Sep 21st, 2013 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison

 

“We are off to see the wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz,” was all I could think ever since an invitation to watch The Wizard Of Oz: An IMAX 3D Experience made it to my inbox.

And my what a treat it was to to watch this musical fantasy in 3D IMAX. Seeing the good old black and white MGM lion roar in 3D IMAX was just the start of our wonderful journey as we got swept into that celluloid tornado and travelled down the yellow brick road along with Dorothy in her sparkling ruby shoes. The 3D IMAX experience does not disappoint, but only serves to increase your respect and the attention to detail paid to every aspect of the film right from acting to costume to set decoration, music and editing.

Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) lives is Kansas with her pet Toto and her uncle and aunt. One fateful day a tornado strikes their hometown.Unable to reach the tornado shelter in time Dorothy and Toto rush into their house, where she is knocked unconscious.Their house gets swept by the tornado and when Dorothy wakes up she finds herself in a whole new magical land filled with a Scarecrow (Roy Bolger) that has no heart, a rusty Tinman (Jack Haley) that has no brain and a cowardly lion (Bert Lahr). Then there are the good and bad witches, Munchkins and a wizard that no one has seen, but all have heard of him.

The only way back home for Dorothy and Toto is to have the Wizard of Oz show them the way back and therein lies the wonderful tale that has been a childhood favorite for kids since the film released in 1939. And as they say in the opening credits “…to the young in the heart we dedicate this picture.” The young ones in the theatre had their fair share of wrinkles and grey strands, but there they were watching it as if they were seeing The Wizard of Oz for the first time. In a way they were seeing it for the first time in IMAX 3D.

The Wizard of Oz celebrates its 75th year this year. This is perhaps the oldest Hollywood film to be made available in this format. The film is based on a novel written by Frank L. Baum.

Released first in 1939 The Wizard of Oz is directed by Victor Fleming with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Yib Harburg.

For a limited time in September you can watch The Wizard of Oz in 3D IMAX in a San Francisco bay area theatre.

Starring: Judy Garland, Roy Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Margaret Hamilton and Frank Morgan.

Sep 16th, 2013 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Bollywood, Diaspora, People

 

Nina Duvuluri (24)  won the Miss American 2014 crown in Atlantic City today. The runner-up is Miss California. This is the second year in a row that Miss New York won the Miss American contest.

Duvuluri is the first Indian-American to win the Miss America crown. She performed a Bollywood fusion dance for the talent segment of the Miss America competition. Besides the crown, she won $50,000 in scholarship money.

Earlier this year she was crowned Miss New York and in preparation for the Miss American trained with LA-based Nakul Mahajan for her Bollywood fusion number.

Duvuluri got her under graduate  degree from University of Michigan, where she studied brain and cognitive science She plans to go to medical school. Her father is a physician.

You can follow Duvuluri on Twitter.

Sep 13th, 2013 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Film Notes, Hollywood Films

 

I wrote nothing in my notebook while watching director Luc Besson’s new film The Family starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfieffer, Tommy Lee Jones and Dianna Argon.  Am usually  busy scribbling my impressions, pieces of dialog and other tidbits that I find engaging. Now, while watching The Family all I kept asking is “What happened here?” How come I was laughing in some places, but for most part was disengaged in the narrative. Was it because the plot barely moved and was kind of an implausible one?

The Family is about  a mafia don (De Niro)  and his family who are a under a US federal witness protection plan. They relocate from Brooklyn, New York to the bucolic environs of  Normandy in France. And get this  the secret service folks live right across from De Niro’s family. And De Niro fibs to his neighbors saying he is writing a book? I can suspend my disbelief and buy into the story had the plot evolved and there was taut tension. The plot was flat, the characters remained under developed and the dialog lacked any sparkle or punch. It was flat. The only part I related to was about the food bit comparing Italian/American food to French food smothered in sauce.

We have seen De Niro as the mafia boss man in quite a few films and he can essay that role effortlessly spiked with his own brand of humor and charm. In The Family he execute  his part in a relaxed manner  sans make-up. Yes, you do notice that apparent lack of  make-up. He has a disheveled look for most of the film. Michelle Pfeiffer  plays his wife and  shone in her role. Pfeiffer  was the highlight of the film. She too has played the wife of a Mafia don in more than one film. So in a way both the actors were treading on familiar ground. Tommy Lee Jones is the rough and tough FBI agent  who keeps tabs on the family and is wasted in the role.

It was hard to believe that The Family came from Luc Besson who gave us  Fifth Element and La Femme Nikita.

The Family releases in the San Francisco bay area on Friday, September 13, 2013

Cast: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones and Dianna Argon.

Director: Luc Besson

 

 

 

Aug 16th, 2013 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Film, Film Notes, People, San Francisco


August has some good films in store for San Francisco bay area residents. Blue Jasmine, Fill The Void and The Patience Stone open in local theaters.

All 3 film have women as their central character and you get a very interesting perspective from each one of them.  Blue Jasmine traces the sudden & sad disintegration of a rich Manhattan socialite played by Cate Blanchett. In Fill The Void a young 18 year Orthodox Jewish girl has to make a decision about whom  she has to marry. And in The Patience Stone you watch the tough struggle of a young Afghani woman and the lengths she goes to survive.

In this video interview we bring you interviews with 2 very interesting filmmakers. The first is Israeli filmmaker Rama Burshtein, who talks about the making of her debut film Fill The Void. This is a film set in the ultra orthodox Hassidic community in Israel and takes you into their community and gives you a peek on love, marriage and the role of women. Joining Burshtein in the interview is Hadas Yaron, the young actress around whom the film is centered. Yaron won the best actress award at the Venice Film Festival in 2012. Fill The Void was nominated as an Oscar entry from Israel in 2013.

The second interview is with French-Afghan filmmaker Atiq Raza, who talks about the making of his film The Patience Stone. The film is based on his award-winning novel that he wrote in French and not Pashtu. The Patience Stone is a powerful film about an Afghani woman and how she deals with an impossibly difficult situation in war-torn Afghanistan. Bombarded by bombs and threatened by local soldiers, this young Afghani woman struggles to take care of her dying husband and her 2 young children. Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani does a brilliant job of an emotionally conflicted young wife, who pour out all her sorrow and angst to her husband, who is in a deep coma. Through her we find out the journey of her life and the choices she made to survive in a harsh environment.

Aug 15th, 2013 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Bollywood, Chennai/Madras, Film, Film Notes, India, silicon valley

 

Chennai Express. This is the latest Bollywood film that stars the king of Bollywood or the “Badshah” of Bollywood Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone and directed by Rohit Shetty.

I was in a Ready, Steady, Po phase ever since the title caught my imagination many moons ago.  I grew up watching and enjoying Tamil, Telugu and Hindi films in Madras, now known as Chennai. Could this be the film that could finally bring the North and South Indian cinema together was my drift.

Then I heard the songs from Chennai Express and played them on my radio show. The songs appealed to many listeners as I discovered. Finally, I saw the famous “bokwas dictionary” trailer from Chennai Express on YouTube and was floored. The supposed Tamil accent of Deepika Padukone had a distinct sound that is from Malayalam. I was a tad disappointed by that. I was expecting a full-fledged Tamil accent from Deepika. Maybe I saw Padason too many times and still remembered the way Mehmood said “Bindu ji” with a distinct Tamil accent.

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Jun 23rd, 2013 | No Comments
Category: Americas, Ideas, India, Video

U.S. Secretary John Kerry is making his first official trip to India starting June 23, 2013. In his a 3-day visit  to India he will be accompanied by Secretary of Energy Moniz and other officials. 20 years ago Sect .Kerry led the first US Congressional Trade Delegation.

On the eve of Sect Kerry’s visit to India, we did a  Q&A with Indian Ambassador Nirupama Menon-Rao on India-US relationship and Sect  Kerry’s first official visit to India.

KB: This is Secretary Kerry’s first visit to India. These are interesting times, tell us what we should expect?

Ambassador Nirupama Rao: The forthcoming meeting of India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi will mark a significant first opportunity for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to engage in an in-depth dialog with Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and the Indian leadership on a range of bilateral, regional and global issues. The leadership that both Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and President Obama have imparted in recent years has moved the India-U.S. strategic partnership from a ‘consolidation’ phase into one of comprehensive and multi-faceted engagement. The depth and expanse of our mutually rewarding partnership, and the stakes both countries have built in each other’s success are unprecedented today. Our strategic partnership today is rich in content, comfort and candor. It also has an ever-increasing global relevance, making a difference beyond our shores, from Afghanistan to Africa. Secretary Kerry’s visit will provide both the leaders an opportunity to review the state of our ever expanding partnership and discuss concrete strategies to take it to a higher level.

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Jun 16th, 2013 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Books and Authors, Film, Film Notes, Interviews, People, YouTube Videos

My video interview with Jeremy Scahill on Dirty Wars: The World Is A Battlefield.


Jeremy Scahill’s documentary Dirty Wars: The World Is A Battlefield takes him on a journey from Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and the chambers of power in the USA. Scahill co-produced and co-wrote this very “personal story” of America’s war on terror.

Dirty Wars opens in Afghanistan where battles of hearts and minds were being won but there was something missing the story he points out. There was another war that was being hinted in press conferences and it is the other war that he unearths in the film.He highlights the role of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that he describes as the President’s own private army. This new war on terror is producing new enemies and how does a war like this ever end  Scahill wonders in the documentary. By the end of the film you are left with more questions than answers.

Over the years Scahill has spent time embedded with civilians in war zones around the world. He is the national security correspondent at The Nation. He is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army (2007)and went to win  the George Polk Book Award for it.

May 5th, 2013 | 1 Comment
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Bollywood, Film, Hollywood Films, Ideas, India, Technology, YouTube Videos

May 2013 marks the 100th year of Indian cinema. Raja Harishchandra was India’s first feature film that released on  May 3, 1913.  Made by Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, this silent film consisted of 4 reels and was not a big hit with the audience in the first few days. But, with some creative marketing Phalke managed to get people to come and see his film. From that first film the Indian cinema has grown to become the biggest film industry in the world. Today films are made in various languages with Hindi (Bollywood) leading the pack followed by regional cinema in Tamil Telugu, Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Bhojpuri and others.

Before Phalke there were other filmmakers like Hiralal Sen and Dadasaheb Torne who had made short films. But the credit for making India’s first feature film goes to Phalke.  Sadly, the full print of Phalke’s seminal film does not exist and what is left is just a partial film consisting of 2 reels.

 

In this extended film on Phalke and Raja Harischandra you get a glimpse of how Phalke prepared for the shooting of his first feature film. You see Phalke going about constructing the set, working with his actors and working on his film.

 

Nearly 100 years later,  filmmaker Paresh Mokashi directed Harishchandrachi Factory (2010) that retold the story of Phalke and how he made made history in Indian cinema. Mokashi’s films went on to become the Oscar entry for India. You can watch Harishchandrachi Factory on Netflix.

But, Phalke’s film would not have been possible had it not been for Eadweard Muybridge and Leland Stanford, who founded Stanford University. Stanford hired photographer Muybridge to settle the burning question of the day if all the four feet of a horse were off the ground when it was trotting. In 1878 Muybridge used a zoopraxiscope to shoot the first photographic motion picture calleSallie Gardner at a Gallop or The Horse in Motion. The rest they say is history.

For a brief time in the early 20th century Niles Canyon in the San Francisco Bay area was a hub for silent cinema. And today, Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay area is the hub for technologies used in making films right from hardware to editing software from Apple and Adobe to Lucas Films and Pixar.

Apr 27th, 2013 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Film, People, San Francisco, YouTube Videos

This year’s San Francisco International Film Festival (April 25-May 9, 2013) has an interesting mix of films from all over the world. Along with films the festival also features conversations with well-known filmmakers and actors, salons and master classes. On May 27th filmmaker Steven Soderbergh will give the ”State of Cinema,” and the following weekend on May 5th you can catch  filmmaker Phil Kaufmann in conversation at the Castro Theatre. Kaufman will receive the Founder’s Directing Award. And in a surprise announcement actor Harrison Ford will make an appearance at the festival to receive the Peter J. Owens Award. Last month Ford was in San Jose to receive the Cinequest Spirit Award.

Here is a list of films screening at the San Francisco International film festival and details on tickets.

 

 

Apr 24th, 2013 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Bollywood, Bombay/Mumbai, People, YouTube Videos

Shamshad Begum the legendary singer from Hindi films passed away yesterday in Mumbai.  She was 94 years old. She made her debut as a singer in 1947 and by 1949 her songs in Hindi cinema had become big hits, especially the song Mere Piya Gaye Rangoon. She continued to sing till the 1950s, and appears to have maintained a low-profile after that.

Here are a couple of rare interview clips of Shamshad Begum, where the audio quality is not the best, but still worth watching.

From the 1949 film Patanaga where Shamshad Begum sings about the latest tech gadget – the plain old phone. Music is by C.Ramachandra.

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