Paris, Jan 27 (AP/UNB) — Oscar-winning composer and pianist Michel Legrand, whose hits included the score for the '60s romance "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" and the song "The Windmills of Your Mind" and who worked with some of biggest singers of the 20th century, has died at age 86.
Legrand last performed on stage just last month, and was still composing and practicing piano an hour a day even as fatigue increasingly forced him to economize his energy, said Claire de Castellane, a musician and producer who organized a series of recent solo piano concerts by Legrand. De Castellane confirmed his death Saturday, without providing details.
"MICHEL LEGRAND Feb. 24, 1932-Jan. 26, 2019," read the home page of his official website Saturday, followed by photographs of Legrand with Barbara Streisand, Miles Davis, Yves Montand and others. Tributes poured in on Twitter and Facebook, and French radio and television replayed songs from his vast repertoire.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced condolences to Legrand's wife and children, hailing him as an "indefatigable genius." ''His unique tunes that run through our heads and are hummed in the streets have become like the soundtracks of our lives," he said.
Legrand won three Academy Awards, five Grammys and two top awards at the Cannes Film Festival among other honors, according to his official website. He worked with famed lyricists in Hollywood and on Broadway — including Alan and Marilyn Bergman and Sheldon Harnick — as well as with French New Wave directors.
"The Windmills of Your Mind" won him his first Oscar, as the theme song for 1968's "The Thomas Crown Affair," sung by Noel Harrison. The song was later recorded by Dusty Springfield and many others. His songs marked some of the most memorable musical moments in French cinema, including 1964's "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" with Catherine Deneuve and "The Young Ladies of Rochefort."
Over a six-decade career he worked with performers ranging from Frank Sinatra to Aretha Franklin and Sting, and played an outsized role on the French musical scene. He continued touring into his 80s, last performing a month ago at the Paris Philharmonic, and was scheduled to give his next concert in February.
Though he had rich and rigorous musical education, Legrand sought to reach ordinary people. "He wrote very elaborate music, but for a regular audience," de Castellane said.
Performing right up until the end "was a very beautiful way to say goodbye," de Castellane said. "He was not afraid of death, he talked about it. He said it made him nervous" — like the nervousness performers feel before going on stage — "but it didn't frighten him."
Los Angeles, Jan 26 (AP/UNB) — Coroner office officials say former model and actress Kim Porter died last year from pneumonia.
The Los Angeles coroner's office on Friday released the results of its investigation into Porter's Nov. 15 death. Investigators determined after an autopsy that her death was from natural causes.
The 47-year-old was also a former girlfriend of Sean "Diddy" Combs and the pair had three children together. Combs eulogized Porter at her funeral in her hometown of Columbus, Georgia. Numerous celebrities, including Usher, Mary J. Blige, Lil' Kim and producer Russell Simmons attended the ceremony, which ended with fireworks.
Porter also has a son, actor-singer Quincy Brown, from a previous relationship with R&B singer Al B. Sure!
Combs called Porter "more than a soul" mate in a tweet after her death.
Dhaka, Jan 25 (UNB)- The film is Kangana Ranaut all the way. Her belief in her ability to carry the film on her shoulders is touching, reports NDTV.
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Ankita Lokhande, Jisshu Sengupta, Zeeshan Ayyub, Danny Denzongpa, Atul Kulkarni
Directors: Kangana Ranaut and Krish
Rating: 1 Star (out of 5)
Avowedly meant to stimulate patriotic zeal - "matrubhumi se niswarth prem (selfless love for the motherland)" - among Indian moviegoers 160 years after Rani Laxmi Bai laid down her life on the battlefield, Manikarnika - The Queen of Jhansi, is too exhausting a film to send the audience home bubbling with enthusiasm. The visual effects are low-grade, the stilted dialogues reek of laziness, the onscreen performances are pedestrian and the sets have a hurriedly-erected feel.
Manikarnika, for which lead actress Kangana Ranaut takes directing credit ahead of Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi, blows history to smithereens and reduces the Rani of Jhansi, one of greatest warriors India has ever known, to a stunt queen, turning the film in the bargain into an outright travesty of cinema. The story of the queen's short but glorious life deserves a movie all right but a much better one than this.
In one surprising sequence, the Rani of Jhansi speaks unblemished English although the audience is never introduced to her language tutor. Stating that "words without culture have no meaning" - yes, in so many words and in Queen's English - she proceeds to extol the virtues of the mother tongue. "Matrubhasha maa hoti hai," she declares. Like much else in Manikarnika, this comes out of nowhere and leaves you scratching your head in disbelief.
In other scenes, the Rani runs and leaps like a champion athlete and mounts her steed with a hop, step and jump. We are expected to gape at the spectacle in wonder. We might have done so if only her exploits were lent a touch a believable humanity. She strikes no chords because all she does is deliver homilies on patriotism, courage and national pride. There is no room for nuance here. The real woman behind the irrepressible patriot is lost in the din.
In another crucial scene, the Rani's husband, Maharaja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar (Jisshu Sengupta in an extended role in which he isn't allowed to use his own voice), likens the bangles he wears to handcuffs, an emblem of enslavement. Why a film about a female ruler and warrior of unparalleled stature should treat a woman's accessory as a symbol of servitude is beyond comprehension unless one presumes that the makers of this movie do not know better.
The fact that Manikarnika, in an opening disclaimer, lays no claims to historical accuracy cannot, however, absolve its makers of the blame for producing a film so astonishingly inept. This despite the fact that it loses no opportunity to whip up exuberance - beginning with an introductory voiceover by Amitabh Bachchan drawing our attention to the hinsaa (violence) and atyachar (tortune) that the British East India Company unleashed on this "pavitra" bhoomi.
By turning Rani Laxmi Bai's valour into pulpy posturing about her wanting to be a mashaal (fire) of azaadi (freedom) in the hearts of her people for all times to come, the ho-hum screenplay (by KK Vijayendra Prasad) delivers a comic-strip rendition of a memorable, if tragic, chapter of Indian history, shorn of its intricacies. It captures neither the exemplary heroism nor the pathos of the queen's life. The Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, which triggered a widespread rebellion against the British rulers and was a key juncture in Rani Laxmi Bai's life, is ill-advisedly glossed over.
The film does devote sufficient footage to the birth and death of her only child as well as to the premature death of her husband, but the titular figure's single-note demeanour allows for no depth in the characterization of a woman who broke every conceivable societal norm of her times.
We first see Kangana in 1842 - when Rani Laxmi Bai was 14 - using a bow and arrow to stop a tiger from pouncing on a hapless goat. The next thing we know is she is nursing the predator's wound and then setting the creature free. A little later, she saves a calf from ending up as lunch for British officers. Can a film about nationalism be complete today without an act of gauraksha?
The queen lived for 16 more years from the time she incapacitates the tiger and the character passes through different stages of that time-frame, but no perceptible change registers on the actress' visage, which, in any case, is behind so much cosmetic goop that it rules out the possibility of any tangible emotions filtering through the layers of make-up.
Kangana settles into a predictable pattern. She smiles through many of the most difficult situations that the rani faces, sports a smirk when she has to exude insouciance, goes all wide-eyed and holds an unblinking gaze when the idea is to convey obduracy, and raises her voice several notches to represent unbridled rage. All through the film, Kangana flits from one of the above moods to another, but the film never sheds its monotony. Especially mechanical are the battle scenes - they might be sporadic but when one erupts it goes on forever, consuming a lot of the film's two-and-a-half-hour runtime.
The cast of Manikarnika has some actors of proven class - Danny Denzongpa in the role of Mohammad Gouse Khan, Rani's Laxmi Bai's trusted cannon expert; Atul Kulkarni as freedom fighter Tatya Tope (a leading figure in the First War Of Independence) and Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub essaying the character of a treacherous man whose designs on the Jhansi throne are thwarted - but none is allowed the space to rise above the overwhelming mediocrity of the material.
Not surprisingly, the British colonial officers, played by the likes of Richard Keep (General Hugh Rose) and Edward Sonnenblick (Captain John Gordon), are bad-guy caricatures. They have even less of a chance of making a mark.
Manikarnika is Kangana Ranaut all the way. Her belief in her ability to carry a historical saga of this scale on her shoulders is touching, even admirable. But her move into the director's seat couldn't obviously have helped the film's cause. She is everywhere, even where she isn't required. The result of the overreach is an overstretched, exaggerated drama that huffs and puffs its way through many a zone of utter redundancy.
Manikarnika is agonizingly soulless. Platitudes piled upon synthetic platitudes do not add up to great cinema, especially when none of the film's war cries delivers any bang for its buck. Save yours and give the film a miss unless you like the sound of misfires.
Nashville, Jan 24 (AP/UNB) — Carrie Underwood says her heart is full after the arrival of her second son.
The country superstar posted photos of herself, her husband Mike Fisher and her son Isaiah with the newborn, who she said was born early Monday. Her post states "his mom, dad and big brother couldn't be happier for God to trust them with taking care of this little miracle."
The seven-time Grammy winner Underwood and Fisher, a former NHL player, named him Jacob Bryan Fisher. The former "American Idol" winner revealed last year that she had three miscarriages in about two years.
The 35-year-old singer is scheduled to go on tour this spring and last year released her latest album, "Cry Pretty," which debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 chart.
Wellington, Jan 24 (AP/UNB) — Singaporean actor Aloysius Pang died Thursday from injuries he sustained during a military training exercise in New Zealand. He was 28.
Pang was injured in his chest and abdomen when the gun barrel was lowered on a large artillery device he was helping repair Saturday. Singapore's defense ministry said in a statement that Pang had been put on life support following surgeries to repair his damaged organs but died at Waikato Hospital.
Also known as Pang Wei Chong, the actor was known for the movie "Young & Fabulous" (2016) as well as television series that include "The Truth Seekers" (2016) and "C.L.I.F." (2011).
Singapore mandates young men serve in its armed forces, police force or civil defense force. Most serve full-time for two years, and then have annual training obligations. Pang had completed his full-time service, and was an armament technician whose rank was corporal first class.
Before leaving for New Zealand, Pang wrote on Twitter that "Unfortunately, my 2019 will start off with me flying to New Zealand for 3 weeks due to reservist. I'll be back in action soon."
The military said it would convene an independent committee of inquiry to investigate the circumstances leading up to Pang being injured.
He had been working on a Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer, a motorized piece of artillery that looks similar to a small tank. The live-firing training exercise took place at the Waiouru training area on New Zealand's North Island and is hosted by New Zealand's military each year.
Pang's Singapore agency NoonTalk Media posted a photo of the actor on Facebook and wrote "Dear Aloysius, you'll be missed."
Other actors also paid tribute. Shane Pow Xunping wrote on Instagram: "It is not enough for you to be a brother in this life. We will continue to be brothers in the next life. I love you."