Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : R.E.M. Delivers Surprise Performance at Songwriting Gala 

Rock band R.E.M Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe and Bill Berry attend the 2024 Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductions and gala in New York City, US, June 13, 2024. (Reuters)
Rock band R.E.M Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe and Bill Berry attend the 2024 Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductions and gala in New York City, US, June 13, 2024. (Reuters)
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R.E.M. Delivers Surprise Performance at Songwriting Gala 

Rock band R.E.M Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe and Bill Berry attend the 2024 Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductions and gala in New York City, US, June 13, 2024. (Reuters)
Rock band R.E.M Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe and Bill Berry attend the 2024 Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductions and gala in New York City, US, June 13, 2024. (Reuters)

R.E.M. performed onstage together for the first time in well over a decade Thursday, reuniting to play their classic "Losing My Religion" as they were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills broke up in 2011, and the last time all four members played onstage together -- Bill Berry left in 1997 -- was in 2007.

But entrance into the who's who of music that is the prestigious songwriting pantheon got the band back together.

"Songwriting is the very foundation of why we came together in the first place," lead vocalist Michael Stipe told AFP. "We're really proud."

The band was inducted by Jason Isbell, who performed a cover of R.E.M's "It's The End of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" at the event.

"R.E.M. was greater than the sum of its parts. R.E.M. moved like a single instrument," Isbell said.

The Songwriters Hall of Fame celebrates its inductees with a festive dinner and intimate concert instead of a televised event.

Kevin Bacon and his brother Michael -- the duo known as The Bacon Brothers -- opened the show with a foot-stomping rendition of "Footloose," the Oscar-nominated title track of the hit 1984 film of the same name.

Bacon starred in the movie -- but Dean Pitchford wrote it and much of its music, and was among the elite group inducted Thursday.

The writer of many hit films and musical tracks, Pitchford thanked the adoring audience "for hearing all these years, and above all, thank you for listening to me."

Trey Anastasio of Phish inducted Steely Dan, while chairman of the Songwriters Hall of Fame Nile Rodgers -- the beloved co-founder of Chic -- bestowed SZA with a special award for songwriters "at an apex in their careers."

It's "just beyond all of my wildest dreams," SZA said, before performing an acoustic rendition of "Snooze."

Rodgers took his moment onstage to emphasize that "there would be no music industry if there were no songs," specifically calling out streaming platform Spotify to "acknowledge and make a point of songwriters being your priority."

- Hip hop, country, and Oscar royalty -

None other than Missy Elliott had the crowd on its feet as she inducted Timbaland into the coveted class.

"In hip hop, there was certain ways that hip hop music sounds -- Timbaland... literally changed the cadence," she said, adding that the producer, rapper and singer whose hits include "Give It To Me" was a master at marrying sensibilities of rap and R&B.

"Thank you for giving me a seat at the table," Timbaland said in a lengthy acceptance speech, before conducting a house band through a medley of his hits and those he produced for the likes of Elliott, Justin Timberlake and Beyonce.

Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban performed in honor of Hillary Lindsey, a Nashville songwriting star who's written for artists including Lady Gaga, Bon Jovi, Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Shakira.

And Diane Warren -- the songwriter who's earned 15 Oscar nominations, including for "Because You Loved Me" performed by Celine Dion and Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" -- received the night's highest honor, the Johnny Mercer award.

She, like all of the inductees, said being honored by her peers was particularly special.

"It's songwriters -- what's cooler than that?" she said.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Movie Review: In ‘Deadpool & Wolverine,’ the Superhero Movie Finally Accepts Itself for What It Is 

Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds attend the premiere of "Deadpool & Wolverine" in New York City, New York, US, July 22, 2024. (Reuters)
Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds attend the premiere of "Deadpool & Wolverine" in New York City, New York, US, July 22, 2024. (Reuters)
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Movie Review: In ‘Deadpool & Wolverine,’ the Superhero Movie Finally Accepts Itself for What It Is 

Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds attend the premiere of "Deadpool & Wolverine" in New York City, New York, US, July 22, 2024. (Reuters)
Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds attend the premiere of "Deadpool & Wolverine" in New York City, New York, US, July 22, 2024. (Reuters)

If one thing is certain about “Deadpool,” it’s that its titular hero, for reasons never explained, understands his place in the world — well, in our world.

Indeed, the irreverent and raunchy mutant is sure to belabor his awareness of the context in which he lives — namely an over-saturated, increasingly labyrinthine multibillion-dollar Marvel multiverse which spans decades, studios and too many films for most viewers to count.

From its inception, the “Deadpool” franchise has prided itself on a subversive, self-aware anti-superhero superhero movie, making fun of everything from comic books to Hollywood to its biggest champion, co-writer and star, Ryan Reynolds.

It’s no surprise then, as fans have come to expect, that the long-anticipated “Deadpool & Wolverine” further embraces its fourth wall-breaking self-awareness — even as it looks increasingly and more earnestly like the superhero movie blueprint it loves to exploit. That tension — the fact that “Deadpool” has called out comic book movie tropes despite being, in fact, a comic book movie — is somehow remedied in “Deadpool & Wolverine,” which leans into its genre more than the franchise’s first two movies.

Perhaps this gives viewers more clarity on its intended audience. After all, someone who hates superhero films — I’m looking at you, Scorsese — isn’t going to be won over because of a few self-deprecating jokes about lazy writing, budgets for A-list cameos and the overused “superhero landing” Reynolds’ Deadpool regularly refers to.

But this time around, director Shawn Levy — his first Marvel movie — seems to have found a sweet spot. Levy is surely helped by the fact that the third film in the franchise has a bigger budget, more hype and, of course, a brooding Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

That anticipation makes their relationship, packed with hatred and fandom, all the more enticing. Their fight scenes against each other are just as compelling as their moments of self-sacrificial partnership in the spirit of, you guessed it, saving the world(s).

Speaking of worlds, there is one important development in our own to be aware of ahead of time. The first two “Deadpool” films were distributed by 20th Century Fox, whose $71.3 billion acquisition by the Walt Disney Co. in 2019 opened the door for the franchise to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, “Deadpool & Wolverine” takes full advantage of that vast playground, which began in 2008 with Robert Downey Jr.’s “Iron Man” and now includes more than 30 films and a host of television shows. The acquisition is also a recurring target of Deadpool’s sarcasm throughout the movie.

Although steeped in references and cameos that can feel a bit like inside baseball for the less devoted, “Deadpool & Wolverine” is easy enough to follow for the casual Marvel viewer, though it wouldn’t hurt to have seen the first “Deadpool” and Jackman’s 2017 “Logan,” a harbinger of the increasing appetite for R-rated superhero violence. The Disney+ series “Loki” also gives helpful context, though is by no means a must watch, on the Time Variance Authority, which polices multiverse timelines to avoid “incursions,” or the catastrophic colliding of universes.

A defining feature of “Deadpool” has been its R rating and hyper violent action scenes. Whether thanks to more money, Levy’s direction or some combination of the two, these scenes are much more visually appealing.

But “Deadpool & Wolverine” does succumb to some of the deus ex machina writing that so often plagues superhero movies. Wade Wilson’s (the real identity of Deadpool) relationship with his ex (?) Vanessa is particularly underdeveloped — though it’s possible that ambiguity is a metaphor for Deadpool’s future within the MCU.

The plot feels aimless at points toward the end. One cameo-saturated battle scene in particular is resolved in a way that leaves its audience wanting after spending quite a bit of time building tension around it. While there are a few impressive stars who make an appearance, audiences may be disappointed by the amount of MCU characters referenced who don’t make it in.

The bloody but comedic final fight scene, however, is enough to perk viewers back up for the last act, solidifying the film’s identity as a fun, generally well-made summer movie.

The sole MCU release of 2024, “Deadpool & Wolverine” proves it’s not necessarily the source material that’s causing so-called superhero fatigue. It also suggests, in light of Marvel’s move to scale back production following a pandemic and historic Hollywood strikes, that increased attention given to making a movie will ultimately help the final product.