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December 14, 2008:

RODION SHCHEDRIN

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, I know this is par for the course, but do you realize that this month is almost half over, which means that in just over two weeks time it will be a New Year? And didn’t I just type that same sentence last December, which seems like yesterday? I tell you, this year has flown by, like a gazelle performing the entire works of Rodion Shchedrin. I think I’m safe in saying that I am the only one on all the Internet invoking the name of composer Rodion Shchedrin. OutrĂ©, perhaps, but that is the name that popped out. Not Rachmaninov, not Gershwin, but Rodion Shchedrin. I really must pull out some of my Rodion Shchedrin CDs (and I have several) and see what all the ruckus is about and why the gazelle is currently performing Mr. Shchedrin’s entire output. What the HELL am I talking about? Well, at least when people Google Rodion Shchedrin, they’ll find haineshisway.com. And I’m jiggy with that. Speaking of Rodion Shchedrin, yesterday was a very Russian day. I was Russian here, I was Russian there, and I was Russian home. I got up early, but it was drizzling and gray and chilly out so I did not do the long jog. The sun kept trying to peek out and I was ready to do the long jog but each time I was about to begin the sky went back to being foreboding and I didn’t go. I did polish my liner notes, wrote the announcement blurb, and responded to some e-mails whilst listening to CDs. I then toddled off to a Christmas party at the Kritzerland CD designer Doug Haverty’s home environment. There were just a handful of people there when I arrived (I got there around one-thirty and the party was going from noon till seven). I met some nice people, ate some carrots and looked longingly at a seven-layer bean dip that I really wanted to explore. There was also ham and turkey and cookies and cakes, but I partook of nothing but the carrots. I had a fun conversation with two extremely fun ladies, and then I took my leave at about three o’clock. I came home, and since the sky looked less foreboding, I got up the energy to do the long jog. As easy and fast as it had been the day before, yesterday’s was hard and slow and I hated every minute of it. I made myself some tuna sandwiches, which were quite yummilicious, and I had a 100-calorie bag of Cheez-Its, a little bag of fruit things, and later a couple of pieces of rye toast with a little butter and jam on them. I then sat on my couch like so much fish, dreaming of Rodion Shchedrin and his gazelle interpreter.

Last night, I watched two count them two motion pictures on DVD, prefaced by two episodes of The Mod Squad, both of which were very enjoyable because of their respective guest stars – Janet Mac Lachlan in the first, and Carolyn Jones in the second. The first motion picture I watched on DVD was entitled L’Homme de Rio (That Man From Rio), starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, Francoise Dorleac, and Jean Servais, directed by Philipe de Broca. Back in 1964, I saw this film at a sneak preview at the Fine Arts, and fell head over heels in love with it, and when it began its run in that theater I must have seen it about fifteen times. And as it moved around the city (frequently on a double bill with The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and occasionally with Sundays and Cybele), I saw it about ten more times. It was funny, clever, exciting, and loaded with charm. A lot of people speak of this film as if it were a James Bond spoof or a spy film spoof. Obviously, these nitwits have never seen the film – it has nothing to do with spies or James Bond. It’s more along the lines of a tongue-in-cheek North By Northwest, but it’s really just a terrific action adventure comedy. I’ve been yearning to see it again, but not on the VHS tape I have, where the quality is insufferable as is watching it full frame. So, I noticed there was a really cheap Russian DVD of it on eBay and I bought it. Happily, it’s letterboxed at 1.66:1, in French with English subtitles – there was a dubbed version, which I also saw back when it came out, but the dubbed version totally ruined the film. Interesting trivia, though – Mr. Belmondo was dubbed by Mr. Hal Linden. I’m happy to say that the film holds up splendidly – it’s just a wonderful lark of a movie and even though the running time is a little long for this sort of thing (111 minutes) it never feels long. It’s all shot on various locations – Paris, Rio, Brazilia, and the Amazon. The Brazilia sequence is great, just to see that city as it was just being built. The score by Georges Delerue is one of his best. The transfer’s color is actually quite good, but otherwise the transfer is way too soft and while it’s nice to have it letterboxed it’s non-anamorphic and worse they letterboxed an already zoomed in transfer (sides cut off, and because of the zoom heads are frequently cut off). Someday, we’ll get a proper transfer of this film and frankly I don’t know why they haven’t done it, as the film was a huge hit for a foreign film.

I then watched the second motion picture on DVD, which was entitled Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood. I’d never seen it before, but I knew of it because it was a Paramount film and it was released just a couple of months after Paramount released The First Nudie Musical (perfunctorily). It was heartening to read our reviews, and then read the reviews of Won Ton Ton and watch it utterly fail at the box-office. I’d heard from everyone how terrible it was, and how much better and funnier our film was. Well, terrible is being terribly kind. I could not, in fact, believe what I was seeing. First of all, if you’re doing a comedy the first name you’d think of to direct it would be Michael Winner, wouldn’t it? I mean, after all, he directed Death Wish, and we all know what a comic romp that was. Then the first person you’d cast is the droll and hilarious Bruce Dern, best known for playing slightly psychotic people. I’ll say this – the dog is very good, and Madeline Kahn is always fun to watch, even though she’s struggling with a terribly written and unfunny role. Teri Garr also appears in a role of no consequence, with which she can do nothing but stand around and occasionally speak a line while smiling (perhaps the bulk of her performance was left on the cutting room floor). Then there’s Art Carney – hard to make him unfunny, but sadly they succeed. Ron Leibman as a gay Valentino type is only a little embarrassing. The film also features a huge number of guest stars – everyone from Dennis Day and Edgar Bergen to Alice Faye, Tab Hunter, Ethel Merman, Ann Miller, Huntz Hall, The Ritz Brothers, Mike Mazurki, Phil Silvers, Milton Berle, Fritz Feld, Rory Calhoun, Robert Alda, Morey Amsterdam, Andy Devine, Janet Blair, Cyd Charisse, Guy Madison, Joan Blondell, Walter Pidgeon, Ronny Graham, Louis Nye, Aldo Ray, Broderick Crawford, William Demarest, and many others. If you go to the trouble of getting all those people, many of whom would pass away shortly thereafter, wouldn’t it be nice if you actually gave them something to do, and, more importantly, gave them enough screen time to actually let it register who they are? And when you have all those wonderfully funny people, wouldn’t it be nice if they were actually allowed to BE funny? The film lurches along from one horrifyingly unfunny scene to the next, with terrible writing and Mr. Winner’s heavy touch everywhere. I actually think this may be the worst comedy ever made, yet on the imdb the usual three or four people proclaim it hilarious, the funniest film they’ve ever seen, and an undiscovered gem. Note to imdb people: Come back and live on Planet Earth. The transfer is decent, and the score by Neal Hefti is pleasant but does nothing to help the tone of the film. I give it one star, but only because I occasionally enjoyed seeing some of the guest stars.

What am I, Ebert and Roeper all of a sudden? Why don’t we all click on the Unseemly Button whilst we all play our various and sundried Rodion Shchedrin CDs.

Today, I shall do the long jog, and that’s about it. Oh, I’ll probably drive about in my motor car and I’ll find something amusing to eat, but my intention is to just be lazy and relax all the livelong day and evening. I’ve pretty much decided not to go to the reading of the new musical, although I might change my mind. We shall see.

Tomorrow, I have to prepare everything for the new Kritzerland release and get it to our webgal – the blurb, the sound clips, and the cover (the cover is basically done, but I’ve asked for some adjustments, which I hope I’ll see today or tomorrow). And do check the posts this morning for some important information about the release.

Tuesday, I have a little work session, Wednesday is the LACCTAA Christmas party, and Thursday I’m supposedly shooting the Dr. Learly bit. After that, I’m off until the New Year, save for a couple of brief work sessions. During my vacation, I’ll be making serious notes for the novel I’m going to attempt to write starting in January. If, for whatever reasons, I’m not happy with what I come up with, I do have a new Adriana Hofstetter mystery all ready to go. But I like the idea I have (I’ve had it for a few years) and I’d like to give it a go. I actually began writing it a few months ago as a short story, but I think it can hold as a full-length book.

Let’s all put on our pointy party hats and our colored tights and pantaloons, let’s break out the cheese slices and ham chunks, let’s dance the Hora and the Waltzing Matilda, for today is the birthday of our very own wizard of Oz, dear reader tomovoz. So, let’s give a big haineshisway.com birthday cheer to our very own wizard of Oz, dear reader tomovoz. On the count of three: One, two, three – A BIG HAINESHISWAY.COM BIRTHDAY CHEER TO OUR VERY OWN WIZARD OF OZ, DEAR READER TOMOVOZ!!!

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, do the long jog, drive about in my motor car, relax, watch a DVD or three, eat something amusing, and maybe, just maybe, attend the reading of a new musical. Today’s topic of discussion: It’s free-for-all day, the day in which you dear readers get to choose the topics and we all get to post about them. So, let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst we all enjoy our Rodion Shchedrin CDs.

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