VIDEO: LUCAS HEDGES ON MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, KENNETH LONERGAN AND ACTING

Lucas Hedges is a fine, fine actor. I sat down to speak to Hedges about his role in Manchester By The Sea, Kenneth Lonergan, his new film with Martin McDonagh, acting, music and Harry Potter. Hedges has known Lonergan since he was a kid and yet was very nervous when he audioned for the film. He auditioned 5 times before he found out that he had bagged the role in Lonergan’s film. Tune in to find out how Hedges was nervous.

Manchester By The Sea is a sharply nuanced film that gets under your skin and makes you a little uncomfortable. It is bleak, tragic & funny. Hedges provides the much-needed humor in the film. The film is about love, tragedy, and circle of life and is written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, who also wrote the screenplay for Analyze This and Gangs of New York among others.

The film is a “masculine melodrama that doubles as a fable of social catastrophe,” writes AO Scott of The New York Times. “Manchester-by-the-Sea is a study of family dysfunction and the worse loss imaginable,” writes  of The Guardian.

  • Title: MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
  • Running Time: 137 minutes
  • Status: Limited Released on Nov 25, 2016 in SF Bay area & expanding in first weeks of December
  • Country: USA
  • GENRE: DRAMA

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BINGE WATCHED BROWN NATION ON NETFLIX

You know how Netflix makes recommendations for you? That is how I discovered Brown Nation. At first I overlooked their suggestion since I had no clue what Brown Nation was all about.And then I succumbed out of sheer curiosity and was hooked. Part of the reason for being hooked is the way the series captured the desi elements in an authentic way complete with a sprinkling of Punjabi, Gujarati, Malayalam and Tamil. Oh! And there is a fair amount of Bollywood reference that should appeal to your desi heart.

The series may remind some of you of NBC’s TV show Outsourced, which essentially had an American cast and was about an American’s company’s back office in India. Brown Nation differs from Outsourced in a couple of ways: the cast is a mix of Indian and American actors and the series is about the existential crisis of an American IT company in America. And, the other thing that is different about Brown Nation is that it has a distinct East Coast perspective and I say this after having lived on both sides of the coast.

I ended up binge watching the 10 part series of Brown Nation about an Indian American business family in New York. Hasmukh (Rajeev Varma) owns a small IT consulting company and his wife Dimple (Shehnaz Treasury), who is is working hard to get a break as an actor. Calling Hasmukh an entrepreneur is a bit of a stretch since his company barely makes any revenue and yet he has a small retinue of workers, who try to keep themselves busy. The show essentially is about your everyday life in America told through the lives of Hasmukh and his wife and their pet doggie Bobby.

The people who shine in Brown Nation are Shehnaz Treasury, Remy Munasifi and Omi Vaidya. And kudos to the creators of Brown Nation Abi Varghese, George Kannat and Matt Grubb.

I guess there will be a second season of Brown Nation. Wonder how that will pan out since Hasmukh’s little IT company is at an inflection point. Will his company pivot? We will have to wait to find out.

VIDEO: JAZZ IMPROVISATION OF BAGS’ GROOVE BY DR. AARON LINGTON & CHRIS MOTTER

Dr. Aaron Lington and Chris Motter play their version of Bags’ Groove, a well-known jazz tune by Milt Jackson. Dr. Lington shares how they have funkified their version and explains how they improvised this well-known jazz number.

Dr. Lington is an educator, composer and arranger, who teaches at San Jose State University. Motter is a musician and guitarist, who got his master’s in music from San Jose State.

This interview was sponsored by Zoho Corp.

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VIDEO: LUCAS HEDGES ON “MANCHESTER BY THE SEA” & KENNETH LONERGAN

Actor Lucas Hedges shares how he got to star in Kenneth Lonergan’s film Manchester By The Sea. He auditioned for his role 5 times and was very nervous if he’d bag the role he shares.

Lonergan wrote and directed the film that stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler and Lucas Hedges.

We have a longer interview of Hedges coming up.

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LEONARD COHEN’S VISITS TO INDIA AND BUDDHISM

Singer-songwriter and novelist Leonard Cohen died in his sleep in Los Angeles on November 7, 2016. He was 82 years old.

Cohen’s “dry, monotone voice…provided a rarefied alternative to more accessible troubadours, employing meticulous language to plumb the vagaries of the human condition,” writes Joseph Cerna of Los Angeles Times. And, Cerna is absolutely right. When you first listen to Cohen’s songs it is that dry, monotone voice that strikes you. And, you wonder what is this fuss all about? What is so special about Cohen’s music? But, when you start listening to the words you realize why so many people are drawn to his music. He had a way with words is a pedestrian way of describing Cohen’s great facility with words.

He was “high priest of pathos.” and “The Godfather of Gloom,” writes Nick Paton Walsh in a 2001 article in The Guardian. Pathos and gloom were familiar friends for Cohen. He sought different ways to find depression that included visits to India and becoming a Buddhist monk for a few years.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise then that Cohen made multiple trips to India to find answers. We get a hint of Cohen’s visits to Bombay via  Ratnesh Mathur‘s post. Cohen spent time in Bombay visiting with Ramesh Balsekar, a Vedanta teacher. Soutik Biswas of the BBC writes about Cohen’s visits to India and how it changed him.

He turned to Buddhism and became a Zen Monk for a few years. Pico Iyer has a nuanced piece in Utne Reader on how he spent a few days with Cohen at the Zen Monastery outside of Los Angeles.

Often described as enigmatic Cohen leaves behind a rich legacy of songs, poems and writings.

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KAMALA HARRIS ELECTED AS CALIFORNIA’S SENATOR

Kamala Devi Harris (D) was elected as California’s new Senator. Harris won the seat that was vacated by Barbara Boxer. On Jan 3, 2017 Harris will be sworn in as the new Senator from California, and will step down from her role as Attorney General of California.

Do we retreat, or do we fight asks Harris in her election night speech. “I intend to fight,” she says. “We all have to fight…this is a pivotal moment in the history of our country.” She mentions how her parents met in Berkeley during the 1960s Civil Rights movement.

Harris has an interesting heritage. Her mother Dr. Shyamala Gopalan Harris came from Madras (now known as Chennai) to study at the University of California In Berkeley. She worked as a breast cancer specialist at Lawrence Livermore Lab. Her father Prof. Donald Harris was from Jamaica, who taught economics at Stanford University.

This post by Harris’ aunt or “chitti” Dr. Sarala Gopalan makes for an interesting read and give you peek into Harris’s Indian heritage and her love for South Indian food. I wonder if Harris speaks Tamil?

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PODCAST: JONATHAN AIBEL & GLENN BERGER ON WRITING “TROLLS”

Aibel & Berger

Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berg share on how they came to write the screenplay for Trolls. One of the interesting things about trolls is that there was no backstory or a universe available for them.

Aibel and Berger got an opportunity to architect and create a whole new world and backstory for these happy-go-lucky trolls. Their world consists of music, dance and hug time and making sure they stay clear from the Bergens, who are these grumpy, unhappy creatures. The only way Bergens can be happy is when they eat happy little Trolls. For 20 odd years the Trolls managed to stay safe. But, then one day a Bergen discovers the safe haven of trolls and what happens next is what the film is about.

We spoke to Aibel and Berger on how they became writers in Hollywood and for a string of TV and film including the Kung Fu Panda trilogy.

Trolls is a 3D animation films and stars Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand, James Corden and Gwen Stefani.

  • Title: TROLLS
  • Running Time: 114 minutes
  • Status: Releases Nov 4, 2015
  • Country: USA
  • Genre: 3D Animation

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TRAVELLING THROUGH THE BACK ROADS OF GILROY, WATSONVILLE, SALINAS & CARMEL

We discovered a whole new world of Northern California when we took the back roads to Gilroy, Watsonville, Salinas and Carmel.  The arrival  experience to these towns via the back roads was delightful and so different from the highway experience. We got to see a very different side of these towns famous for their produce, wineries and art deco buildings. These towns are located in the verdant Santa Clara Valley, Santa Cruz & Monterey counties that is home to “Artichoke capital of the world,” and  “Salad Bowl of the world.”

For our road trip we used Google maps with the option to avoid highways. We discovered that in some parts of our journey we lost our phone connection, but that was ok with us. We started off from Silicon Valley and our goal was to enjoy the ride and not be stressed about when we reach Carmel. Typically, you can reach Carmel in about 90 minutes when you travel via highway 101 that runs like a deep, ugly gash through these verdant towns. The highway experience totally robs you of a delightful drive through these towns to discover and savor new vistas, food and wine along the way.

Our first stop was Gilroy. For  the first time I saw the Uvas river that flows through this region. We stopped at a vista point and watched a fly-fisher lost to the world of fishing. Now, this is not a common sight in the humdrum of our lives in Silicon Valley.

Gilroy Gilroy Gilroy

We hopped back to our car and continued driving through Gilroy. The road looked kind of familiar to me. I suddenly realized we were on a road where a bunch of wineries are located. In the past I had traveled to this part of Gilroy after exiting highway 101. I had not traveled to Gilroy using the back roads and that is why I did not recognize the road right away.  We made a quick stop at Kirigin Cellars and tried a flight of red and white wines. The wine tasting at Kirigin Cellars are free.

kirgin Cellars

 

After that pleasant break at Kirigin we got into our car and bowled along a narrow and winding road flanked by thick vegetation on either side. We drove past Mount Madonna County Park and descended into Watsonville, which is famous for its fruits and vegetables. We drove through mile after mile of farmland growing berries, apples and other crops.

I suddenly spotted a sign for Gizdich Ranch and we decided this is our next stop. I had heard a lot about the famous Gizdich Ranch pies, but had never tasted it. Sure, I had seen those Gizdich Ranch pies in my local grocery stores, but had never bought one.

Gizdich Ranch turned out to be a delightful experience, where we discovered fresh pressed apple juice, freshly picked apples and a very, very long line for Gizdich Ranch pie. The lady ahead of me in the pie line recommended that I try the Dutch Apple pie, and that is what we got. The pie, apple cider and apples were a big hit with us. Next time I go to Gizdich Ranch I am picking up a full pie and not settle for a slice of that heavenly pie. Why is there no picture of the famous pie you ask. Well, I got to save something for my next visit, right?

Gizdich Ranch

Gizdich Ranch

 

Gizdich Ranch

 

Gizdich Ranch

Gizdich Ranch

We left Gizdich Ranch and discovered a whole bunch of places that I wanted to explore. I put these places down on my list for our next trip to Watsonville. It was way past lunch time. We made our way to downtown Watsonville in search of Mexican food. We ended up at Jalisco Restaurant in downtown Watsonville and had a tasty meal of vegetarian burrito. Now that we had fed ourselves it was time to resume our journey to Salinas, which is known as the World’s Salad Bowl.

We slowly made our way through the narrow road to Salinas  known as America’s Salad Bowl. Boy! this town was a total surprise with its wonderful downtown and art deco buildings. Salinas is the home to John Steinbeck, the American author, who wrote so eloquently about his town. We did not stop by the Steinbeck library or the his home saving those visits for our next trip to Salinas. We stopped by the visitor center in downtown Salinas and discovered a trail of wineries just a few miles down south. Since it was already past 4 pm that left us with little time to explore the wineries. So, the wineries made it to my list of things to see in Salinas for our next trip.

In the past we had driven past Salinas on highway 101 and had no idea that we had missed out on this wonderful little town.

Salinas

 

Salinas

We had a wonderful cup of coffee in one of the cafe in downtown Salinas and continued on with our unhurried drive to Carmel. It was a little after 4 pm when we left Salinas for Carmel.

We had been on the road for a little over 6 hours and were surprised how relaxed we felt. I had never taken the back road to Carmel. We were in  for  lots of little surprises as we meandered through the narrow road to Carmel. The surprises were the wonderful glimpses of Carmel valley as we drove down to the town. By the time we arrived in downtown Carmel it was a little past 7 pm. The place was packed with visitors and tourists. We slowly made our way to Carmel Bakery & Coffee House where we had some pastries and coffee. The bakery is over 100 years old and is a popular place to nosh.

Carmel Bakery

After walking around for a bit we reluctantly got back into our car and made our way back home via Highway 101. Yes, we ended by using the highway back home.

If you have never taken the back roads to Gilroy, Watsonville, Salinas and Monterey may I suggest you give it a spin? It will make your day. It made our day.

Here are the places we visited on this trip.

Kirigin Cellars11550 Watsonville Rd, Gilroy, CA 95020

Gizdich Farm: 55 Peckham Road, Watsonville, CA 95076

Salinas in Monterey county

Jalisco Restaurant: A 618 Main Road, Watsonville, CA 95076

Carmel Bakery: Ocean Avenue, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923

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VIDEO: DAMIEN CHAZELLE’S LA LA LAND

Damien Chazelle’s beautifully crafted film La La Land hits theatres in December 2016. I saw the film a couple of months ago and instantly fell in love with it. The film pays homage to dreamers, Los Angeles, Hollywood musicals and to French filmmaker Jacques Demy.

We have an interview coming up with Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz, who composed the music for La La Land.

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PODCAST: MIKE MITCHELL & WALT DOHRN ON TROLLS, JAMES CORDEN & BOLLYWOOD

Mike Mitchell & Walt Dohrn

 

Director Mike Mitchell and co-director Walt Dohrn talk about their relentlessly happy film Trolls. Mitchell and Dorn have known each other since their time as students at Cal Institute of Arts and later on in Shrek and other films. Both are big fans of Walt Disney and HayooMiyazaki and talk about them as well as Alfred Hitchcock. How Hitchcock keeps his audience engaged is something they talk about constantly point out Mitchell and Dorn.

The film has songs, dance and hug time and is filled with colors and is a feel good picture. The key to happiness lies within you is the central theme of the film. We sat down to speak with them about the making of Trolls and how they came to work with James Corden in the film. Corden “sings like an angel” in the film says Dorn.

Mitchell and Dohrn share that they want to make a Bollywood film next. There is a bit of Bollywood influence in Trolls both of them find out. Tune in to find out more about Trolls and Bollywood.

LISTEN: MIKE MITCHELL & WALT DOHRN ON TROLLS

Trolls is a 3D animation films and stars Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand, James Corden and Gwen Stefani.

  • Title: TROLLS
  • Running Time: 114 minutes
  • Status: Releases Nov 4, 2015
  • Country: USA
  • Genre: 3D Animation