Breezy and informative, but it could have used more spice.



Bollywood, here we come.

Alter (Elephas Maximus: A Portrait of the Indian Elephant, 2004, etc.) follows the production of a single film—Omkara, an adaptation of Othello—from its initial story meetings to its completion, providing an insightful (if insufficiently critical) look at the workings of the Indian filmmaking industry, popularly known as “Bollywood.” That sobriquet indicates the profound influence Hollywood has had on India’s popular entertainment, but the most interesting aspects of Alter’s narrative are the cultural and social influences unique to the subcontinent, such as the tradition of employing poets as screenwriters. In stark contrast to the Hollywood one-sentence pitch, “narrations,” often lasting for hours, are delivered by the producers and directors to potential investors and actors. Bollywood produces some 900 films a year—vastly more than its western counterpart—but the great majority fail at the box office, and the pool of viable stars is much smaller, making the competition for proven box-office commodities particularly fierce. Much of the story of Omkara’s production feels familiar, as the complications, compromises and ego battles that plague any attempt to make a movie have been fodder for the American infotainment complex for quite some time. Alter gamely tries to keep things fresh with digressive descriptions of various directors, actors and poets not associated with Omkara, but his unfailing reverence for these men ultimately proves monotonous. He does provide a wealth of detail about the locations and customs that inform the hyper-dramatic Bollywood aesthetic (Alter was raised in India), and he is particularly good at conveying the importance of music and dance to the medium. Best of all is his analysis of how Indian filmmakers combine the classics of Western literature (Shakespeare is grist for many of the basic plots) and Indian folk traditions to create the uniquely vibrant and tirelessly crowd-pleasing thrust of the typical Bollywood epic; laughter, tears, titillation, suspense and transporting music and choreography are demanded by the audience every time out. Sometimes, when the stars align, they get it.

Breezy and informative, but it could have used more spice.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-15-603084-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harvest/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2007

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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