to express himself, he does a remarkable job conveying all his feelings and emotions, and Omar magnificently emits a wonderful “joie de vivre” which transcends right from the screen right into our hearts.

I strongly encourage all people (even if they don’t understand French) to watch it. I saw it twice in 4 days, and I cannot wait for it to come out on DVD and add it to my personal collection! I guarantee that this movie will shake you to the core, and you’ll leave the theater with a HUGE smile on your face.