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Your Friendly Neighborhood Bollywood

Your Friendly Neighborhood Bollywood (photo)

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Although the recent Bollywood strike had an almost immediate impact on distribution and exhibition of Bollywood films around the world, specialized theaters, such as the Eagle Theater in Jackson Heights, Queens, never lost hope. The Eagle, located in the heart of New York City’s Little India, was forced to close in May, as the stream of first-run films dried up, but re-opened after the strike ended on June 5th. The strike had a ripple effect that was truly remarkable: New York’s Indian and Bollywood-loving community were dedicated veterans of the Eagle, often making an afternoon out of a meal, some shopping and a matinee, and so the businesses surrounding the theater suffered as well.

The theater itself has a checkered history — twenty years ago, it was hardly the kind of place most of us would wind up on a Sunday afternoon, bellies full of naan. Before it was purchased by two Punjabi businessmen in 1995, the Eagle was chiefly known for showing gay pornography. Ironically, the same thing that happened to the porn exhibition industry — that is, it died following the home rental and online access revolution — is now threatening the unique cinematic ecosystem that’s developed and flourished in Indian communities around the country in the last two decades. The combination of the strike, the recession, and more and more people choosing to rent DVDs or turn to piracy and downloading over the traditional theater experience have dealt a major blow to independent theaters like the Eagle. Mohammad Asif, who owns the Bombay Theater in Fresh Meadows, Queens, reported that just 18 months ago he had 1000 customers a week, while in recent weeks that number was more like 400.

And yet a huge part of the Bollywood viewing experience will always be a live, communal audience. Almost every Bollywood screening includes an intermission, during which audience members are encouraged to trade their thoughts on the picture so far, or purchase a few more samosas and mango lassis from the concession stand; the full experience easily stretches to three hours and beyond. In a way, the South Asian culture of dressing up to go to the movies harkens back to the earliest Hollywood movie palaces; Bollywood films are still a destination event, one that enterprising theater owners across the country have eagerly tapped into.

While there are a number of homegrown, independent Bollywood theaters like the Eagle around the country — Seattle’s Roxy Cinema, the Shalimar Theater in Houston — others have been bought up like investment properties in the past few years. Texas is the home of FunAsiA, a company that’s purchased the Bollywood 6 in Houston and recently opened two Bollywood theaters in the Chicago area. Adlabs, an Indian conglomerate, is another company that’s found success in purchasing the ImaginAsia movie theater chain and turning its cinemas into dedicated Bollywood outlets. Last year, they bought theaters in both Los Angeles and New York, adding to their total of 400 screens in the U.S., India, and Malaysia.

07312009_naz8.jpgCalifornia Bay Area residents seem to have a love-hate relationship with Fremont’s Naz 8 cinema, which shows mostly Bollywood fare, but also the occasional Hollywood film. Where the new chain cinemas, in their cookie-cutter sterility, inevitably lose some of the charm of independently owned and run theaters, “charm” can be a relative term. Detractors of the Naz 8 characterize the theater as a grotty, run-down joint with dirty toilets and surly employees, but several of the complaints, interestingly, seem to stem from a kind of clash of cultures, with non-Indians noting that they felt alienated by the experience, and more annoyed than delighted by the traditional audience participation. “Some seem to treat the Naz as an anthropological experience,” one commenter wrote on the user-generated review site Yelp. “I think the Naz is the Naz — like most places that seem ‘regular’ because you the participant are fully part of the culture there, it makes no concession to those who aren’t already on board — you are there to take it on its own terms.”

That opportunity is becoming available to more and more people as both Bollywood films and specialty theaters are finally integrated into mainstream American culture. Chances are the latest Karina Kapoor or Abishek Bachchan flick is playing at a specialty movie house near you and the Bollywood experience — anthropological or otherwise — is yours for the partaking.

[Additional photo: Posters outside Fremont’s Naz 8 theater, courtesy of Gaurav Sharma, used with permission]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.